Fantasy football and the pillars of geekdom

Categories: Geek Speak

Dennis Yang
Like millions of other people across this great land of ours, my wife and I spent a few hours of our weekend drafting our fantasy football teams. I'm not going to regale/bore you with the details of my team (ahem, Aaron Rodgers, Wes Welker, Ray Rice), but while we sorted through hundreds of available players to craft our perfect team, I couldn't help thinking about how similar it was to any of the other knowledge-intensive, resource management-heavy, time-consuming games I've played. Unlike most (okay, all) of those games, fantasy football is wildly popular, but it got me wondering if there is really any difference. When you come right down to it, is fantasy football a "geek" thing?

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It has, after all, been described as "Dungeons and Dragons for jocks." Of course, it's also a sports thing, and everyone knows that sports aren't geeky at all (unless you count competitive video gaming as a sport, in which case, okay, that's pretty geeky). Then again, it's not the kind of sports thing that helps you get laid -- seriously, try chatting up your next crush by telling them about your fantasy football team, and see how far that gets you. So when it comes to fantasy football, or any other possibly geeky activity, what separates the geek from the non-geek?

It's easy to slip into tautology here, and just say that geek things are things that geeks like, or that geeks are people who like geeky things. Easy enough, yes, but not terribly helpful. It's also easy to apply the old Supreme Court obscenity approach: I can't define it, but I know it when I see it. Also easy, also not helpful. Luckily, we're geeks, and geeks are good at figuring stuff out.

Take a look at all the things that are comfortably, indisputably geeky -- role-playing games, science-fiction movies, comic books, science, math, computers -- and it's easy to see they have some things in common. Most important, they are all activities that primarily engage the imagination and intellect. So we can say that geek things are intellectual and/or imagination-based things -- geeks like to use their heads, in other words. Simple enough, really, and hard to dispute.

The other main component of geekiness is, in my opinion, obsession. What really sets us apart from non-geeks is our tendency to dive deep and fall hard when it comes to things we love. It's why not terribly geeky activities tend to borrow our nomenclature when describing their own obsessives. For example, while music is not itself a terribly geeky endeavour (plenty of great music is aggressively anti-intellectual, to utilize our first parameter of geekiness), when someone becomes obsessed with a band or genre or just with music itself, no one thinks twice about calling him a "music geek." And when it comes to geeks and geek stuff? Forget about it! You'll never meet a self-identified geek who merely dabbles in a particular cup of geek. When we do it, we do it big.

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