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Football is a kind of fantasy already—just like baseball, or hockey, or any team sport with fantasy bowls and titles and trophies. Sports are a form of theater, and the basic premise of theater is the suspension of disbelief. Just as for the duration of a play or opera or dance piece I agree to forget that real people don’t sing when they’re sick, or dance when they’re dead, for the duration of this game I agree to believe that I live in a pre-civilized and dangerous world where college seniors are warriors, and lives hang in the balance of the distance one of them can throw a ball. But fantasy sports take the fact of this already existing fantasy and square it. They are a fantasy living off of another fantasy like the tiny parasites that clean shark teeth, except in this case the relationship doesn’t go both ways. Mere fandom at least admits of a kind of failure, like a kid following his big brother around in open admiration of what he is not. This kind of relationship says: I am a fan of sports because I play them inadequately, and people who play them well are impressive to me. The fantasy sportsman, on the other hand, makes no such concession to reality. It is a wager of pure hubris: “Given that I neither play nor am in any way professionally involved in [football/baseball], I nevertheless believe I can configure and maintain a [football/baseball] team with a strong likelihood that I will do it even better than the people who actually know what they’re doing (or at least better than each and every one of my man friends).” I give fantasy sports credit for one thing, and that is its adjectival honesty: nobody’s hiding behind Mock Ball, or Humble Ball. But then, like historical reenactors or Trekkies, fantasy sport players not only do not deny that their particular brand of connoisseurship is nerdy, it actually seems to fire their ardor.

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