5 Fantasy Football Life Lessons

I’m just going to come right out and say it: I play fantasy football.

Watch as my machismo drips away.

Despite its rapidly growing popularity (an estimated 33,559,990 players in 2013), people like myself continue to struggle with admitting our rabid and passionate participation. Fantasy footballers are like the new nerds. Remember when comic book nerds were uncool? That is, before Hollywood employed attractive people and dumbed down comic book story-lines?

Fantasy Football is nerdy but not yet cool. Proclaiming, “I was screwed by Dez Bryant,” outside of your respective fantasy milieu, will turn a few heads, juke a few coworkers, and roll a few eyes. It is nearly impossible to get taken seriously while talking fantasy football.

But I understand the stigmas: it is a waste of time, a waste of effort, ambition, mental energy, money, relationships, opportunity cost, all that stuff. On paper, droves of grown men and women pretending to be NFL coaches between August and December certainly reads like a bad idea. We could all probably be accomplishing something more meaningful with our lives. Yada, yada…

Listen, I love fantasy football. I’m certain if aliens invaded during my fantasy draft, for instance, I probably wouldn’t notice. I’m that invested. The entertainment experience is better than most of today’s movies and TV shows, it keeps me engaged to distant friends and relatives, and participation is free (minus time spent and optional buy-ins).

But my favorite aspect of playing the game is the life lessons I can pull from. I’m here to argue that fantasy football isn’t a waste of time, but rather, that there is value far beyond its temporal and waning pride. Fantasy football rewards its players in ways that can prepare them for many of life’s most important ups and downs. Check it out:


5 life lessons from playing fantasy football

1. Consistent success takes intentional strategy

It all starts with the draft. What strategy are you using? What strategies are your league-mates using? Life is like this too. We all have goals. But how do we reach them? Staying focused on the target, through strategy, is the best way to reach it.

2. Measured risk can overcome unforeseen problems (like injured players) 

Your first and second pick are injured in the first and second week. How do you overcome it? Take a risk. Building a career is similar. Sometimes we’re not on the path we thought we’d be on. The job never came, the house never came, you live in Rochester… It may be time to take a risk. Not blindly or impulsively, of course, but do your homework and find the solution you need. The worst that can happen? You make a mistake you can learn from.

3. Plan with foresight and invest in the future

Don’t get lazy. This is my number one rule for fantasy football (drafting a kicker in the first round is an implied no no). Consistent success takes planned foresight: Who am I facing? What are their weaknesses? Where are their holes? Can I afford to take a risk this week? I think young professionals struggle with foresight. What can you do today to help you reach your goals for next year?

4. Make alliances and hustle

Networking is the unofficial secret to success. It is probably mentioned in every business book and convention. In fantasy football, alliances go far (e.g., the player trade everyone wanted but you got). Like life, strong alliances in a social network takes dedication. It means knowing your network’s needs before they do and approaching them with the right solution.

5. Be wary of “expert” advice

Here’s the deal. As fantasy football expands, the gurus continue to come out of the woodwork. Listen with caution. Too much info can give your brain the fun sounding but production-deadly “analysis paralysis.” At the end of the day the gurus don’t know your league like you do. It is the same with life and success. Listen to wisdom but don’t be afraid to embrace luck and go with your gut. Michael Crichton taught me that too.

What lessons have you learned from playing fantasy football?



  1. I’ve opted to boycott the NFL in my fantasy life and in the real world for two very important reasons — 1) They have shown callous disregard in a stingy settlement with ex-players who have suffered greatly from the long-term effects of concussions, and 2) My Colts play better when I ignore them.

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