The 40-inch flat screen in my living room was ready for the experience.
Given a fresh dusting and baby-wipe cleaning the night before, my main portal—along with laptop, Android phone and the screams of exultation/despair from my neighbor—to the full-fledged start of the 2013 NFL season was prepared for the months-long journey with me.
Alas, when I emerged from my bedroom and headed toward the well-worn couch, there sat the lovely wife and daughter. Playing the Wii. "Oh, I thought the games started at noon," my wife said, as if completely unaware that Saturdays and Sundays now are devoted to watching as much football as possible.
It's a job requirement of this whole "being the Weekly's Sports Guy" thing, right?
My 11-hour NFL-watching session began with me sitting on the bed, pillows propped behind me, laptop in tow. And a basket of laundry sitting there, just begging to get folded. (My OCD didn't allow me to ignore that very long).
I consider myself a fan of baseball more than of any other sport, but when it comes to football, the enjoyment is just as fervent. However, it's a different kind of fun. It's about taking in every second of footage and every byte of statistics to satisfy a triumvirate of variables that turns just another game into THE ONLY THING THAT MATTERS.
Namely: office-picks contests, online sports betting (for entertainment purposes only) and, of course, fantasy football.
Ah, fantasy sports. The way that all of us who never had a shot at being a big shot on the field can feel like we're still involved. I own you, LeSean McCoy! Which means I can cut you at any time! It's really a sick and twisted delusion so many of us share, but just as with one's religion, to each his own.
I've been interested in the fantasy aspect of pro football since I was 14, when I discovered a random contest in USA Today that let you pick a team each week—submitted by mail or phone!—of assorted NFL players. Instead of just watching the Jets or Giants, I waited with bated breath each Sunday for scoring updates that might tell me if one of "my" guys had done something good.
Consider that my fantasy gateway drug. It was all downhill from there.
I ended up spending about 10 years playing in a fantasy league associated with a former employer. The league was loaded with sportswriters, so it was pretty balanced and pretty competitive. It also may have impacted (read: doomed) my first marriage, since the-wife-that-no-longer-is was not a sports fan to begin with, meaning Sundays in the fall became a fertile battleground for arguments.
Which was why, after returning to the world of for-money fantasy football this season, I had one goal above all else: get the wife involved, and interested.
Therefore, the Tread Lightlies are a Pedersen joint venture, even if my wife maintains that she's a "silent" partner. That basically means not being involved much, if at all, in roster moves but still remaining eligible for half of any potential league winnings thanks to the contributions she makes.
In Week 1 those contributions have been noteworthy. Beyond abdicating the couch and the big TV by halftime of the early games, her willingness to listen to me ramble on about a particular game, or how a certain player of ours is doing, has been like Forrest Gump's devotion to Lieutenant Dan. When A.J. Green, our No. 2 pick, caught his second touchdown pass of the day for Cincinnati, she noted it with the cheeriest reaction possible: Yay!
My lovely co-owner even provided her own analysis of the Cincy-Chicago game with this bon mot: "So they're both C teams with B names, huh?"
How can ya beat that?
I'm sure my current fantasy sports immersion is far different from how most do it. I'm not (too) obsessive, though I do check the various NFL game trackers and fantasy updates at least once a minute on Sundays and Mondays. But if I do well or not, it won't kill me. Unlike some people on my Twitter feed or Facebook timeline who seem to be contemplating either an early end to this tortured life or pre-spending the league prize based on whether they had—or had to face—Peyton Manning this week.
(Manning isn't on our team, nor is he on the roster of any team I face during the regular season. Viva divisional format and unbalanced scheduling!)
Granted, I think our entire starting lineup has a bye during Week 12, but I've got a few months to worry about how to deal with that conundrum.
It's my belief that, when fantasy football starts, we're essentially all like Cubs fans: full of hope that this time it's gonna be our year. By the end of the Monday night doubleheader, though, half of us are already pointing to jinxes and wondering why life hates us so much.
If you're not doing fantasy football, but are a football fan, I do recommend getting into it. It helps enhance the overall experience, and often can help overcome the pain that comes with being a fan sometimes. Like (at least after last Sunday) Pittsburgh Steelers fans, or Arizona Cardinals fans at pretty much every moment in recorded history.