Fantasy football is why I love the U.S.A

This year I was asked to join my friend’s long-running fantasy football league — one of the highest honors within the male social circle. I grew up in Vermont, well within Patriots Country (hold on Yinzers, let me finish), but I have never been an avid football fan. However, since becoming an American citizen, I have drunk the Kool-Aid, or rather the Bud Light, and learned to tailgate with the best (read: “We are Penn State!”). So, I fired up my computer and started reading every fantasy ranking list and blog I could.

Once I officially registered my team, the Steel Sidi Champs, I asked whoever would listen for fantasy pointers. You have to pay attention to bye weeks (each team has a week off); past performance is not necessarily a good indicator for fantasy points; look for the sleeper picks, which is a term for underrated players; and don’t worry about drafting a kicker till the last round. Like anything impossible to master, everybody has different views and tips when it comes to fantasy sports. I took each with a grain of salt and in the end decided that nobody really had an upper hand or dominant strategy. During the first couple of rounds you take whatever ringers you can get. After that, it becomes very difficult to distinguish the 40th-ranked player from the 50th.

Adrian Peterson, Aaron Rodgers, Ray Rice, and the Titans’ defense sans Albert Haynesworth: these are my fantasy ringers. In the comfort of my favorite armchair with a beer and some pepperoni pizza, I marked my first fantasy football draft. I was lucky enough to have the second overall pick and was even luckier that the first pick chose Tom Brady. We made history amid the egregious trash talk from my buddy’s younger brother. On any given Tuesday, teams are born and champions are made.

For the first time ever, I am very excited for football season and I can’t wait to see how my team will fare 17 weeks from now. The quantitative side of fantasy football really hit home with my technical background, and I’ve already started my spreadsheet for next season. A month ago, I couldn’t have told you who any of these players were, but now, as I ride the bus and listen to ESPN’s Fantasy Focus Podcast, I am proud to say that I love football and I love America.