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Fantasy Football Saved My Marriage

Photograph by Twenty20

It was a normal summer night. Both kids finally went to sleep and I went downstairs to unwind after a busy day at work. My husband and I sat on the couch, his hand on the remote searching for something we both could agree to watch. I am not always picky when it comes to TV but after a few minutes of channel surfing I thought, "I wish there was football on TV!"

It’s crazy, I know. But I really wished there was a game on that we could watch together. For many people, football and Fantasy Football polarizes marriages. I have even heard the term "Fantasy Widow," defined as "a wife who loses her husband 'temporarily' to his fantasy football obsession" used here and there. For my husband and I, it gives us both a common hero to root for and a common enemy to cheer against, week after week.

Most importantly, it gives us something to talk about other than the normal stressors of a marriage. While we waited for my now seven-year-old son to be born in October (prime football season), the stress of what our life was going to be like lurked everywhere. How would we pay for diapers? How would we afford a house? Would we ever have a social life? We started to bicker as most couples do about simple things, like taking out the trash versus who left a wad of tissues in the pocket of their jeans and ran it through the laundry, etc. Until we had our Fantasy Football draft, that is.

Let me back up a little bit. When I was working at a film production company, I got roped into their Fantasy Football league. I regularly watched the Philadelphia Eagles and I went to a football college (it doesn't get more "football pride" than Penn State) but as a casual watcher, the extent of my football knowledge was pretty basic. I had no idea what I was doing in the beginning of the fantasy football league but by the end of the season, since I started watching the game in a different way, I began to understand the various offensive positions on the team and which players would make the most points.

The way Fantasy Football works is that traditionally you choose a group of 16 players from all different teams in the NFL that subsequently make up their own "fantasy" team. I could have a quarterback from the Pittsburgh Steelers, a running back from the Buffalo Bills, a wide receiver from the Los Angeles Rams and so on. Each week, as the team owner, you pick the starting lineup (usually nine slots) that you think will perform the best. You will then have seven people on your bench as backups in case any of your starters get injured. Things to take into consideration are weather, the opposing team and injuries. Watching the scoreboard of your fantasy football site is helpful because it instantly shows you how your team is progressing. When your player runs 30 yards, you may suddenly have three points. When your quarterback throws a touchdown, you may accrue six points, plus any points for yardage! Your team may lose a point because your kicker missed a field goal. It's all very exciting and very unpredictable. I tried getting my husband involved that very first year because there was a lot of pride and bragging rights at stake. The next season we both joined a league run by our friend. We now had a whole world to talk about that had nothing to do with money, what was broken in our house or all the pending unknowns of our unborn baby.

On dinner dates, we discussed whether or not Brett Favre, who was always in the news at that time, would retire or if he was worth a first-round pick rather than which pediatrician we needed to pick. We talked about which players would get hurt and who we thought could get to the playoffs rather than who would sacrifice sleep the first couple weeks. Most importantly, we spent every Sunday together.

When my son was born, we had the perfect excuse to not leave the house. We had visitors over to watch games and our whole world centered around our new baby and how our teams were doing. I won the league that year, believe it or not!

Since then, times have changed. We've added a daughter to our family and it is rare that we are able to watch football on TV all day on a Sunday. I think we are lucky if we get in a full game. Life with two kids is busy all the time. I still like the idea, though, that for four months out of the year we have additional things to talk about rather than work, school, play dates and errands.

After being the only girl in a boy's league, I started a girl’s fantasy football league. I wanted to bridge the gap between husbands and wives, and make Sundays easier for everyone I knew. The women I recruited had never played before; they just felt like their husbands or boyfriends were dead to them on Sundays. They all figured, "Well, nearly 75 million people play every year—why not us?" I’d like to think that these girls enjoy the football talk they now get with their husbands or boyfriends. I’ve even been told it’s a great topic on first dates! If you'd like to form a league, many sites offer free and easy access. Try it! You may like it and find not only do you have nothing to lose, you may actually win.

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