Has Fantasy Football Soften Football Tribalism?

Fantasy Football is a growing phenomena in America that has become a sport within itself. It’s a giant spectacle that has aroused a grossing following. Coining a plethora of TV shows, podcasts, analysis from its existence.

The game crossed over to our shores a couple seasons ago, and with its growing influence, comes with it the bad side of the game.

Fantasy Football is a game that toys with your emotions. The outcome of your weekends is banked on whether your fantasy team scores high or not. It has shaped the way we discuss sports, with in-depth fantasy football breakdowns taking control of most of football conversations amongst fans. The football itself now falls into an afterthought. We wield our fantasy football teams high in the light like the most profound accolade you could ever achieve.

There’s a sense of joy and pride when you get you fantasy team selection just right. It’s a feeling akin to your actual team winning that weekend. I mean, even choosing the right player to captain your team leads to a series of combo fist pumps. Though, God forbid a member of your team ever gets injured.

Woe be the manager that dares to drop one of the players in your team because of, I don’t know, fatigue? I'm looking at you Pep Guardiola. If that happens, expect a world of devastation to be unfurled onto whichever manager that dares defame the sanctity of a fantasy football team.

The thrill and entertainment of the game has risen, yes, though, insidiously closing in behind is the sense of apathy. When a player of a fantasy football team gets injured, the first thought isn’t reserved for said player’s well-being.

Sympathy is present, but not for the player. No, the sympathy is directed at our poor dishevelled fantasy team. Our poor old fantasy team, said fighting through the fake tears.

What has been birthed along side this misguided sympathy is a place devoid of emotions. This attachment to fantasy football has in turn softened the veener of football tribalism.

Fantasy football has created a safe haven where it is ok to celebrate the goal of a rival team. Rival goals can be celebrated without any accusations of treachery or treasons hurled at you.

5-10 years ago – when fantasy football was a mere idea spitballed in a brainstorming meeting – an Arsenal fan celebrating a Tottenham goal would’ve been met with gruesome exile.

However, today’s game is different. Footballers channel their weirdness through social media, and rival goals are celebrated by fans. Icon films like ‘Green Street’ are DVDs used as drink coasters. Gone are the days where rival fans would meet up for skirmishes. Nowadays, the great fierce battles of football tribalism are held across social media platforms. Insults are cased in 140 characters and lobbed over like Molotov cocktails.

With the exponential rise of fantasy football we celebrate a rival’s goal like one of our own. Neutral games are given an incentive to be watched, given that a player on a fantasy team is represented in that game. We decree that a team can win, so long as they pay tithes to a user’s fantasy team.

We must be careful not to traverse over to the dark side of this game. As self-entitlement creeps towards us, we must bat them away if we are not to lose the grip of reality. Footballers are humans, though, we do not control them.


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