Modern Sport is a Fantasy

Historically sport was seen as a healthy pursuit, a social outlet for the family and entertainment.

Currently the purpose of sport is essentially for betting, computer games and fantasy leagues. And that’s not such a bad thing.

Let’s face it, kids these days  are usually from blended relationships, living in a townhouse with no yard, where their parent and domestic partner work full-time and consequently have little time, or opportunity to actually play games. Rather than making sport and negotiating television rights redundant, the elite continue to play, sports scientists continue to dispense whatever sports scientists dispense and those who do attend venues, set off flares. That keeps everyone happy. For the players that is of course the period before the inevitable downward spiral to drug addiction, obesity and their early concussion related demise. They are less happy about that, but that is not usually considered until two days after sporting retirement.

For the rest of us, there needs to be a reason for following sport or more accurately, live sports statistics. Its all about stats as no one can possibly keep up with the amount of actual sport each week. Last year had two weeks holiday and realised had missed the French Open, four test matches, the Champions League and the entire Commodore Cup. Sad to have missed the Commodore Cup. May have been Melbourne’s last piece of silverware. Presume it is still played under lights at the Lakeside Oval.

Don’t actually bet, but respect others who do and who know how to “cash out” having won three legs of the quadrella. For the uninitiated that seemed to favour the betting agency, but clearly that is wrong and it is a favour to the punter. Hard to understand how the head of Betfair was again overlooked for the Australia Day awards.

Similarly no idea how to download computer games let alone play them. Need to be Generation Y for that. But can see that it is the most effective baby sitter ever devised. After the wheel, electricity and television, the first computer game (“Jordan Air dot com”) was the single most important invention in history. (Ed: note – Plough Wallace disagreed and said the next best invention had been “the flood”).

But for right thinking people, fantasy sport is sport. It is the modern day real sports experience.

This year the 398 AFL home & away matches (if Essendon fronts for all which is highly improbable as most will lose interest quickly and join the Mick Malthouse Football Academy to learn how to play like Carlton) will determine who wins their local fantasy league. Frankly the AFL finals are pretty irrelevant given the fantasy competition league will have concluded before they begin. This is the real reason we can now play finals at Kardinia Park, the Gabba, Parramatta Stadium or wherever GWS play and still have spare seats. (Where GWS play their home matches is a topic for another day. In particular has anyone actually established first hand that GWS play home matches at all and if so, where).

The fantasy league though wonderful, does however present a conundrum. That is – loyalty versus victory.

A different sort of loyalty. Allegiance is not just to a club, but to individual players. Its like the “Big Bash” where most can’t even name the sides, but all have favourite players. And least favourite players – read Chris Gayle. But in a Fantasy AFL league, could not  comprehend a team without Jack Watts and Dennis Armfield. The dilemma is that can’t comprehend a side with Jack Watts and Dennis Armfield ever winning. Logically that is known, illogically it won’t change ingrained behaviour.

The sad aspect is that many (read dam) will spend hours on the selection process. At the end of it, some (read dam) will have  inevitably selected a pretty ordinary team when others (read the rest of the sporting world) seem to be able to fit Ablett, Fyfe, Priddis and Dangerfield in the midfield and still have the luxury of Buddy Franklin on the bench.

The reality and beauty of fantasy football and the reason it thrives is that it has changed the way sport is viewed. It has added another dimension.

Can now watch matches involving other teams with a real interest. Have never done that before. Indeed to watch Essendon play Carlton was previously a form of punishment. Before Fantasy football, viewing such a match was akin to a term of a Community Based Order. The sort of thing to dramatically reduce recidivism. Now it is compulsory viewing and even worth recording. No, withdraw that last comment.

To be fair, am interested in possessions not the result. Couldn’t give a continental of the result.

In the viewing matches it is common to become quite agitated when your charge from the particular club spends time on the interchange bench. So reduced rotations is a welcome advance. Conversely there is elation when your player runs round the back of the contest (careful not to risk contact or injury, which is why Watts & Armfield are so popular) and receive  a “give and go” –  Bingo –  double points! “That’s what it’s all about”, shouted Shane Crawford the face of SuperCoach.

For those who have never participated, this memo is intended as encouragement. It’s easy. It’s enjoyable and it’s social. It gives life meaning. Perhaps that may overstate it, but do recommend it and now is the time to get started.

You can join an existing league or create your own which is far better. It allows banter amongst friends.

The name of your team is important. More so than the actual team that you select. Enjoyed last year’s team of “WattsGartlettDunn”. Better than this years “Watts – Free Agency”

Then select your team. Can have a team selected for you, but no fun in that. Better to do your own starting with the non-negotiables: Jack Watts, Dennis Armfield, Jeremy Cameron, Jack Riewoldt, Dane Swan and Alipate Carlisle.

To have some semblance of winning will need to pick either Ablett or Fyfe, either Pendlebury or Dangerfield, either Bob Murphy or Luke Hodge, or finally either Josh Kennedy or Josh Kennedy.

The Fantasy project is an excuse to watch the pre-season Commodore Cup to determine which of last year’s fringe players or recruits are getting game time, or time in the middle. The reality is that nothing really changes from last year but you start believing Devon Smith, Levi Casboult and Billy Hartung are potential Brownlow medalists.

You do have to answer to the salary cap. So the likes of North’s Daniel Wells and Gold Coasts’s Jaeger O’Meara will be popular picks with their discounted prices this year, much like Van Berlo in 2015. But unlike the Storm and Carlton, the Fantasy League salary caps are unimpeachable. This is clearly a weakness and needs to be addressed as it ruins a rich history in Australian sport of cheating.

To be fair, there is a warning. Fantasy competitions can become addictive. It is particularly dangerous if you have an obsessional personality.

Fantasy competitions tends to break up families. Thursday nights require complete concentration and a thorough investigation of team selection. Some hours need be devoted to potential changes, even though very few changes are actually permitted each round. The study requires complete silence. Families should understand that. It is not dissimilar in that way to “cross-stitch” exponents. Cross-stitch being a recreation where cooking, cleaning and personal hygiene are forgotten when in the zone. That can last for hours at any one “cross-stitch” sitting. Compensation is regularly awarded to claimants in the Victims of Cross Stitch Tribunal. It is a recreation which ought to be banned.

That is a digression. This is about Fantasy competitions. This about sport as we now know it.

If you were John Tomic, Ray Ruffels, or the father of that Tasmanian runner, you would not bother with tennis, golf and running. Give them a computer, television and betting account and encourage their use. Indeed supervise and insist on their use and you too can produce champions. Apart from the fact computers had not been invented, regret that my parents provided a backyard, sporting equipment and financed tennis lessons. Took up lots of time and ultimately amounted to nothing. To be a Fantasy League champion is revered.

February is fantasy month. New Zealand tests are an unwelcome intrusion. Basketball is apparently back in town, but until the Tigers return it will not be recognised. Where Tim Cahill’s termination from his seventeenth club is leading news, it suggests we are hanging out for the return of real sports. AFL, NRL & Union. And those sports exist to support Fantasy Leagues. That’s how it is and should be. It’s time to get on board.

Regards da mcdonell.

About da mcdonell

Established "dam Sports Crisis Managment" to salvage & reinvigorate flagging careers of elite athletes. In practice mentoring rather than coaching or managing in the traditional sense. In the Almanac, we focus on the AFL players of the "dam AFL sports team"


  1. Simon Dix-Draper says

    i’m one of those guys that selects a pretty ordinary team. We should form a league. A Good Ordinary League. I only do fantasy each year so that by the Law of Probability (Probably is my God, I stand by Probably) I get lucky one year and have those guys in my team plus Buddy on the bench, probably.

  2. Apart from the fact that I was pretty crap at it (I’m now over the delusion I was just extremely unlucky, most of the time), after a couple years of being caught in life draining conversations about which players some workmate I didn’t care much for was trading in and out, I decided to focus on reality and the precious hours I have left on this earth, A few mates of mine took it so seriously I wouldn’t have blamed their wives for taking up with the antenna man or the local butcher.

    Each to their own, but I’ve grown to dislike fantasy football as much as sports betting.

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