So fantasy football is back.
Oh, how I’ve missed the delightful mix of illusory agency and total helplessness that comes with trying to guess which NFL players are going to perform well each week. Oh, how I longed for the ineffectual rage that builds up when an offensive coordinator pretends one of your running backs doesn’t exist, or when one of your receivers is used as a decoy for, like, an entire season. And who can resist those paralyzing conflicts of interest that arise when your fantasy team would benefit if certain members of your actual team did poorly?
Yes, fantasy football is back in all its frustrating, time-sucking glory (I swear a Fall Line Fest post is coming at some point), and I just had the pleasure of watching both my teams go down in flames in week two. But I’m trying to take a more detached, zen-like approach this year, and I have the perfect theme song for my long-overdue attitudinal shift.
See, I’ve never won a fantasy football league, and I probably never will. The truth is that I was doomed from the beginning. I didn’t exactly grow up in a football-friendly family — you should have seen what happened when I tried to turn on NFL games when I was younger. Jehovah’s Witnesses get more time to plead their case. As a result, my football instincts are critically underdeveloped, sort of like how waiting to start playing a video game until months or years after it comes out gets you killed the moment you set foot in that virtual universe. I’m also horribly risk-averse, so I’m reluctant to engage in trades and tend to avoid making free agent add/drops I might regret later. I just need to face the facts — being a fantasy football champion is very likely not in my DNA.
Lorde can relate. Her hypnotically sparse song “Royals” tells of being born into disadvantage and finding your own type of happiness under the circumstances. But that’s not all it does, and here’s where it becomes an even more perfect middle finger to the fantasy football gods: It celebrates the strength that comes from declaring independence from a set of ridiculous standards. And is there any more ridiculous standard than expecting to predict the future? It’s absurd, yet it’s at the core of every fantasy sport. You make these tortured decisions and either castigate yourself for losing or pat yourself on the back for winning, but really, no one can predict the future. That may seem obvious, but it’s easy for that little nugget of truth to go missing when things don’t go your way, or when they totally go your way and you start thinking you’re the Miss Cleo of touchdowns.
So thank you, Lorde. I know you didn’t set out to write the song that would inoculate me from fantasy football despair, but you did. Only one question remains… What song’s gonna help me get through next year?
[Update: Quick addendum for any Brits who might be reading this… First, I want to acknowledge that the way you use the word “football” makes a thousand percent more sense. Second, I just learned that Lorde will be performing on tonight’s season (or “series,” I suppose I should say — we really are two countries divided by a common language, eh?) premiere of Later… with Jools Holland, alongside Kanye West and others. I won’t be able to see it over here, but hey — I figured it was worth mentioning.]