You wouldn’t be reading this if you weren’t a Fantasy manager and in entry 3 of ‘Diary of a Doomed FPL’, Jamie Pacheco questions exactly why we all do it, year after year.
Why do we do it? Is it all worth it? What’s it all about? Not some soul-searching existential debate about the meaning of life, or why we’re here at all, but something far more important than that: why are we Fantasy Football managers?
Fantasy Football soul-searching
How do we justify that it’s ok to spend three hours deciding which 4.3 million Villa full-back to go for, but don’t find time to go for a jog twice a week? Why do we tune into Sheff Utd v Palace on a Monday night just because we have Dean Henderson, rather than actually do something useful with that time?
Here are the reasons why I think we go through it all week after week, season after season.
FPL Reason 1: Banter
Whether it’s a WhatsApp chat or an FF forum, we interact with each other, joking and teasing at best, hurling vitriolic abuse and spiteful criticism at worst. Or is it the other way round? Anyway, being an FF manager is to be part of a community of like-minded people. For some it may be just one of many communities and banter outlets you belong to, to others it may be the only one.
Oh yeah, obsessive and bad-tempered managers who are terrible losers, aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. Just ask Mourinho.
FPL Reason 2: Office morale
There are tens of thousands of office leagues all around the world and don’t underestimate their importance on everyday office morale. If you work in an office, you’re bunched together with a load of people with whom you only really share one thing in common: you work for the same employer.
But if you’re part of an office FF League, that makes it two. It does a lot more for bonding than paintball (too painful), raft-building (dangerous, I almost drowned once), quizzes (no-one likes the guy who knows everything, even if they’re on your team) or the full-on team-building day.
Actually, I wouldn’t know about that last one; I always called in sick. Ask me to go around shooting someone I don’t particularly like at paintball for a couple of hours and it’s “Yeah, ok. Count me in. What time?”
A whole day of bonding, back-slapping and trying to find out that there’s more to Deborah in Payments (there really isn’t) than meets the eye, is a bit much.
“Don’t take the piss, mate” is what you want to say but “I’m down with the flu and wouldn’t want to pass it on to my dear colleagues” is what you actually say.
‘No, quite” is the manager’s response every time.
Thank Goodness for that.
FPL Reason 3: Money
Every season I’m in for 1040GBP spread across four different leagues. You’ll be hearing plenty about this in future columns. That’s me, but here’s a real-life conversation I had with my mate Rob a couple of weeks ago:
“So, Rob, how was Barbados?”
“Fucking ace, mate. Sun was shining, the cocktails were flowing, the tan was developing, that jerk chicken is something else and guess what, I pulled three birds, stunners* all of them.”
“Wow. Sounds great. So how much did that cost you?”
“Well, one way of looking at is that cost me just short of two grand. Another way of looking at it is that it cost me nothing.”
“Zero, zilch, rien, nada**. I didn’t pay for it.”
“Well, who did then?”
“Nick Pope, TAA, Laporte, Söyüncü, KDB, Grealish…”
As far as I know, we haven’t yet reached a stage where there’s such a thing as a pro Fantasy Football manager, just being in charge of endless teams for a living. But then again, they said the same thing about playing online poker two and a half decades ago.
*I’ve known him for nine years and every girl he’s ever pulled has been a ‘stunner’. Some would disagree.
** Rob never misses out on an opportunity to use four synonyms in a row. For no apparent reason.
FPL Reason 4: Bragging rights
“Tell me who your friends are, and I’ll tell you who you are.” That one’s been doing the rounds forever.
But I think you can probably tell a lot more about the sort of person someone is by their Facebook/WhatsApp message to you at the end of an FF season when it comes to telling you it’s time to pay up.
Here are some genuine messages I’ve received over the years.
“Hard luck, James. Went to the wire, fair to say I got the rub of the green. Same bank account as last year. Same again next year, mate?” ‘The Genius’- class act, sporting, polite.
“I had a good a season, won most other leagues as well, if that’s any consolation. Owe me 300.” Anders Karlsen- Scandinavian, direct, lacks empathy, doesn’t get it that it’s no consolation at all.
“Call yourself an FF manager? Just the 88-point difference this season, loser. Pay up. Make it snappy” Unnamed- Prick.
But yeah, I really do think that for some, the money pales in comparison to the taste of victory. The fact that you can sit there and say you were the better man over the course of 38 long, hard game weeks.
And that’s where FF really is a meritocracy, one of the last few in today’s society. It doesn’t matter what your background is, how rich or poor you are, or whether you’re built like Adama Traore or David Brooks. For a whole season we’re all equals, pitting our wits, tactics and decision-making up against each other and inevitably, the best Manager wins.
Let’s be honest about FPL…
The biggest reason by a country mile is that we all secretly want to be football managers.
We can’t, of course and some will prefer the dangerous Football Manager computer game instead, but butterflies in our stomach at 14:59 on a Saturday afternoon, that heart-stopping moment when Salah (as captain) steps up to a take a penalty, those vindicated team selection decisions you mulled over in bed at night, those shrewd dealings in the transfer market and even the occasional heartbreak, is after all, why most of us do it.