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Fantasy is the current test of reality

By James Hall
web posted August 20, 2001

Sports do not build character. They reveal it.
- John Wooden

Anyone who is excited with the prospects of another pro football season, appreciates the value of escapism. All sports in general have evolved into the distraction that 'the every man' chase a desire to flee the hard cruel realities of life. The rage of Fantasy Football, especially symbolizes the nature of disconnect with current events that the fan indulges. A cursory assessment tends to dismiss this phenomenon as camp pop culture, but a closer review may well speak to the nature of our current society.

Once sport represented the apex of human gratification at play. Achievement was judged by testing the limits of mental and physical abilities to be the best. The reward was the shear joy of recognition and self satisfaction that you competed to the best of your abilities and were applauded for your efforts. Sports were played to examine your character, push your limits and measure your abilities against others. Who could say any of these worthy objectives are at play today?

Y.A. Tittle
Y.A. Tittle

NFL Football is the national sport. It more closely resembles the evolving social trends than any other indicator. Our society is a mirror of a game that once encompassed the essence of the human struggle against the elements of nature and competing warriors. The symbol of this era was the spent sacrifice of an average quarterback who achieved miracles. The famous photo of an exhausted Y.A Tittle captures the meaning of the game that each fan treasured in their heart and desired to know for themselves. The America of this period was not that long ago, but now seems to be from a different century.

Who can forget the adroit and inventive annotations of Howard Cosell, who brought class and perspective to a national institution. Compare this level of commentary with Dennis Miller and you have a vivid reminder that our society has entered into a course and vulgar culture that has the full support of a national network. Mr Miller's best work is as an actor on film, his humor and attitude is tasteless, but that seems to be the edge that the league has adopted.

Pete Rosell created a pearl of competitive dueling. While, Paul Tagliabue has presided over the exploitation of entertainment excess. Is this decline the result of demands from the public, or is it primarily motivated to reap unconscionable income, at the cost of fan affordability? Are we really being entertained with the musical chair trades of free agency? And what sense of community loyalty can survive when faces change, stars blow out ACL's and ticket prices go through the roof?

Having experienced games as one of the masses and on more than one occasion in a skybox, you can be assured there is a class distinction that is ever widening. Back some ten years ago a game in the cat bird seat was over $12,500. With the erection of all the new corporate named fields, just what are the prices in today's costs? Tax payers are left with the tab for most of these stadiums, but do they really benefit from their existence? And we are all told there is no inflation.

The salaries of the players have gone into the stratosphere. Career ending injuries are routine, occurring daily. Athletes reject the responsibility of being role models. Narcotic use and enhancement drugs are commonplace. And off field violence is so frequent that most incidents don't receive widespread media coverage. Who would dare call this a game, anymore!

Examples of heroes of courage and earned respect are numerous. The durability of Jimmy Brown, the generalship of a Johnny Unitas and the bravado of a Joe Namath is seldom seen today. It has been replaced with a violence that exists within a culture that transcends combat on the turf. The violent world of Sam Huff, has now expanded to the homes and clubs of the rogue gladiator. But why should we be surprised? Isn't this the exact kind of behavior that is infecting our entire urban society?

There are few class acts like the late Korey Stringer around
There are few class acts like the late Korey Stringer around

The motivation to invest the time and energy to match wits within the arena of a 'Fantasy online Game', is a natural response to the reality that the one that is being played on the field, has become the real fantasy. One that no longer has the value of inspiration that it once commanded. Escape becomes desirable when the mechanisms of social interaction break down. The average man knows intuitively that society is out of control and that the bread and circus culture has become not only very expensive, but no long offers worthwhile sport. Paid TV will inevitably replace broadcast as the only means to indulge in the warfare of the gridiron.

Yes, we all suffer from emotional overload as our political institutions continue to deteriorate. Relief, as temporary as it might be, is eagerly sought. So swallow your disgust, and prepare for another season. Since few of you are willing to enter the battle zone of political combat, we can still hope to find that spirit of the next Y.A. Tittle. Who knows, miracles may still be possible. ESR

James Hall, AKA Sartre, is the driving force behind Breaking all the Rules, a collection of his essays.

Visit the official Y.A. Tittle homepage at

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