This column is in response to Chuck Klosterman's column on Chris Johnson. Please read his perspective before you read mine. Mr. Klosterman is one of the finest sports writers working today. He has published seven books and is a frequent contributor on ESPN and Grantland. I am the smallest of potatoes compared to him, but I still had to voice my disagreement with his latest column.
I love fantasy football. I spend a good 80% of my week mulling over match ups, debating how much to spend on the waiver wire, and generally treating each week as though the outcome determined my reputation amongst my friends. I know it's absolutely meaningless, and I know that my fantasy team has no value to anyone outside of my league. That being said, I still don't care about Chris Johnson.
I don't know Chris Johnson, and I never will. We're never going to meet, and my only connection to him is going to be through a television set. He's a guy that got hired to carry a brown object and avoid being tackled by other guys who get paid to make him drop that object.
In the end, Chris Johnson is an employee. That's how we look at him. He's an employee of the Titans, he's an employee of the NFL, and as his job is to compete for our amusement, he is an employee of the fans. It's unpleasant that his professional existence boils down to that, but since he gets paid millions of dollars to play a sport (most of which ends up coming from the people watching him), it doesn't seem like an unreasonable mindset for the football-watching populace to take.
The fact is, these are men who are paid unbelievable sums of money to play a game. I know it's a worn-out argument, but it certainly has legs in this discussion. Most of these men make more money than several generations of a family. They pay a price for it through injury, but there are plenty of jobs in this country that are hazardous to one's health; and if an employee were to stop showing up to work at one of those jobs because they wanted more money, they would get fired immediately.
In 2012, we are in the throws of the worst economy that anyone alive today has ever been a part of. Meanwhile athletes rake in millions. If those millions aren't enough, they refuse to work until they get more millions. Don't get me wrong, we would do the same in their position; but in the end they are far closer to the people the Occupy folks protested against than the actual protestors.
Because of this, it's natural that we would dehumanize them. We don't think of them as people, but how could we? They are beyond any level of physical specimen that we ever see in person, they make more than anyone we know and their concerns day-to-day have absolutely nothing in common with our lives. Even their motivation to win a game is different than ours. That's why fantasy is so popular- it's the equalizer.
Fantasy football is inherently selfish, but it also gives us access to these players on a tangible level. Sure, watching them win makes us feel good, but having a team of these guys that we control at least lets us feel like the two worlds are connected. Without fantasy, we as a people would just be spending billions per year watching these guys play a game that they get paid to play. At least with fantasy, we have something to link our lives to theirs. We get some value out of the whole spectacle, even if it's just the value of being better at a made up sport than our friends.
In the end, I don't care about Chris Johnson outside of football. Inside of football, as Chris isn't my favorite player, I don't care about him outside of fantasy football-why would I? Do I get a benefit out of his legacy being favorable? As a rational person I certainly care about his ultimate outcome as a human being, but I don't think football has anything to do with it.
There are two possible outcomes to life, and Chris Johnson's football legacy shouldn't have any bearing on either one. Either there is nothing after the end, in which case Chris Johnson was a guy who could run fast and made millions of dollars off the fact people liked to watch him run fast; or there is something after the final credits- in which case his prowess at carrying a leather shape shouldn't factor into his eternal destiny anyway.
So maybe it's unpleasant that the majority of football fans hate Chris Johnson because he is tanking in the fantasy football world, but I don't think it's unfair or even unjust. It's the reality that most people face every day. If you don't succeed, you fail. The difference is, in our world that carries serious consequences. We get reprimanded, demoted or fired- and most of us don't have $30 million in guaranteed retirement.
That's why we are so eager to turn on players -and people- like Chris. In our world, performing like he does means we lose. Our workplace doesn't forgive things like this. Since fantasy is the the bridge between our worlds, we hold him to those standards on our teams. We feel like he owes us something because in any reality where you invest something- money, time, reputation- you expect a return.
Maybe it's unreasonable that we feel like he owes us, but it's just as unreasonable that he could feel like we are being unfair. If you hold out because you feel like you are more valuable than what is being offered, you're making a statement that you are valuable. So when people take you at your word and you make them look foolish, they will get pissed. It doesn't matter if they are paying you money, or relying on you to make them money. You made a statement and didn't follow up.
Sure he wasn't present at our drafts, but he's not present in our living rooms when we lost because he puts up 20 yards. It costs him our anger if he hurts our fictional teams, but we feel cheated because he gets paid on that day, and we don't. We react with what we know, and we know demanding more money and then failing to show why results in negativity. If the furor of fantasy football fans is his greatest fear, then he doesn't have enough problems.
I don't weep for Chris Johnson, or anyone else whose one skill made them a living. He managed to take his greatest asset and turn it into a lifetime of riches. If we don't like him because he doesn't produce, even if our disdain is based on a fictional universe, why would he care? For that matter, why would anyone?Add a comment