My wife is an avid fantasy football nut. I’m not talking about a woman who plays fantasy football. No, her entire Sunday is ruined if her team underperforms.
I have played in fantasy football leagues for close to 20 years, so to say I haven’t played in a league or two with a female in it would be a flat out lie. But today, it is a different game. Not only are there female-only fantasy football leagues, women are winning co-ed leagues with ease. I talk shop with Dan and Loraine — a couple in the same fantasy football league — weekly, and quite honestly, Loraine probably has one of the sicker keeper fantasy teams I have ever seen.
I decided it was time to see what makes these ladies tick, so I sat down with four of the most competitive female fantasy footballers I know in today’s random thoughts.
It’s funny. I can’t tell you how many people tell The Wifeyiac she is only good at fantasy football because of me. I help her with her draft, they will say. I sneak her insight into hot pickups, they will tell her.
Well, to them, I will tell you this. The Wifeyiac is in one of my leagues. I have never, nor will I ever, give her fantasy advice. Especially after she beat me last season. And now seemingly hosed me on a trade this season. No, I’m not bitter at all.
“A girl can easily know as much about football as a boy,” my friend Courtney said, who is currently in first or second place in both of her leagues, one in which she is THE ONLY female. “If I hear one more person say my boyfriend drafted my team or try and give him credit when I win I will scream.
It sucks because there is always that doubt people have in you. You always start at a disadvantage and if you do well then it’s because someone had to help you but if you do poorly then it’s because you’re a girl. You have to be able to talk the talk for sure in order for people to start to see you on their level.”
“Girls get the reputation of not really knowing what’s going on in sports other than touchdowns are good, interceptions are bad, and players’ butts look awesome in their uniforms,” Laura said. “That’s a really stupid reputation, but I think it’s why people are surprised when there are female only leagues.
Any time girls start to do something that used to be male only, it gets attention. My sister has been in a league with her husband and his fraternity brothers for years and she’s the only girl allowed in (and has won more than once). People are often surprised and impressed by her doing well, but she’s been playing as long as the boys- it’s unfair to her that people are surprised simply because she’s female.”
“It’s the whole reason I got into fantasy football,” The Wifeyiac explained, “to prove that women can hang when it comes to sports knowledge. I always am wearing sports gear — whether it’s a jersey, a hoodie, or a winter hat — and men would always give me a hard time when I said the words I love football.
They would go all macho and start with a 20 questions game, as if naming five quarterbacks was a challenge. You want me to name you the tight ends in the league, too? How about the best cornerbacks? Wait, are you talking about now or those that have retired? So, I decided to play fantasy to shut up all these meatheads that think fantasy sports are a mens’ world. The easiest way to do that is to beat them at their own game.”
Fantasy football is how I got to know my wife. I had guest bartended at the bar she worked at four years ago and was briefly introduced to her, and after that, Benny Smalls and I went up there EVERY Sunday.
“It was one of the best decision I made,” the Wifeyiac explained, “because I met my husband simply by dropping some fantasy football chat. I’m pretty sure it made me have the edge over any other of his dating options.” (side note: this was 2012, and she constantly told me how bad my team was that would eventually hoist the Nitro Trophy… but I didn’t care).
After a season of sitting and watching fantasy football at her bar, she asked me how to play. I gave her a tutorial that discussed strategy, you know things like taking a running back first, or what to do if you take a wide receiver first, or if you draft a kicker before the 15th round you are wasting a draft pick. I explained to her to look for injuries and players that were constantly missing games over the years because of injuries. But I also told her I would never tell her who to draft, or once the season started, I would never help her with her roster in any way, including which free agents would help her team. To this day, I never have.
That first season in an all-boys league, she made the playoffs and would lose in the semi-finals, finishing third… and she was PISSED (I knew I had found the right woman right there). The following season she joined on with Kid Robot, Saucy T, Nomi the Greek, The Englishman, Mark.9 the Game, Jaybird, and myself in our Brookhaven League, and she made the playoffs. She also started her own FFFL (Female Fantasy Football League).
“I started the FFFL with a few of my best friends because at the time all of our boyfriends played and — with so many “newbies” — we didn’t feel ready to jump into anything as serious as they had,” The Wifeyiac explained. “So, we got ten girls, a little bit of cash, some — well, a lot — of booze and put a draft together. Now a year later, I’ve added two teams and it has suddenly become more competitive than a lot of leagues out there. We are girls that simply love football.”
“I like our league because it’s a judgement free zone,” Marissa — who finished third in her first FFFL season as owner of Kiss My Pass — explained. “You don’t have to know much to join. You just have to have a desire to compete and the ability to laugh at yourself during your first season.
It’s the competition that keeps me coming back. It’s such an awesome feeling to have gone from knowing nothing to sitting on the edge of my seat all day as I watch these guys play, eager to know if I’ve won. I used to think that as a woman I would have no place in a fantasy league. Then, we made our own league and I fell in love. I feel that being part of my league makes watching all day so much more fun. It’s taught me who I like and dislike and turned me from a spectator into a football fan.”
“It’s a fun way to keep up with my friends that I don’t live near anymore,” Laura — the reigning champ of the FFFL and owner of Roger That — added. “Nikki, Marissa, and I have a constant group text that often revolves around fantasy and our league. My best friend from home is in it, too, and even though she doesn’t know any other girls in the league, I like having her included in it.
Sundays are always fun because our whole league has a text where we talk about games, a little bit of trash, and complain about how bad our teams are. And even though I missed drafting in person this year, it was one of my favorite days last year. Drinking and watching football are two of my favorite things to do, so it’s like a pregame to the season. And I get to spend the day with my best friends in Atlanta who I don’t get to see as often since I moved to Athens.”
So, now, in their second season as a league, these ladies have graduated from newbies to full fledged fantasy nuts. What makes them love it so much?
“I like fantasy just like anyone else who plays,” The Wifeyiac said. “It’s competitive. There is really nothing else more fun then kicking your friend’s ass and then talking smack about it. It’s what I look forward to each week.”
“Before playing fantasy I only knew college football (Go Cocks) and the Redskins,” Laura added. “When playing fantasy, you obviously learn a lot more players and have an investment in most of the games. Now instead of only knowing what’s going on on Saturdays, I know what’s going on with Sunday (and Monday, and Thursday).
I like researching the players and making the decision about who I’m going to play. But fantasy doesn’t have to take up a bunch of time- Jenn came into the league this year with zero idea of what she was doing and she has a winning record. It’s just fun and what you make of it. But winning and getting a nice little payout at Christmas is also a big reason I loved it so much last year.”
“I have liked the NFL since I was a little kid and my dad would make me throw the football around in the yard with him on Sunday’s before the Skins game,” Courtney — who is not part of the FFFL, but is an fantasy junkie nonetheless — said. “Keep in mind this was back when the Redskins were a team that gave you much more of a reason to root for them.
As I got older and the Skins plummeted further and further into the depths of oblivion, Sunday’s became a lot more boring. Now, I’m no fair weather fan so I still root for them and take my weekly beatings from others about how bad they’ve become with a smile on my face, but fantasy became a way to make Sunday’s fun again. It gives me another team to root for each week and put my hopes on. Being good at fantasy gives me a winning team that I can talk about, be proud of and maybe even brag a little. Even if I lose then I know why and the person to blame is myself. It’s finally gives you a sense of control over your team. Oh and also I like it because I’m competitive as hell.”
I for one love it. Fantasy football has never been about the payout to me, but the camaraderie. I have said it before and I will say it again, EVERYONE in my 18-year old Nitro League looks forward to the draft because our college friends catch up and know they have three months of good ol’ fashion West Knoll trash talkin’. It’s how I keep in touch with 19 guys I spent the better part of five years as a Blue Hen with and all anyone wants is their name to be the next gold crest on that trophy.
Why shouldn’t ladies have that bond as well? Anyone who plays fantasy also knows that the more you know, the worse off you are. The element of luck looms larger in fantasy football than any other competition. But the smarter these ladies get, the more dangerous they become. Heck, you listen to The Wifeyiac every Thursday as one of our fantasy football experts.
It’s a new day in fantasy football, gentlemen, and whether you accept it or not, you better watch out… these ladies are comin’ for ya!