Because I’ve been busy getting divorced and stuff, I was woefully ill-prepared for my fantasy football draft weekend extravaganza these past few days.
There are only three kinds of people in the United States:
- Men who don’t watch football
- Everyone else
And everyone else plays fantasy football.
For the uninitiated, fantasy football is a game in which a bunch of guys (and sometimes a super-rare, almost-mythical girl) form a league with typically 10-12 players. Sometimes more. Sometimes less.
And what we do is draft players—real-life football players—to play for our fake fantasy teams.
As their performance on the field goes throughout the NFL football season, so goes the relative success or failure of your fantasy football team. If they play well, your team does well.
Fantasy Football Tip #1 – Do NOT draft Danario Alexander. Someone did that in both of my drafts. He tore his ACL and is out for the year. When you draft guys who will not play this season, you look like an asshole.
Fantasy football is almost universally hated by wives.
Non-football fan wives simply can’t understand why their husbands would spend so much time poring over football stats and watching relatively meaningless games for the sole purpose of fake-managing a fake team of players.
Ladies, it’s not so different from how men feel about women who go to the bathroom together, or your propensity to watch television programs that exploit fake-tanned, catty, drunk women who spend every episode bitching about their husbands and/or one another.
Did I just totally nail every episode of Real Housewives of <insert random place here>, ever? I bet I did, and I have never seen one.
Let’s chalk this up to gender differences.
Boys Have Penises, Girls Have Vaginas
Men are different than women.
Always have been.
Always will be.
We have known that boys and girls are different since the dawn of pink “It’s a Girl!” balloons versus blue “It’s a Boy!” ones.
This idea was made popular by John Gray in 1992 when he published Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus.
I can’t emphasize how important I think this fact of life is, particularly in the context of making a male-female romantic relationship work.
Fantasy Football Tip #2 – Every year, a running back or two comes out of nowhere to have a big year. This year’s guys are going to be St. Louis Rams running back Daryl Richardson and Cincinnati Bengals running back Giovani Bernard.
Men, respect women. They’re not dumber than you because they don’t understand the rules of football, or why we like it, or because they tend to be driven by emotional swings more than we are. The female’s fear response, while a source of stress for you, served as an early warning threat system throughout our early ancestry, alerting tribal and other hunter-gatherer communities to danger. We might be extinct and unable to drink beer and play fantasy football without this system. RESPECT it. Understand and appreciate it. And work hard to alleviate whatever fear she feels, even if you consider her fears irrational. The chemical response to fear didn’t disappear just because we all live in relatively safe houses, condos and apartments now.
Women, respect men. We’re not dumber than you because we don’t understand why it costs so much to have your hair done when we’re unable to tell the difference anyway, or why you like shoes, or because we do the same thoughtless thing over and over and over again even though you’ve asked us not to. Like what we do with our clothes when they’re not put back in the closet or dresser, but are not yet dirty enough to be tossed in the laundry. (This is very common with guys and jeans.) Nor are we emotionally stunted because we don’t handle conflict in the same ways you do. In fact, we feel one emotion VERY strongly. And it will help us if you learn to understand it.
Shame. We feel shame. In profound and relationship-damaging ways.
If you’re complaining about something we do, big or small, we feel shame. Because it suggests we’re not good enough at something. We’re failing you. We’re not providing for you. We are inadequate. And most of the time, you don’t even mean it that way. You just want us to be better for the health of the relationship. But this is important.
You don’t want us to feel shame. Because when we feel shame, we withdraw, almost involuntarily. It is ingrained in our DNA as much as your fear response is ingrained in you.
And if you’re the kind of person who chases and engages men who are trying to withdraw, and/or interprets that withdrawing as a sign that he doesn’t love you or respect your relationship, then you’re already halfway to your breakup or divorce.
Ladies, I know that same little thing done over and over eventually adds up to a big thing.
Not putting dishes in the dishwasher. Leaving clothes laying on the floor. Not putting the toilet seat down.
That those thoughtless actions (or inaction) directly correlate to how loved and respected you feel. And that you deserve a better effort from us to respect how doing or not doing something little might make you feel unloved or like your feelings don’t matter.
And guys, I understand how frustrated and helpless and shamed you feel when your female partner has an emotional reaction to something you did without bad intentions. And turns it into “You don’t love me.”
Fantasy Football Tip #3 – Kenbrell Thompkins. Draft him. DRAFT. HIM. He’s a wide receiver for the New England Patriots. Those same Patriots who lost Wes Welker to free agency and Aaron Hernandez to a murder rap. Danny Amendola will assume the Welker position. Thompkins is going to do most of the damage outside of him until Rob Gronkowski returns from his injury. You’re welcome.
I know what it feels like to NEVER be good enough. No matter what you do, it sometimes feels like she’s always telling you that you’re not good enough. You feel unappreciated. You feel like you’ve changed so much to accommodate her wants and needs and STILL she wants more and more and more. Like she only focuses on the bad, and whatever good you do isn’t worth acknowledging.
We all need to learn to respect these gender differences. If we can all find a way to do that. To truly learn the ins and outs of one another’s differences (and it’s not rocket science! Everyone can do this.) Then we can have peaceful, satisfying, and sustainable relationships.
I believe this strongly.
Fantasy Life Tip #1 – Read the book How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It. I don’t care if you’re married, about to be, think everything is great, single and want to be married someday, or believe your relationship is beyond saving. READ THIS BOOK. Might save your life. Better yet, you might save someone else’s. No joke.
The Return of Normalcy
This is the 20-year anniversary of the fantasy league my friend started the summer before our freshman year of high school.
I won the championship last year for the first time in 19 tries. We have a little bobble-head football player trophy to commemorate the victory. It’s sitting proudly on my fireplace mantle.
To prove that almost all men have at least a little misogyny coursing through their veins, we also have a sombrero with the word “LOSER” dangling from it along with a dozen or so tampons. You get your photo taken in it if you finish in last place.
“Normalcy” is probably not the right word, actually.
I still live alone half the time, and as a single father the rest.
My son started kindergarten today. I wasn’t there to walk him in because it wasn’t one of “my days” with him.
And I’m legally single again. It all still feels so strange sometimes.
But that said, I’m better than I’ve been since Easter.
Fake Rich Guy is a memory. And that has eliminated about 90 percent of the anger and stress I have been carrying around.
And it was a simple thing like a fantasy football draft with some old friends that showed me just how far I’ve come.
We drank. We ate. We laughed. We mocked picks. We envied others. We used bad words and told off-color jokes. And we talked about football.
Stuff I used to do back when there was balance.
And it was beautiful to get a taste of that again. A taste of normalcy.
I’m eager for more.
And for the first time in several months, it’s more than just a hope.
It’s an expectation.