Week 14 of the NFL season wrapped up this week. I know this because I have two teenage sons, and the fall and winter are guided by the ebb and flow of football, notably fantasy football. This week also marks the end of my college freshman son’s final exams, and his return home.
I have been measuring time in NFL weeks. My son left for college before his fantasy draft week; I wouldn’t see him again until Week 6; Family Weekend was Week 9; Thanksgiving Break was Week 12; and yay, Week 14 was the week he’d be back home for the semester. He doesn’t return to college until after Week 17. That sounds comfortably far into the future.
[Related: Did you receive this holiday letter from your college student’s Freshman Dean?]
Before Freshman left for college (pre-draft) one of my many worries was how he would keep in touch—with my husband and me, his younger brother, his friends.
Why I have grown to love Fantasy Football:
Thanks to fantasy football, my initial worries did not materialize. My fifteen year old son, made an only child by Freshman’s departure, found a way to stay connected to his brother on his own. The two of them decided to continue to manage their fantasy team in the neighborhood league that they have been a part of for several years. They drafted their team together, live, with the help of FaceTime, with Freshman in his dorm room and fifteen-year-old at our neighbor’s house. Thursday late-afternoons and Sunday mornings (and I imagine some school hours as well) were reserved to discuss trades, sleepers, bye weeks, and to set up their weekly lineup.
Sunday afternoons in our house were punctuated by the buzz from incoming texts on fifteen year-old’s phone from Freshman every time one of their players scored a touchdown or completed a pass. I picked up snippets of their conversation about points acquired for sacks, punt returns, rushing yards and interceptions needed for a win.
Even I have joined in on in on the fantasy football parade. By Week 3 of the season, when I overheard my sons arguing over whether to drop Adam Vinatieri, I couldn’t resist. I sent a group text to them—Don’t drop him—he’s 42! Almost my age! He’s got experience! I received an eye roll emoji back. They kept him.
Freshman’s friends are in colleges scattered across the country, but football provides a common thread for conversation throughout the semester in his chat group—who’s winning, who’s losing, who’s injured? Fantasy football seems to fulfill the Y chromosome longing to draft and manage one’s own team, and across the miles, this infatuation with fantasy football and the friendly competitiveness that comes with it serves assorted purposes.
When I think that this may fade out over time, I look at my husband, 30 years his senior. Over turkey and stuffing at the Thanksgiving table, he is chided by his brothers for trading away a star player. It seems like everyone is managing a team lately, and there is a shared common bond in the grimacing, boasting, and calculating over fantasy team performance. Both of my sons, usually unyielding to answering questions from well-intentioned adults about where one wants to go to college or what the other wants to major in, immediately perk up and connect, often with exuberance, with anyone when it comes to analyzing player statistics and the chances of their team making it into the playoff bracket.
This fantasy football mania, which I view from a spectator seat, keeps young men (and those not-so-young) connected. It is a no-pressure conversation outlet for my freshman son and his brother, and his friends, as managing a fantasy football team transcends the distance that college, and later life, will put between them.
We’ve all made it to Week 14, playoff week in the neighborhood league, and less than an hour after Freshman’s plane touched down, he walked into our living room to shouts and cheers that he had arrived and the fantasy-playoff party could officially begin.
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Mindy Blum lives n Aventura, Florida with her husband and is the mother of two boys and a tailless dog. She is a writer and essay consultant who tries to make at least one person laugh each day. Her work has appeared in Your Teen for Parents. She can be reached at email@example.com.