Are You Ready for Some Fantasy Football?

So it’s Sunday and I looked at the clock and realized that half of today’s NFL games are already well into the second quarter. This is a major change from seasons past when I would have been up at 9am to catch the NFL pre-game on Fox or CBS (I’m on the west coast and football starts early.) and then watched football all day. The reason I’d be glued to the TV wasn’t my love of football, though I do enjoy the sport, but the fact that I was in two fantasy football leagues.

I’m not going to explain what fantasy football is so I’ll let Wikipedia handle giving you the details.

I originally got into fantasy football about eight years ago while living on the east coast. A friend of mine had invited me to join a league he was running and it seemed like a good opportunity to hang out with friends and have a good time. And it was a good time; getting together with friends, “drafting” players for your team, drinking beer, watching football, the good natured ribbing when someone chose Jon Kitna (When he still played for Detroit.) as their starting quarterback because that particular year the Lions were going to be awesome.

More than just a good time I began to understand the sport more and began to enjoy aspects of the game I never really paid attention to previously. I also grew to appreciate other teams besides the New York Giants (My hometown team when I was growing up.) and the skills of other players.

Before long, I began to run a league. So not only was I still participating in my friend’s league I took on the responsibility of organizing a league and the draft parties, managing a second team, acting as the adjudicator for my new league’s disputes and making sure people were kept up to date on league activities, policies and a whole host of other things.

Needless to say it was time consuming. I was having a good time, but other things that were important to me got ignored from July to January. Not my wife, or my dog, but, for one, my writing.

Writing had always been important to me. I’ve been writing in one format or another since I was twelve. I started by writing my own stories for comic books and illustrating them and a little later by writing my own adventures for my role-playing group. Eventually I turned to writing short stories and novels and part way through college changed my major from art to writing because I had decided that’s where my true interests lie. And yet, for some reason, when I got into fantasy football and preseason camps for the upcoming NFL season would come along I’d put it all way. My weeknights were spent researching league and team moves, getting together with friends to discuss football and watching games. A lot of games.

A little more than a year ago I came across a slew of unfinished first drafts of short stories and several started but abandoned novels. All had been started in the months leading up to the football season. I’d always had the best of intentions, to pick them up again and complete them once I had the free time to pursue writing again.

I’d always known they were there, ignored. I’d often decided in February to move on to a new project, my interest in previous projects having waned or I’d be so out of touch with what I’d written previously I didn’t know where to wade in and begin again so I’d start over with the same idea.

At some point I just stopped writing completely. Sure, work had something to do with it as well. I make my living in information technology and the job can be very demanding and requires a constant cycle of training on new technologies. I was also being promoted and eventually entered the ranks of management which presented new challenges and time commitments. But the reality is, if I could make time for fantasy football then I could certainly make the time to write. It was when I came across the thumb drive that had all of those unfinished stories on it that this very thought hit me. I’d always dreamed of being a writer, but literally I’d shoved my dreams in a drawer, and for what? A few Sundays with friends? Obsessing over spoiled millionaires who could help me win fantasy games of no consequence?

Frankly, it was depressing. I wondered where my writing career would be now if I’d pushed through and continued to write with determination. Maybe I’d be published. Maybe not. But I certainly wasn’t going to be published with a drawer full of unfinished work. So I decided, right then and there, what was important. I immediately emailed a notice out that I would no longer be running or participating in any leagues. Of course I got some cajoling from my friends wanting me to join, especially from those in the league I ran. Eventually one of them even decided to continue the league I had started. They invited me to participate in their new league thinking it was the time commitment of running the league that was the issue. I declined immediately, remaining steadfast in my decision.

This year when fantasy football started up again I received another invite and I declined that as well. Could I have made the time to participate in a single league and still write? Probably, but the previous season was a revelation. Things around the house got done more quickly. I started writing again. I even joined a workshop to help get rid of the writing rust that had accumulated. But most telling was that I didn’t even miss it.

I don’t miss watching the games. Hell, I think I’ve only watched one full Giant’s game this year. I’ve tuned in for updates on a couple of others but that’s been less than twenty minutes total I’d say. I don’t miss the draft or game get-togethers. I don’t miss any of it. Truthfully, I don’t know why it took me so long to give it up.

The one important lesson that fantasy football has taught me is that we need to decide what’s important in our lives and clear out the things that aren’t important. So for me that meant getting rid of fantasy football. It was too time consuming with too little reward. My only regret now is that I wish I’d learned that lesson earlier and kept writing.

Fortunately, as far writers go, I’m still young. It’s not too late and I’m back to writing with purpose. I’m still not published but I’m getting good feedback on my writing. And maybe I never will be published but that’s not what matters to me. What matters now is that I pursue my desire to be a writer and that I continue to pursue publication. One thing I’ve never lacked is confidence (my wife would say ego!) and I’m confident that success will eventually come to me. I just have to avoid wasting time on things that aren’t important. More importantly; I have to keep writing.

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