On Sunday afternoon, Drew Brees accounted for 42 points (49, including field goals) in the New Orleans Saints thrilling victory over the New York Giants. But for the nearly 75 million people who play fantasy football, Brees more importantly scored 44 (in ESPN Standard League scoring) points. Becoming just the eighth quarterback to throw for seven touchdowns in a game, Brees’ accomplishment was met with understandable fanfare. But for all the historical comparisons, the fantasy aspect was inescapable. In today’s sporting climate, have fantasy sports eclipsed professional sports themselves?
Listening to the Dan Patrick Show today (November 3rd), there was a discussion about how fans no longer have the same die-hard passion that they used to. Regional boundaries don’t solidify team passion like they used to. Instead, individual players determine fandom as much as household influence; from a personal standpoint, my favorite teams in the three major sports (hockey notwithstanding) were determined by how the teams played when I was a young sports fan looking to find a team to get behind. Do I support my local teams whenever they play? Unless they’re facing my chosen teams, absolutely. But I can’t relate to the life-altering notion of being that is the true local fan. This, however, can’t be a wholly unique phenomenon.
The philosophy of metamodernism is built around the way technology, specifically the Internet, eliminates distances between humans. Nowhere is this seen more prevalently than fantasy football. Locational allegiances have blurred into a player-by-player basis, abetted by the all-consuming technological world of fantasy football. Commercials constantly remind players to get in the game, television shows are built around the fantasy model, and whole television channel packages allow you to change games the second your fantasy player is no longer in the game. This is undoubtedly the result of fantasy’s popularity, but it also speaks to the culture of individual prowess that is the NFL. In baseball, for example, fantasy hasn’t blurred the line between team allegiances on the field and on the fantasy screen. Traditions are sacred, and feats of excellence like a no-hitter are celebrated as team accomplishments; Drew Brees’ seven touchdowns, however, were touted as a singular act of on field genius.
Similarly, we can liken this to the rise of the term “global citizen”. Fans don’t have to be tied down to a single team in the same vein that some people don’t see themselves as nationally linked, rather signifying themselves with the world as a whole. Continuing with the personal examples, I can be as die-hard a Tampa Bay Rays fan as those living in St. Petersburg – (within fiscal reason) I can fly down to the stadium in a few hours to watch a game, I can discuss the team analytically with other fans via the Internet, and keeping track of the team’s news isn’t restricted to local papers anymore. Essentially, short of living in the stadium’s vicinity permanently, I can showcase my fandom while still living states away.
Had Drew Brees (or Peyton Manning and Nick Foles in 2013, for that matter) thrown his seven touchdowns in the 1960s, when the last time this record was accomplished before Manning and Foles, the landscape of coverage would’ve been drastically different. Decades before the Internet, fans were still more or less divided by where they lived or grew up, and the astounding feat would’ve enthralled local fans in the way of being able to claim the achievement as one of their own. Now, worldwide, New Orleans Saints fans and fantasy owners alike can celebrate the seven touchdowns as being part of their team.