Why not fantasize about everything?

Fantasy football is really popular. It might even be more popular than real football. And it’s not just football. You name any major sport, and there are fantasy leagues for it.

It’s so popular ESPN now has professional fantasy experts. They get paid to analyze fantasy moves on television. (Why hasn’t The Wall Street Journal hired analysts to help me increase my returns on Baltic and Mediterranean avenues when I play Monopoly?)

Fantasy leagues have become a big deal. Millions of people play. Some are so wrapped up in fantasy, they don’t even watch the actual games anymore.

“Who wants to see world-class athletes compete at the highest levels of sport? Not me!” a friend and former sports fan said. “I don’t care if they can perform awe inspiring feats that require the utmost physical and mental prowess. The fact is, I can’t. So for me, it’s much more stimulating to sit at a computer formulating substitution strategies so I can maximize my players’ statistical values in order to increase my position in the points standings. Plus, if I win the league, I get a $50 gift certificate to Red Lobster.”

Aside from the chance to enter Cheddar Bay Biscuit heaven at Red Lobster, my friend said she plays fantasy leagues because they give her a purpose outside of work and family. But it used to be the purpose of sports – for people who didn’t play – was to lay on the couch, each chips, do nothing and feel pretty good about doing all three – outside of work and family. You also got to watch people with pretty amazing skills do pretty amazing things that sometimes didn’t have words, or numbers to describe them.

But numbers competition has crept its way into everything we do, and everything we do has to have a purpose – a purpose we can measure and compare in figures. So we can compete against each other – even when we’re supposed to be relaxing or having fun.

Fantasy leagues – by taking the heart out of something, like a sport, and replacing it with nothing more than a life insurance risk assessment tool – make numbers what’s most important. If that’s the case, why don’t we have fantasy leagues for anything that can be broken down to a statistic? If the actual sport doesn’t matter, who cares what the subject is?

As an easy example, why not have fantasy waiter and waitress leagues? Here’s how it’d go: First, pick a decent restaurant. Then, have each fantasy player “draft” two or three servers and keep track of their stats – like how fast that server gets their orders to the table, how many orders did they get right and wrong, and, most importantly, how much in tips did they make at the end of the night? Don’t bother keeping track of things like attitude, personal hygiene and the overall quality of their professionalism (they’re too hard to measure in numbers). Add up their points at the end of the shift and declare a nightly winner. From there declare a weekly winner and so on. You could do it on your lunch break or when you’re out to dinner. I bet it’d be a hoot.

For those that are unemployed, maybe they could start up a fantasy employment league. They could substitute less expensive, less qualified workers for more expensive, more qualified ones to lower overhead and earn more points. Or they could hire real butt-kissers instead of earners if they know the boss is the kind who likes their ego stroked. Is it the right thing to do? Who knows? It doesn’t matter as long as the points rack up.

Fantasy parenting, fantasy teaching, fantasy politics, fantasy film making, fantasy law enforcement, fantasy volunteerism ... if we stretch the limits beyond sports, the opportunities are endless.

And with each league we can dumb down the purpose of the thing we’re simulating, and we’ll all be able to compete with each other over the computer and have a damn good time.

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