It doesn’t happen much anymore, but years ago, I would be asked about fantasy sports a lot. Before ESPN or NFL-sanctioned standardized leagues or FFL-dedicated pre-game shows, before it was en vogue for housewives to have fantasy football teams (“ILikeTightEnds”), heck almost before there was this thing called the Internet. We used to check the newspaper or the network TV sportsticker or the America Online boxscores that were updated each half of the game! My mother used to dutifully ask me every week “How are you doing in football fantasy?” and it felt dirty or somehow wrong coming from my mother. She was only trying to feign interest and meant well but it still makes me shudder to think.
Most of the questions centered about the notion of what the heck this fantasy thing was and how it might not be appropriate for discussion among all audiences. Is it a fad or a fetish? How popular can it get? Are there dice involved? Is it a video game? Can you win money? Is it gambling? Do we have to go to Atlantic City? How do you play? Why are you yelling at the TV when that man doesn’t play for our team?
Thankfully, a lot has changed since the days of mullets, bleached jeans and Spin Doctors music. Fantasy sports are now mainstream enough that those type of queries are few and far between. Folks of all ages, genders, race, income levels and from every place on the planet now play. Not just fantasy football. Baseball, soccer, hockey – youi name it. Strat-O-matic was where it started moving onto Collecovision and Sabremetric Statheads (or Rotoheads if you prefer). If there’s a way to keep score, there’s a way to play a fantasy version of it.
We’ve seen it all. Fantasy beauty pageants, fantasy death pools, fantasy Congress, fantasy lumberjack, fantasy soap opera, a slew of fantasy pop culture games based on fashion, movies and TV. No pun intended, but fantasy sumo wrestling is huge in Japan. Plus, every reality show has a fantasy game version of it. (Big Brother, Survivor and Celebrity Apprentice are a few examples). This also used to work for drinking games back in college like “Star Trek: The Next Generation” (“make it so”, the shirt tug or admonishing Wesley Crusher when he accidentally tore a hole in the fabric of space time AGAIN!). What? Geeks should have fun too!
Amid all of my travels across space and time, I have yet to see a properly formed fantasy game for Thanksgiving. As we prepare for the annual holiday with family, friends, loved ones and required guests it occurred to me that no matter what your level of enjoyment for the formal giving of thanks, there’s a way to make the trials, tribulations and tedium of this holiday better: Fantasy.
Should be easy enough as Thanksgiving is a fairly universal concept. For those unfamiliar with Thanksgiving traditions, I refer you to the film “Home for the Holidays.” Americans celebrate in November, Candians in October so you could be in at least two leagues per year with very different outcomes. Ergo…The AAA, Holiday Entertainment Network and Hallmark Holiday specials present to you an “It’s a Thanksgiving Fantasy Game Charlie Brown” sanctioned Thanksgiving fantasy game.
Decide who you are playing against/with, like your brother or wife or both. Say it’s just you and your wife. Look over the scoring categories below, take turns drafting and then, as you slog through the holiday, keep track. Suddenly every mind-numbing thing becomes fun. Now you’ve got action … on everything! This also works when there are hordes of bored, annoyed smaller children as you can recruit them to help you track scoring opportunities = or set up a kids league in the event you are really bored!
For example, you could draft … Mom, cousin Jimmy, our stewardess (air hostess), three random people at the airport, turkey, Joe Buck, the hillarious(according to CBS) new sitcom “Mike and Molly,” Jose Cuervo tequila, stuffing, any type of misdemeanor, the stop light at Fifth & Main, your old high school boyfriend, the story about Mom finding my Playboys when I was 15, Uncle Brad’s flatulence, the word “tryptophan,” fishing for compliments at dinner and the phrase “We’re eating dinner. Could you please put on a bra?” Additionally, you also get yourself. (More advanced straytegists could spice it up by trading yourself to your opponent for themselves but you may need to throw in Uncle Brad’s flatulence to seal the deal).
Total points win. Phase I: Travel Give yourself one point every time …
Someone you don’t know touches you in transit. Including, but not limited to, jostling, shoving on an airport tram, going through security, old smelly dude tapping your shoulder to ask for directions and the fat woman sitting behind you trying to use your head rest to lift herself up while you are sleeping, except she wakes you up by grabbing part of your head with her grubby fat fingers instead. There should be a special torture device for people like that.
Anyway, that’s a point each. Also, bonus travel points if:
- You are delayed for any reason not in your control.
- Movie on the flight is one you’ve never heard of (be honest) OR
- Movie is something you don’t want to watch even if they give you free headphones, a first class upgrade voucher and a complimentary lap dance.
- One point every time someone has a loud sneeze or hacking cough near you. Double points if it happens while you are in confined space, like a plane or train. Triple points if they are within five feet of you. Quadruple points if you’re married to the person doing it and you get evil glares from people who are playing this game but drafted you instead of your spouse.
- They are out of something you ask for. Double points if it’s something that you can’t believe a plane would take off without, like ice or coffee or jet fuel.
- If they offer you a snack they’ve clearly been paid to promote that you would never eat in a million years, like the brand new Schefozzo’s Recipie Raisin & BBQ flavored peanuts – Now Horse-manure-free!
Phase II… Time With Family
You Draft What You Eat
Families are great because you can usually predict much of the conversation in advance. This helps when you are zogged out from gorging yourself with turkey and wine and lack the active brain cells to differentiate between the uniforms of the Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions!
Such predictable conversations provide us with lots of fantasy fodder. Score it when youi hear the usual such as: When are you getting married, having a kid, having another kid, getting a job, getting another job, getting your hair cut, your hair shaved, breaking up with “that girl,” why can’t you be more like (pick a more successful family member), why can’t you give up stripping (double points if there’s actually a stripper in your family at the table) – or why can’t you make as much money stripping as (pick a more successful stripper family member) , why don’t you call more often, why don’t you move out, why don’t you get yourself a boyfriend who isn’t married, why don’t you control your kids (insert pharmaceutical of choice), why aren’t your kids as smart or cute as (choose a family member with better medicated kids), when are your kids planning to start stripping after school to earn extra money… OR basically ”Why aren’t you someone else?” You get the point… Bonuses can include:
- Points if your parents brag about anyone that isn’t you.
- Points if a family member gets drunk. Double points if you drafted the time of day, choice of drink or number of beverages it takes. Triple points if it’s you.
- A point for every time you hear “there’s so much food,” see someone actually pat their belly(or loosen their belt/pants/suspenders) and for every piece of food you eat after your cousin’s boyfriend’s mailman’s neighbor’s little kid has touched it all with his dirty little fingers. (Silly Putty or Play Doh are involved but I’m open to product placement bonuses).
- One point for every person you drafted that actually eats cranberry sauce. Double points if they pretend to enjoy it. Triple points if they actually do.
- Points if you have to drive someone home because they are too drunk. Double points if the place you are driving them home from is jail. Triple points if it’s your parole officer.
- A point for every embarrassing photo, story or videopresented of you. Double the points if this story has been told before. Triple points if the story is actually about your brother but everyone thinks it’s you. Bonus points if you drafted said story or had drafted yourself.
- Five points if you manage to re-enact said story this trip. Double that if it involves you being naked at any point.
- If you are awoken from a nap. If you can’t nap. If you can’t identify anyone sitting on the couch next to you when you wake up. If you wake up and someone has their hand on your leg, that’s a point. Double points if you don’t immediately have to shower afterward.
- A point for every family member that doesn’t help you with whatever you have to do (cook, clean, shop, buy smokes for Aunt Jane, clean yams off the ceiling, etc.) while they themselves aren’t doing anything else.
- A point for every time you hear “Are you gonna finish that?” Five points every time a family member lets one rip and 10 points if your FFL players play Thanksgiving Day and stink OR you bench them and they go off. You’re gonna be depressed enough until Sunday, so you might as well get 10 points.
- A point if you can find a bar that’s open Thanksgiving night and also gets NFL Network. Negative points for each subsequent bar you fail at finding it.
- One point for every photo taken of you looking tired, bloated and full. Two points if it gets posted and “tagged” on Facebook. Three if it’s done by your mom. Whom you’re “friends” with. Minus two points if Mom discovers she’s on “limited profile.”
Do they show Barry Sanders footage during the Lions game? Do they show Troy Aikman footage during the Dallas game? Does Troy make a “that was a long time ago” or a “who is that guy?” joke when they show it? Do they show live turkeys? Do they show the president doing the whole presidential turkey pardon thing? Is there any sort of a “stuffing” pun … like “On a day when America is filled with stuffing, Marion Barber is getting stuffed at the line of scrimmage.” Yes or no for all of these. Point if you’re right, minus one if not.
Do any of the announcers mention fantasy football during the game? Do they say something like “This guy is on my fantasy team!” or “Fantasy owners will sure be excited!” Do you believe he has any idea what he is talking about? Do you have to explain football or fantasy football to anyone while watching the games? A point for each time. Two points if, after you’ve explained it, you hear “And you make money at this?
Minus two points for every hour you get sucked into shopping on the Friday after Thanksgiving, for using the phrase “Happy Turkey Day,” and for any actual complaint on that day.
Whatever your lot in life, someone’s much worse off and others are better. Be very, very, very thankful for everything you have. I know I am. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
About the Author
Written by Christopher Rowe
Contributing writer Comcast Sports, NY Times contributing stringer 1996-2000, Contributing writer Yahoo Sports (2001 World Series). Contributing writer Newsday Long Island (1992-1994, Jets Training Camp) and Newak Star Ledger. Freelance Copywriter, Editor/Founder Atlantic Times Weekly (1993-2003) fantasy football magazine, produced screenwriter and general humorist. Hofstra University grad, Marist College honorary alum, Salesian; Purveyor of the Value and Valor of Philadelphia Eagles 1960 NFL Championship; Adrent believer that Eagles could have won Super Bowl XV...and Super Bowl XXXIX...plus modern decade of Eagles 5 NFC Championships... Believer in the Broad Street Bullies and the 1983 Sixers... Witness to Philadelphia Phillies World Series championships 1980 & 2008, Suffered Phillies first pro sports team to reach 10,000 losses,witnessed "1980 Cardiac Kids," 1983 "Wheeze Kids," 1993 "Macho Row" and many, many, many not-so-memorable seasons in-between... until the Philadelphia Baseball Renaissance of 21st Century, Five NL East division titles 2007-2011, 3 NLCS appearances 2008-2010, 2 consecutive World Series berths 2008 & 2009. 2008 World Champions of baseball [miss ya Harry and Richie]; "collector" of MLB ballparks (42 stadiums including 15 which are gone); Fantasy Football & Baseball player since 1992. Always a sports fan... Tenui Nec Dimittam Contact me firstname.lastname@example.org