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Wednesday, December 7, 2011
W roundtable: Combining love and fantasy

By espnW

Last week we at espnW held our first Fantasy Football Forum for Women in New York City. The crowd included fantasy newbies and veterans alike who shared compelling stories of fantasy glory and angst. Among the many fascinating participants were Ashley and Jonathan. A few years ago Ashley hated football and made her then-husband -- a fantasy football addict -- cry when she asked what channel ESPN was. Ironically, Ashley became interested in fantasy just as her marriage was unraveling.

Fast forward a couple of years. Ashley was a few weeks away from her third fantasy draft when she started dating Jonathan, who was curious about fantasy although he had never played and didn't want to dive in alone. Their solution? Jonathan and Ashley joined forces and are now founders and co-commissioners of an all-couples league.

That got us thinking about whether we would want to play fantasy football with a significant other. Would it be love at first mock draft or a recipe for non-stop bickering? Our contributors weigh in ...

Keep your hands off my team

By Sarah Spain

I'm a natural-born leader -- a quality that's both a blessing and a curse. Back in grade school, while most kids were finding their voices, I was often encouraged to use mine less. When teachers asked for volunteers to run group sessions or take charge of projects, I was asked to hang back and let someone else lead for a change. Too often in my life I've caught my inner control freak thinking, "Well, if you're not going to do things the right way [read: MY way] then I'll just take over." And then I've done just that, even if it wasn't always my place to.

I've certainly become a more benevolent dictator as the years have gone by, but I'll admit it's something I'm still working on. Even though my main squeeze, Brad, is one of the few people to whom I will occasionally cede control, even he would never be allowed to touch my fantasy teams. I don't doubt that adding another brain to the operation would help. And Brad certainly knows his football, so I'm sure I could trust the decisions he'd make. Thing is, what may be best for my fantasy team may not be best for my relationship. What if he had convinced me to finally give up on Philip Rivers this week, only to watch as the Chargers' QB dropped 35 points? What if he'd convinced me to start C.J. Spiller (15 points last week) over Pierre Garcon (28) and we'd lost by five or six points? I just don't know if we could survive that. Alright, we'd be fine, but I would most certainly resent giving him the reins.

That's why, when it comes to fantasy football, I'll always be single.

Coupling fantasy and love makes for a rocky marriage

By Amanda Rykoff

I am a single woman in New York City. I don't have a significant other, unless you count my TiVo, with whom I've been in a committed relationship for almost 10 years. But I have been in serious, long-term relationships before and I assure you fantasy football would never and could never be a part of them.

I'm a control freak, so the idea of co-managing a team with anybody, let alone a significant other, frightens me. I may get stressed out about my start/sit decisions, but even when one of them costs me the game (benching Michael Bush the night he went off for 242 all-purpose yards against the Chargers comes to mind), it is my decision alone. I can see how it might be tempting to have someone else to blame, but that would just be yet another source of stress and strife. And aren't relationships tough enough?

I've met couples who play in fantasy football leagues together. In fact, there is one such couple in my longtime league (nine seasons and counting). We do an in-person draft every year, and it's always a riot to watch them. They sit at the table next to each other, perusing their draft sheets and whispering. It's just a matter of time before they start arguing over who their next pick should be. They often lose track of which players have been selected. I'm not sure what that has to do with being a married couple, but it sure is entertaining when they think they're trying to sneak one past us. We have several teams co-managed by two guys, but they don't seem to have the same issues as the couple. Don't get me wrong. They are a fantastic couple -- away from the draft room. Both are smart and incredibly funny, but in the draft room they are a disaster. I look at them and think, "Their marriage must be incredibly strong to survive this annual nightmare."

I know another couple whose relationship is based on their mutual love -- obsession, really -- of fantasy sports. They are in at least eight different leagues, both as co-managers and competitors. In their case, the couple that plays together, stays together. But that's not for me. Keep my obsession and my relationship separate, thank you very much. Besides, I need someone to whom I can vent the next time I do something foolish like bench Michael Bush. And I do not want that person to be my co-manager.

You and I could be the first couple of fantasy

By Adena Andrews

If I played fantasy sports with my man we would be the Jay-Z and Beyoncé of the game -- owning and annihilating the competition. We would only play in money leagues because if it doesn't make dollars, it doesn't make sense in our house. Each week we would work together to guarantee the success of our teams and our bank accounts.

If I notice my baby has an injured player active, I'll let him know. If he sees a great kicker on the waivers, he'll make sure I grab him. Our fantasy hustle would reign supreme in all leagues. That's because if my baby wins, I win. After all, when he wins he could spend that money on a reality date for me, his lovely fantasy partner.

Call me naïve but I just don't see us getting into arguments over fantasy sports. Division in your household due to a make-believe game is futile. You might as well fight over Monopoly money because it makes just as much sense as squabbling over fantasy sports.

Of course this is all hypothetical since I'm single. If you dig my fantasy sports domination idea, maybe we can do lunch. I'm 5-foot-7, enjoy long walks on the beach, can squat 150 pounds and bleed USC cardinal and gold. Call me!

From fantasy bliss to break up

By Melissa Jacobs

In 2005, my then-single husband was kind of a sad sap. Not only had he dated a series of crazies (it's true -- one admittedly continues to Internet stalk him seven years after not receiving his "final rose"), but he also was a tortured Bears fan. His beloved Bears lost game after game under a mock-worthy quarterback carousel of Chris Chandler, Craig Krenzel, Cade McNown, Chad Hutchinson, Kordell Stewart, and, of course, Rex Grossman. Actual football was too depressing for him to consider fantasy -- that is until he met me.

I have played fantasy football since I was 14 years old. My love for fantasy runs so deep that I often wind up proselytizing its virtues to everyone. But I didn't need to with my husband. He already loved the NFL and knew enough to at least play an impressive armchair quarterback. When we fell in love, it was only natural that we'd join forces not only as co-owners, but also co-commissioners. Our league, "Nightmare on K Street" (a hybrid name based on living in D.C. and the awful Freddy Krueger-esque sweater my husband wore on our second date) was born.

The first couple of seasons were true bliss. We had virtually no arguments concocting the rules, drafting or on tough lineup decisions. We studied for fantasy like it was the California bar exam and every year we passed with flying colors, collecting a good chunk of change along the way. Our banner year was 2007 and involved our best joint-decision, as we took a chance on a troubled, washed-up receiver named Randy Moss. Just like the Patriots that season, we ran up the score on all our opponents and took home the spoils. We decided going into fantasy that all money earned would be used on couples outings. So Moss, Tony Romo and company treated us to several lavish dinners, massages and bottles of wine at the top of the supermarket aisle. (OK, I snuck in a pair of cute boots, too. Don't tell.) Honestly, fantasy football for us was highly romantic and extended the "gaga" phase of our relationship well past its typical shelf-life.

If you have a partner-in-fantasy and you are both passionate players, then I cannot recommend marrying into one team highly enough. At the very least, you'll be that "cool couple" who plays fantasy together, a much more interesting social topic than, say, the weather or work gossip.

In my case, our fantasy relationship took an unfortunate turn in 2009, when I actually started covering fantasy football as a career. All successes were automatically attributed to me and failures to him. Feeling emasculated, he "broke up" with me as a fantasy soul mate and set out to prove he could navigate the waters on his own. I understood. Unfortunately for him, this will be the second year in a row he has to cheer me on in the fantasy playoffs since I'm the only member in our household with a chance to win the Super Bowl.