It’s safe to say that most people, whether they follow the sport religiously or not, play fantasy football. Whether you play in a head-to-head versus league or a pick-em elimination league, the game of fantasy has changed the way people watch sports. It’s been a staple of pop culture for years now, influencing television shows like FX’s “The League,” various online gurus projecting who to start and who to sit, and multiple magazines with ‘insider information’ on sleeper picks and how to pull off trades. However, it is easy to see how fantasy leagues, not just for football, can overstep their boundaries in reality.
Although the rise of fantasy football has led to increased viewership of the NFL, fans often root more for individual performances of players they own in their leagues than the team the player plays for. Say you’re a Dallas Cowboys fan, and this week they’re playing the New York Giants. You want the Cowboys to win, but you happen to own Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz and need a big game from him to you’re your opponent in fantasy football. You end up rooting for Cruz to score touchdowns and gain a lot of yards, even though you ultimately want the Cowboys to win the game. It’s basically the equivalent of being caught between a rock and a hard place. Back in 2006, in a story focusing on player opinions of fantasy football, former Denver Broncos quarterback Jake Plummer told ESPN “I think it’s ruined the game, actually. There are no true fans anymore, because if I lose a game I come out of (the stadium) and there’s not a Denver fan mad that I lost, but happy because I threw three TDs.”
In a case of the blurred lines between real and fantasy football, Giants running back Brandon Jacobs was involved in an incident with a fan on Twitter last month. The so-called ‘fan’ tweeted him directly, saying that he demanded 50 yards rushing and two touchdowns from him, otherwise it would be “over for you and yo family.” Someone who owned Jacobs on their fantasy team verbally attacked him and thought it was perfectly acceptable to tweet a death threat to Jacobs to motivate him into playing a big game that Sunday. People like him make me question the world we live in today.
The world of fantasy football can be a fun and exciting outlet for fans to enhance their passion of the game, but if people abuse that privilege in the case of the Jacobs Twitter incident, it can be disturbing. Let’s keep the ‘fantasy’ in fantasy football.