Fantasy football can save the world…or at least your sanity.
Every once in a great while, an event takes place that shifts the course of human history. Traditionally, these events are cataclysmic and involve either war, disease, famine, or some other large scale disaster. In 2020, we seem to find ourselves smack dab in the middle of just such an event: the COVID-19 pandemic.
COVID-19 is wreaking havoc the world over. We in the industrialized West are lucky enough to have it better than most of the world when it comes to basic needs like access to clean water, food, and healthcare. Civil liberties are considered sacrosanct, and rarely in the modern era do police forces roam our streets herding people by force into tenements, as is currently being done elsewhere in the world.
We are privileged but not immune.
Our lives have drastically changed as well. Staying indoors, practicing social distancing, and forced isolation is the new norm for many. For a species that naturally craves companionship, and an American public with a fiercely independent streak, these new realities are painful. As we try to keep our bodies safe from the Coronavirus, our psyches are being buffeted more and more.
As a society, we are already seeing spikes in suicide and domestic violence. As someone with a diagnosed generalized anxiety disorder, I can tell you that life is unequivocally harder right now. I’m not the only person for whom the very act of existing is suddenly more difficult. Every single one of us is currently learning to adapt to a new way of living, and that is hard–especially when forced to do so mostly alone.
During this socially distant time, it is important to foster a sense of community where one can. Zoom meetings, Netflix watch parties, and Marco Polo videos are suddenly all the rage because they help people connect and preserve some sanity. We are all lucky to have such tools at our disposal. Those of us who play fantasy sports, dynasty fantasy football in particular, are even luckier.
We have a pre-existing community accustomed to interacting mostly online, so it doesn’t feel inorganic to us. We have something that can simultaneously give us both a sense of normalcy and escape. How rare is that!? Fantasy has always been great for that. Just read some of Matthew Berry’s more poignant stories about fantasy football saving lives to see how cathartic fantasy sports has been over the years.
My home league is a 10-teamer, and I have known most of these guys since high school and some since 2nd grade! We have a Facebook messenger chat that is more active than ever with trade talk, trash talk, funny gifs, and memes–all the good stuff that helps take our minds off of COVID-19 and preserve some sanity.
The RotoHeat community is a fantastic resource, too. It’s like my home league chat on steroids. The team itself is pushing content creation at an incredible rate during this historically slow and uncertain time, which is awesome. Subscribers to the Discord chats get nearly round-the-clock interaction with one another and with team members.
It doesn’t matter if the NFL draft is in person or online. It doesn’t even matter at this point if the season even takes place, because we are all talking to each other about football the same way we always have. RotoHeat is bringing a sense of stability and normalcy to our lives during a very unstable and abnormal time.
I’ll pull back the curtain a little further. The RotoHeat team itself is relatively small, and every single one of them works harder for the RotoHeat community at large than I do. Many on the team have children and live in places where school has been canceled indefinitely, and are learning to balance their existing career with their new career as home educators. Some on the team are deemed “essential workers” and venture out into the pandemic daily. At least one is a first responder whose job is dangerous at the best of times and downright frightening during this pandemic.
Somehow all of these disparate people bond over RotoHeat and dynasty fantasy football. They almost magically find time to write articles, make videos, host podcasts and livestreams, conduct mock drafts, and interact with members in the chats and on FB. They tell stories, some of them scary, about their days. They vent and rant. Most importantly, they find support amongst friends and brothers that most have never met in person. I watch them daily, and I am amazed at the strength of the community.
Fantasy football is a powerful tool for fostering a sense of community. If you are reading this article, you already know that. You are a part of that community.
Maybe now more than ever, it is time to invite more people into our world. Invite some friends to play. If you have a redraft league, think about going to a dynasty. If you don’t have access to the RotoHeat Discord chats, sign up. If you have extra free time on your hands, host a mock draft with friends or even strangers, for that matter. If you haven’t reached out to your league-mates in a while, do so now. Check-in on them, make sure they are ok, and then ruthlessly talk smack to them.
It’s crucial for our collective mental health that we all find a way to stay together while staying so very far apart. Thank goodness for fantasy football, now more than ever.