Cursed by fantasy sports

My addiction to fantasy football has been a problem for a few years now. Every time I hear a score update, I instinctively check who the scorer was and (the real sign of a fantasy football addict) the provider of the assist.

I can’t be happy with a Saturday of football even if Reading have taken 3 points in a tough away fixture (or released a new and exciting club song) without first checking that Jesus College Fantasy League rival Joel Cawte (who doesn’t even go to Jesus anymore) hasn’t outscored me. Quite often, I find myself watching a nothing game between Norwich and Aston Villa for no reason other than to find out if John Ruddy keeps a clean sheet. I have even, on occasion, spitefully watched games where all I want is for both teams to score so that my rivals miss out on coveted clean sheet bonuses.

The peak of my addiction came a couple of years ago, when I was taking part in both the Sky Sports and Official Premier League versions of Premier League fantasy football, as well as Football League fantasy football and, for extra ‘fun’, UEFA’s Champions League fantasy football. I am yet to try my hand at rugby but from what I hear in the library, fantasy rugby also appears to be a big deal. Not to mention Fantasy American Football that has had people across the pond gripped for decades. I can’t help but think a fan- tasy Norrington table would be a hit in Oxford.

By far the worst of these games, however, is the Official Fantasy Premier League version. Instead of just limiting the subs and leaving you agoniz- ing on a Friday evening, this version features price rises and falls based on other players’ transfers, forcing you into a catch-22 of either doing your business early and risking injuries, or doing business later and risking losing money. There are even websites on the internet that attempt to work out the secret pricing algorithm to help you decide whether you have to act today or your tinkering can wait until tomorrow (my secrets shamefully revealed).

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Then somebody decided what we really needed was Fantasy College Football.

With the game’s introduction, I am expecting absolute chaos. If I select myself in my team from the heart of the sure-to-be-unshakeable Jesus defence, I will no longer be staying back for corners. Worse still is if strike partners refuse to pass to each other on the basis that each is their own double-points scoring captain. Or the mixed emotions when you concede in the 89th minute but the winger who put the cross in is in your team.

Worst of all, however, is that if the prolific Nikolai Koshikov from ECFC continues his form into this year, I may well be forced to support Exeter in spite of his second-half substitute performance in the derby last season that cost my Jesus Seconds the Third Division title. Picking the in-form player from a rival club is a dilemma fantasy players will be familiar with. How many Manchester United supporters regularly select Sergio Agüero?

And if you don’t think people will care that much, I point you in the direction of rowing’s own fantasy bumps, which over multiple years has attracted thousands of players from both Oxford and Cambridge. I have, of course, in the past ‘dabbled’ in fantasy bumps, waiting for the rush as the transfer market opens at 9pm each day.

It seems that there is no level of sport without an accompanying fantasy game any more. It is important to remember that football is just a game, and fantasy football is just a game based on another game. But I obviously want to win.