Fitz on Fantasy: How to Keep Your Sanity During Fantasy Playoffs

A friend of mine once lost a job, a girlfriend and a fantasy football playoff game in the span of a week. The fantasy loss upset him the most.

“Our head chef was a psychopath,” said my friend, who’d been working the line at a high-end restaurant. “I knew I could get a job at another restaurant in a heartbeat. My girlfriend wasn’t marriage material; it was destined to end soon anyway. But that playoff loss crushed me.”

My buddy had rampaged through the regular season with a 12-1 record. He led our league in scoring by a wide margin. After a Week 14 bye, he faced a team that had barely squeaked into the playoffs as a wild card. In Week 15, everything clicked for the wild-card team, and several of my friend’s best players had uncharacteristically poor games. My buddy lost by double digits.

“What devastated me,” my friend says now, “is that I’d built the perfect beast and didn’t even make it to the championship game.

That was 11 years ago, in the 2002 season. My buddy is now the executive chef at a well-regarded restaurant. He’s happily married with two kids. But he’s still chasing a championship.

Fantasy football leagues across the country are nearing a crescendo. Most leagues begin their playoffs this week. Some leagues don’t start the postseason until Week 15, but those leagues have owners playing in do-or-die games this week. Legions of fantasy teams are mere days away from elimination.

It’s a cold reality that only one owner from any league can walk away from a season as a champion. Every other poor schlub walks away from a fantasy season with a tale of woe: “I didn’t win the championship because ­­­_____.” But if titles were so easy to win, they wouldn’t be as fulfilling. At the end of a fantasy draft, everyone thinks they’ve assembled a championship-caliber team. Only a handful of people in the room are actually right.  And no matter how strong the roster, you still have to run the gauntlet of the regular season, with all of its injuries and benchings and just plain bad luck. If you survive it, then it’s on to the playoffs, where the slightest misfortune can bounce out even a powerhouse team. Just ask my gastronomically adept friend.

With playoff stress piled atop holiday stress, you might find yourself feeling a little … well, let’s say “unhinged” while watching NFL games the next few weeks. I probably qualify as “unhinged” during regular-season Sundays. During the playoffs, I’m Charles Manson with an iPad.

By fantasy football standards, I’m an old-timer. I’ve been participating in this wonderfully maddening little hobby since 1991. I’ve won and lost playoff games in all sorts of unusual ways. And despite some Manson-esque tendencies, I like to think that I’ve gotten at least a little better at controlling my emotions during the fantasy playoffs. Don’t let fantasy football damage your psyche or inflict collateral damage upon loved ones.

Here are a few tips on maintaining your sanity — and preserving harmony with the people who live with you — during the fantasy playoffs:

Pay it forward. If your loved ones are forced to bid adieu to the rational you for 10 hours on a Sunday, make damn sure you’re ensconced in their good graces beforehand. Take your significant other out to dinner on Saturday night, or serve breakfast in bed Sunday morning (not a euphemism, by the way). Take your kids bowling on Saturday. Buy them a new video game or download some new apps to keep them happy and busy while you’re sweating out Eddie Lacy’s performance in the Green Bay-Atlanta game. Run errands on Saturday. Do an unsavory chore on Sunday morning. Buy doughnuts for your roommates. Bottom line: Do something to help the people who live with you remember that you’re a decent human being even after you’ve starting acting like a jackass.

Sequester yourself. I normally watch NFL games in my living room. We live across the street from a nature preserve, and occasionally I enjoy stealing glances at the outdoor scenery in between glances at the TV and the tablet. This Sunday afternoon, however, I will retreat to my basement, which is too poorly appointed to be considered a “man-cave” (more of a troll-cave, really). My wife will know better than to check on me. My two children will no doubt pay me visits, only to flee moments later when they realize Daddy is grumpy because RG3 just underthrew a wide-open receiver. Like Greta Garbo, I want to be alone. My family wants me to be alone, too.

Limit your live-scoring checks. Obsessively checking the live-scoring page every 20 seconds will only intensify the agony when your fantasy day isn’t going well. Force yourself to look away. Have the discipline to check the live-scoring page only at 5- or 10-minute intervals. It’ll help preserve your sanity.

Control yourself on Twitter. “U suck (insert player’s Twitter handle)! U cost me my fantasy game! Your terrible!” Don’t be that guy (or girl).

Don’t taunt opponents. Not even after you’ve won. Your opponent will never forget and will openly root against you in subsequent weeks (and, quite possibly, subsequent years). If Lady Luck turns against you the following week and your fantasy team leaves you in a state of despair, the foe you vanquished earlier will take joy in your agony and will be happy to dump a container of Morton Salt into your open wounds. Payback is always a bitch. (Note: This guideline does not apply to siblings. If you defeat your brother or sister in a playoff game, feel free to twerk over them as if you were Miley Cyrus and they were a giant teddy bear. They’d do the same to you.)

Buy something tasty. This last one is all about you, pal. Have something delicious on hand. Pizza. A nice bottle of wine. A six-pack of a good IPA. A carton of Mongolian beef from that great Chinese takeout place down the street. A quart of mint chocolate chip ice cream. Something that comforts you and your taste buds. If your fantasy day goes well, it’s celebratory fare. If your fantasy day goes poorly, it’s a reminder that life can still be enjoyed even if a crappy performance by Dwayne Bowe knocked you out of the playoffs.

Good luck this week, playoff-bound fantasy owners! (And try to behave yourselves.)