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Fantasy football - it's about more than just the individual

I read Dave Zirin's 9/16 commentary from the LA Times, The fantasy that's ruining football, and could not disagree more with some of the uninformed statements he made in the opinion piece. At one point, Zirin states, "Fantasy football worships at the altar of individual achievement, an unholy distortion of what football is all about" - this man clearly has never made a single fantasy football decision in his life. You don't decide to start a WR until you consider the health and skill of his QB; you don't draft a RB in the early rounds that has a porous offensive line; and you certainly take into account a team's matchup and what kind of defense you'll be facing before making your decision on QB for the week. The choices you face in who to start and who to sit each week revolve around the team as a unit; there's a reason I am loathe to starting someone from the ATL this year.

The second erroneous statement from Zirin came here: "There is no fantasy metric for an individual defender like Sanders." Wrong again. Heard of an IDP league? Leagues can either be comprised entirely of individual defenders or IDPs can be drafted as the defensive element of your fantasy team. Honestly, this is the one place where I think individual achievement is stressed more than playing as a team - an IDP can be the one bright spot on an otherwise ugly defense and yet you're rewarded handsomely for his fluke INT returned for a TD. Personally, my favorite kind of fantasy defense arrangement would be to have a team D/ST and then a handful of IDPs to achieve that team/individual balance.

Finally, Zirin suggests that "the numbers act as a moat between fantasy owner and the actuality of the game" and that fantasy leads to disengagement from the game and the players. Zirin, ever been to Yardbarker? And perhaps seen the blogs from a variety of professional athletes? I'd hardly call that disengagement.

I do agree with Zirin that fantasy football has changed the way that many of us view pro football. There are certainly more people watching the NFL every weekend now that they have a stake in the outcome via fantasy (and the NFL is eating it up)...but I disagree that it has taken away "true fans" from the sport. I am a bigger Broncos fan now than ever; my buddy Ethan is going to wear his Heath Miller jersey and pull for the Steelers even if he's got the opposing D that week; and the Fantasy Football Goat, who has played fantasy football for 17 years now, is certainly not going to stop his lifelong fandom of the Vikings just because of a one-week matchup.

So to Zirin I say, accept the fact that fantasy football is here; it may change the pro football world in small ways but ultimately will only strengthen the number of true football fans out there. Give it a try, Zirin, you won't go back.


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