Let Me Be Your Fantasy
(Or, a response to this website’s editor’s excellent earlier piece Game Getting Greedier)
A week into the new season and my interest is, as predicted, beginning to wane.
Not wholly due to Everton’s poor performances in their first two games, that’s reality, but because normal service has resumed.
Yes, my great start in the fantasy football league is already a distant memory.
Now, if I’m honest, I’ve never quite ‘got’ fantasy football. As an avid watcher of Baddiel and Skinner’s Friday night TV show when I was young enough not to know any better, I loved the idea of having more than an interest in the performances of players right across the weekend, not just to whom Everton were losing under the ill-fated regime of Mike Walker et al. Of course, I would have rather had a team full of Everton players, but would have done even worse.
But I was also uncomfortable with the notion that people who I believed knew much less about football than me, could correctly predict who might score ‘them’ points, whilst I didn’t. Even 90 Minutes magazine, which was effectively the catalyst for the game’s growth in the early 90s, then came up with a new twist and their Nightmare League, in which poor performances – own goals, sendings off – won you points, I didn’t fare too well. The nadir of that particular competition was my haranguing Ipswich goalkeeper Clive Baker for an autograph just because he was the ‘keeper of my nightmare league team.
That feeling continues today.
I came second bottom of my league last season, partly because I am too busy to waste hours making transfers or changing captain. But also because to this day, I make sentimental choices, refusing to ‘sign’ certain players, preferring to pick those I want to come good, hoping the perennial high scorers might have an off year. Indeed, this time around I spent longer designing my team’s strip than I did the players, and after a great first week, have fallen away to mid-table mediocrity. A friend of mine regularly plays Championship Manager, making no such decisions, with some success, though I have never enjoyed this even more detached-from-reality activity.
However, fantasy football seems as prevalent as ever, and not just in the newspapers or on websites. Because, this summer’s events have made the present author believe that too many of us are part of someone else’s fantasy.
The new dawn of football was accompanied by several new ideas, of which fantasy football seems to have been one of the most popular, especially for armchair fans. I discovered that, unsurprisingly an American idea from as far back as the 60s, it was launched here in 1991. As a young man at the time my only love was football, and I certainly didn’t have any other fantasies…
So I laughed along with the adult humour and the references to moments from football folklore that I didn’t quite understand, through my teenage years, my appetite whetted by adverts such as this:
Naturally, at this point I need to comment on Joleon Lescott.
Two things I have read in the past week have cemented my opinion on the seedy goings on up and down the East Lancs. First, someone said ‘if your son was offered double his current wages, you’d lend him the pen to sign’ which I agree with. Then, James Brown referenced Jerry Seinfeld who said something like ‘players come and go, all that remains is the shirt. Therefore, we effectively support laundry’.
Lescott is a good player. He has grown over the three years at Everton, and a couple of years ago, scored ten goals to become player of the season. He was the subject of such a substantial bid because of his capabilities and as such, is presumably a popular and high-scoring fantasy squad member for many. However, we forget (some fans still remember) that he nearly died in a crash as a child and only five years ago, missed an entire season due to injury. Therefore, although his attitude may have been disappointing, we should really blame those people who are playing their own game of fantasy football in real life.
Everton, like many clubs, are crying out for foreign investment. However, this is not a bitter tirade against Sheikh Mansour or anyone else, just a concern that when clubs can accumulate over two hundred million pounds worth of talent and offer absurd fees and wages over a few weeks, whilst others stick to budget and a more conservative approach but get no reward, the rules need to be looked at. Not the laws of the game, spending sprees can not be stopped, rather the moral codes we follow.
At this point I will refer to the huge billboard City paid for on Deansgate, you might forgive them given the years of suffering their fans might have endured in the shadow of United’s success, but there is still a way to do things – as Moyes might say, with class and dignity. Having such a huge pot of money does not guarantee success, but it breeds contempt, and complacency, and anyone who attended the FA Cup Final this year especially, will have noted the different responses of fans. Chelsea, the original big spenders, have been almost forgotten in all this, in fact other clubs have spent much more over the last three years with very little success or admirers, and I know that years ago Everton themselves were known as the Mersey Millionaires, but this is off the scale.
But quite how all this money can be spent after a year of financial strife for most of the world, is beyond my understanding. Many believe that football lost touch with the real world a long time ago, and if it is to stay true to its humble beginnings, it might need a change soon. Sky says that they ‘know how we feel about it, because they feel the same way’ but somehow I don’t believe that’s the case.
Similarly, Real Madrid have bought half a team, with even more incredible transfer fees and no doubt, wages. Their quest for world domination is though somehow different I feel – they have a much richer history and the likes of Di Stefano and Puskas somehow make their purchase more palatable. New signing Xabi Alonso made a comment last year that high taxes might force him and others back to the continent, suggesting that he at least had some understanding of money matters.
I will miss Alonso. Liverpool seem to be too. I have written before of my unusual relationship with him, indeed I was going to pick him for my fantasy team this year and therefore make him the first ever Liverpool player I had chosen. Instead I now have Glen Johnson at right back, until last night a good decision I thought.
And, as Mr Killeen stated a couple of weeks ago, perhaps that is the point. Fantasy football can be an escape, a diversion, from everyday issues we all have to experience. Witty team names offer conversation points, work hours can be wasted persuing who else can slot in to fill an injury gap, and as the game grows, at least we can remain a very small part of it, have some ownership.
Roll on Round Four.