Football’s hidden allure can be found in fantasy

It all really started last Thursday night ...

I was sitting on my couch decked out in my Torrey Smith jersey and preparing for my beloved Baltimore Ravens to start off their season with a nationally-televised game against the Denver Broncos. To be fair, I obviously wasn’t preparing to play in this game, as age, weight, a lack of physical talent and other incredibly-obvious factors would prevent me from actually suiting up.

But, rest assured, I was preparing.

See, I had three fantasy football lineups to get ready, and I had to lock in any players who might have been participating in that Thursday night game before kickoff. Yes, I was desperately hoping that the Ravens would start their Super Bowl defense with a big win, but I was also pulling for Broncos players Peyton Manning and Wes Welker to put up monster numbers in defeat.

You find yourself rooting for somewhat-odd things to happen during football games when you are in a fantasy football league, and they are quite often in conflict with your interests as a fan. There have been times I have hoped the Ravens would not blow a team out since I had the running back on the opposing team and I didn’t want that team to have to just throw the ball to get back in the game. I have rooted for penalties to cancel out a touchdown by Ravens running back Ray Rice because my fantasy opponent that week had him on his roster.

I have rooted for overtime and missed field goals, and for Pittsburgh Steelers players to have beast-like games and for human beings to be injured so I wouldn’t have to face them that particular week. Yes, fantasy football can indeed put your mind in a dark place sometimes.

But it can also keep you from getting to that dark place from time to time.

After the Ravens were ultimately destroyed by a score of 49-27, I received some expected text messages from “friends.” I saved a few to share with you, and I left out the more vile and disgusting, as this is a family newspaper:

• “Hope you enjoyed that Super Bowl! 0-16 this year!”

• “When you are done sucking your thumb after that game, give me a call.”

• “Looks like the fountain of luck has gone dry for your team.”

It’s always good to know you have the support of your friends in a time of need, isn’t it? That when you feel down and out you can truly count on those you love to lift your spirits.

The thing was ... I was not feeling down and out at all. Yes, I obviously would have wanted the Ravens to win the game, but I also suspect this Ravens team will be much better toward the end of the season than the beginning because of all the new faces this year. Also, the game was pretty much decided early in the third quarter when the Broncos put up an avalanche of points in the time it took me to open my second bag of potato chips, so my period of mourning was over by the time the game ended.

Plus, there was one more text message I was waiting on, and it was from one of my fantasy football opponents.

That opponent, who I won’t name because he is a local guy (let’s call him “Rave Dussell”), apparently fell asleep at halftime of the game, with the Ravens winning 17-14. He obviously missed the fact that Peyton Manning threw for an NFL record-tying seven touchdowns until he woke up. As I was getting ready for work Friday morning, my much-awaited text came through:

“Wow! I fell asleep during halftime last night! 69 points from Peyton?!?! You’ve got to be [tastefully edited by yours truly] kidding me!!!”

And that, dear readers, is why I love to play fantasy football. Even if the team you happen to root for lays a giant egg, you still have a chance of salvaging your weekend through the glory of living your athletic life vicariously through the feats and accomplishments of others.

Plus, if you win (and I did manage to go 3-0 opening week, by the way), you get to really give it to your friends. And, rest assured, I’ve been hammering Rave Dussell all week.