If you’re anything like me, competition enhances your life. It drives you to be better, develop a work ethic, and teaches you perseverance. The older I get, the more I realize its significance in my life. And yet, I’ve also learned you can have too much of a good thing. Fantasy sports are no exception. Setting boundaries for fantasy football is not only important for your health but crucial for maintaining positive relationships with your loved ones.
ADMIT IT, YOU MIGHT HAVE AN ISSUE
I can only speak of my own experience, but it took years to admit that my addictive personality took over. The cyclical nature of fantasy can easily get a man and his family spiraling out of control. Setting boundaries helped me to keep perspective on the events in my life.
The first thing to do is admit there is an issue, and I promise you this…if a partner has mentioned its existence more than once, than there is certainly a problem. Odds are they have been patiently holding their tongue, letting you enjoy your little game until the breaking point where they just needed to say something.
Instead of dismissing their claim, look at your situation with open eyes and ask yourself if it’s too much.
THE UPSIDE: WHY FANTASY SPORTS ARE GREAT
Fantasy sports are rapidly rising in popularity. Maybe it’s the breakthroughs of technology or the wide spread coverage of news, but the world of fantasy is evermore dominating the landscape. According to the Fantasy Sports & Gaming Association (FSGA), there are nearly 60 million fantasy sports managers in America and Canada alone. So why are people flocking to fantasy sports? Let’s take a look.
The world of fantasy sports is usually introduced to managers through a friend, family member or coworker because people seek social interaction. Fantasy has an amazing way of bringing people together purposefully and creatively.
Leagues will hold live draft parties every year with the intent of bringing people face to face. Due to either proximity or busy lives, sometimes these gatherings are the only time I see certain friends. It’s a great opportunity to reconnect with people after long absences.
The same is for gathering at the conclusion of the season. League commissioners will handle it differently but some award monetary prizes, trophies, etc. to celebrate the success of the season. Many leagues are a genuine source of community for people.
Sometimes an atta-boy can make someone’s day, and it comes in all shapes and sizes. Whether it’s the low grunt from across the room when you’ve stolen friend’s player or the “good pick” affirmation that follows from the rest of the group…people love knowing they did a good job. The effect increases when you know you put in a lot of effort as well.
Weeks or months of time put into dissecting every team, every player finally pays off. The points are racking up leading to wins and a chance for the championship title, all because of the hard work you put in. You earned this. This type of positivity reinforces the joy that comes from the game, thus encouraging managers to return the following year.
Why in the world do people find fantasy sports so intriguing? Why does the Bachelor spend five minutes panning the room before the final rose decision? People love watching drama!
We love witnessing the struggle and holding our breath, waiting to see what happens. It’s why watching game winning kicks, buzzard beaters or the Hail Mary is so thrilling to watch. It adds a certain depth to the game where you not only appreciate the team’s effort, but that of the individuals.
Fantasy sports quenches the thirst of competition, and let’s be honest, time is no friend to us. The opportunity to compete diminishes with every tick of the clock. It is the reason you golf when you retire and its perhaps why the average age of fantasy players is 34. Strategy, statistical analysis and logic are all elements of fantasy sports that allow you to compete at any age.
Fantasy sports provides the outlet to control our own destiny that so many of us crave. Life can prove difficult at times. Your job, life itself or other stressors can derail us. Fantasy can help counter those negative influences. It bestows a sense of ownership and enhances leadership qualities such as decision-making, vision and initiative for action. Fantasy trains managers to be resilient when decisions go wrong and persevere through tough obstacles.
Fantasy sports have so many benefits to leadership development. Ironically though, due to fantasy, managers tend to neglect another important element of leadership: listening and perspective.
THE DOWNSIDE: WHY FANTASY SPORTS ARE DESTRUCTIVE
When you were invited to join your first fantasy league, you probably didn’t hesitate to sign up. Why would you? Who would have thought this little game had the potential to cause such big problems.
I honestly think the game should come with a caution sign – “WARNING: FANTASY FOOTBALL CAN END MARRIAGES, ALIENATE CHILDREN, STUNT CAREER GOALS AND LOWER YOUR BANK ACCOUNT. THANKS FOR PLAYING!”
But no such label exists. And all joking aside, the fact that men and women are experiencing these consequences is a real problem. It’s devastating.
The bottom line is that Pro Sports are completely consumer-centric. They don’t care about you or your family. They just want your money. And because of that, here are some of the issues I see happening with fantasy football when people aren’t intentional.
IT DEVOURS TIME
Three days a week for NFL games, watching SportsCenter, reading football articles, fiddling with your roster, and of course, all the time regurgitating this information to your league mates. The time spent on fantasy adds up.
Managers are constantly plugged in because well…the early bird gets the worm. As soon as a notification dings, they are rushing to see the news. And that’s only the news.
Many leagues are involved in group chats to build camaraderie as well. The constant sounds of messages floods the airways disrupting special moments with family and friends. If your family rolls their eyes when your phone dings…it’s a physiological event called conditioning. Congrats! You have successfully conditioned your family to exhibit a negative reaction to the sound of your phone.
YOU MAY HAVE A FANTASY PROBLEM IF
This brings me to the worst moments to check fantasy sports that real people admit to doing.
Right Before Bed – If you’re thinking about fantasy sports instead of your spouse right before bed you may have a fantasy problem.
Middle of the Night Free Agency – You know what I’m talking about. If you deliberately woke up to check your waiver wire or to add free agents, you may have a fantasy problem.
The Moment You Wake – If the first thing you do when you wake up is to revisit what you saw last night you may have a fantasy problem.
Church, Weddings, & Funerals – Do I really have to explain why you may have a fantasy problem with this one?
Family Reunions – If you attend a family reunion and fantasy is all you talk about you may have a fantasy problem. And I’ll let you in on a little secret…distant Aunt Marge on your wife’s cousin’s side…DOESN’T CARE ABOUT YOUR FANTASY TEAM!
Dinner Time – If you are checking your phone during dinner or ditching your family during quality time to watch football you may have a fantasy problem.
Birth of a Child – Believe it or not this one has happened. If your wife is giving birth and you participate in a draft, you may have a fantasy problem.
CAUSES UNHEALTHY OVERREACTIONS
If losing a game ever ruined your day…raise your hand. No? Just me? Of course not. The passion drives us to care, and that passion is good, but sometimes we care a little too much.
At the start of my lengthy fantasy career, I was hyper-focused on wins and losses. The moment my team was behind I was nothing but a ball of stress, constantly updating my apps to see if my misfortunes had turned. When they didn’t, and I inevitably lost, my day was ruined. An overreaction? Absolutely. Were the emotions real? One hundred percent.
When we live life with tunnel vision, we tend to exaggerate because there isn’t anything to give you perspective.
DRIVES YOUR LIFE
All we want as fantasy managers is for others to appreciate and take notice of how serious we take this game. Guess what? People notice. Your partner notices the amount of time and effort you willing to give to the league. Your children are aware of how much you idolize the game, and see how happy you are when it’s a part of your life. The sad truth is the people closest to you are the victims of fantasy’s importance.
You spend every July preparing for the season. In August, you run off to draft (multiple times). And from September through December you are lost in the abyss of fantasy sports.
The games dictate what you do on weekends, what you watch during the week, and how you spend your money. The main issue people closest to you have with fantasy is its importance to you. Your partner or children may see you spending all this time and effort on the game and wonder…why not me?
THE SOLUTION: SETTING BOUNDARIES
In a perfect world there would be a hundred hours in a day, and I could engage in sports to my heart’s content, but that it’s not how the world works. You have to prioritize, and all good things must come in moderation. That includes fantasy football. Establishing a set of boundaries in fantasy football important in keeping you grounded before the excitement takes over.
It’s like taking a kid into the toy store. Before you go in you establish a clear set of rules so they don’t bombard you with a thousand denied requests that inevitably leads to them lying on the floor screaming. If you wait until you are in the store, you’ve already lost them to the magical draw of toys.
The time to talk to them is before you go in. The same is true with fantasy. We are nothing but big lovable children captured by the magic of fantasy. Setting guidelines in the off season will keep your head clear. You know your situation best so there is no one better than you to establish boundaries.
TALK WITH FAMILY & PLAN FOR THE YEAR
The most efficient way to accomplish a healthy balance is to include your family and friends in these boundaries. They are the victims and the ones who see its effects on you. They will help keep things in perspective and keep you accountable.
SET NUMBER OF GAMES
If you think you have to watch every game in order to be the best then you’re flat out wrong. There are professional analysts that don’t even do that. By limiting the games you watch to the really important ones, there will be less burnout as the season progresses.
Here are some helpful tips to know if the game you’re about to watch is important…
Favorite Team – If you are a die hard Phili fan and somehow hold no players on your fantasy team, it is still reasonable to watch your Eagles play. It’s a great way to spend time with family and friends.
Your Starting Players Are Playing – The best games are when half of your roster is playing in the game. The push and pull of offense and defense fills the game with drama and excitement. If the game doesn’t hold any value to your fantasy team, then it is a game that can be missed.
Monday Night Football – Sometimes by Sunday afternoon you already know if the game is in the bag. Therefore, you should use this opportunity to take a break. Again, we are trying to be intentional to set limits. Being conscious about which games are on will help prevent burn out.
No Fantasy Players are Playing – Imagine your partner sits down beside you, extends a supportive hand and shows an interest in your fantasy team. They ask, “Who’s on your team so I can root with you?” You stare back, jaw agape and quietly respond…nobody. Why the hell are you watching this game!
SET TIMES TO CHECK YOUR DEVICE
There are many elements to fantasy that will pull you away. I am constantly picking up my phone mid-game to check scores. It’s exciting to see the points add up, but it doesn’t really matter.
Checking scores at the end of the day to make alterations to your roster…makes sense, but it’s the score at the end of the week that matters. Determine a time to check scores, messages and anything else related to fantasy. [Time management in general is a good life lesson, but let’s just stick to fantasy sports.]
MAKE NON-SPORT MOMENTS SPECIAL
This is the most important tip I can share. Make any moment not related to fantasy, special. Remember your family is fighting to connect with you. They feel like they are at war with the monstrous world of sports, and are losing. They long for your attention and those special moments. Fill their cup and you’ll find a greater support for your interests.
The bottom line is to work harder on the relationships in your life than you do on fantasy. Make time for people and prove their importance to you. This includes taking them on dates…frequently. Be intentional with quality time – plan specific activities. When you are in the moment…BE IN THE MOMENT. Not elsewhere.
A good rule of thumb is to match the time you spend on fantasy with time spent with family [Really family time should be greater than fantasy, but…baby steps.] As a good friend of mine once told me, “there is no such thing as busy, just prioritization – you choose what you do and don’t do.”
All these tips are just suggestions designed to be altered and adapted. Every year you should revisit and set the boundaries that best fit you and your family dynamics. Do what works for your family. But do something.
Overall, the world of fantasy sports is an amazing outlet for developing leadership skills, sense of ownership and bringing people together, but it also has destructive tendencies when left unchecked by boundaries. Fantasy sports brings me an incredible amount of joy but so does my family. Remember to listen and keep things in perspective to ensure a healthy balance.
Follow Jeff Roberts on Twitter @FantasyRoberts