For a generation of football fans, fantasy football has shaped how we understand the game. It forces us to keep track of more than just our favorite team, it gives us a tangible way to appreciate the best players in the league, and it brings the game to life for tens of millions of fans each week. More than anything, it gives us a vested interest in guys we'd otherwise ignore.
Of course, "fantasy" football is actually rooted firmly in reality. One player's highlights may dazzle us more than another, but the raw numbers tell us that someone likeis every bit as valuable as someone like Chris Johnson. Fantasy football turns us all into GMs, which is really just a nice way of saying it turns us all into cynics. Instead of getting caught up in hype, as NFL fans focus on what they can see and what they can count. It sets football fans apart.
Dating back to the first Olympic games, there's always been a tension between myth and reality in sports. It's a giant pendulum that swings back and forth in our minds--one day an athlete looks magically invincible, and the next, we're reminded he's human.
Lately though, NFL fans fall closer to "reality" on that spectrum than any sport in the world, and fantasy football helps explain why. By forcing us to track the superstars of the NFL within a statistical framework, fantasy football makes it harder to get intoxicated by sheer talent. We chart production, not how it was produced. We contextualize, we don't romanticize.
All of which stands in stark contrast to, a player with some of the best numbers we've ever seen, but whose appeal always defied the numbers and sometimes defied reality.