Summer is winding down, the kids are back in school, and the long, bleak, football hiatus is almost over. If you’re a fantasy football nut, you already know that this is one of the most exciting times of the year. You know the thrill of channeling your inner Jerry Jones in order to take your shot at building a team for the ages, proving once and for all that should you be offered the opportunity, you’d have what it takes to be among the NFL’s top brass.
What you may not have known, however, is that fantasy football can make you a better Dad.
Even though the WAFS (Women Against Fantasy Sports) are bound to be up in my grill no matter what I say, I’d like to throw out the disclaimer that like pizza and beer, a good thing like fantasy football has the ability to wreak real havoc if consumed in extremes. Taking out a second mortgage to finance the 73 leagues you’re in, or being so focused on a game that you neglect to notice your kids lighting your sofa on fire, or accidentally calling your wife Suzy are not good, and will do nothing to help your chances at Dad of the Year.
But in moderation, your fantasy football fix can certainly enhance your fathering. Here’s how:
1) Recharge Your Batteries. Fantasy football allows you to escape from the stressful day-to-day grind that is typical of most modern lives. Pastimes and hobbies are important. We all need some “Me” time once in a while, and there’s nothing selfish about it. Taking some time to recharge by doing something fun gives you more energy to be more fully engaged in the other areas of your life, including parenting. The key is to make sure your spouse also gets some time to herself doing things she enjoys, which is most likely stuff as useless and silly to you as she finds fantasy football.
2) Share Your Passion. It’s always a good thing for your kids to see you passionate about something and having fun. It sends the message that life is not all about work, work, work and provides an example that a well-lived life has a sense of balance. Plus, kids are most secure when their parents are happy and Dads can set the tone of the household. I think about days — fortunately, they were rare — when my dad was in a foul mood, and it cast a dark cloud over the whole family. When he was really excited, we were able to share in that excitement and enjoyed the happier tone.
3) Teach A Lesson on Losing. Speaking of foul moods, unless you experience the mother of all seasons, fantasy football almost always gives you the opportunity to model what it means to lose gracefully. Whether it’s when Tom Brady blows out his knee in the first quarter of the first game (yep, that was me last year), or you lose a crucial game by one tenth of a point, hard losses come our way from time to time. How you deal with them is a great lesson to share with your kids. Remember, kids learn more from what you DO than from what you SAY, so practice what you preach.
4) Improve Math Skills. Trying to learn math without context is boring. But teachng your kid to calculate how many points your quarterback gets with two TDs and an interception, figuring out how many yards your team needs to get to hit paydirt, and reading numbers on the players’ jerseys is not math — it’s fun. When my wife taught kindergarten, one of the most advanced students she taught was a NASCAR fan. He was the only one in the class who could easily read two-digit numbers.
5) Anger Redirection. Fantasy football provides an important outlet for the uber-competitive types. Nobody likes the Little League dad who obnoxiously screams from the sidelines at everyone from the coach to the umpires to the concession stand manager. (I know nobody reading this is THAT guy, right?) I think everyone can agree that it’s always better to take your frustration out an obscenely overpriced running back than a twelve-year-old kid.
6) Bonding Time. More than anything, your kids don’t want stuff, they just want to spend time with you. It doesn’t usually matter what the activity is. Kids are eager for some bonding time, and will probably love to be included in your passion, if you let them. If you take the time to teach your kids the finer points, you can all enjoy time watching the games together (and Mom will get some free time to do her thing!) As your kids get older, they can even join you in a league with their own team, which is great fun. My brothers and I still razz our father over dropping Frank Gore in the middle of his 1,700 yard season back in ’06.
7) Self-Esteem Building. Sometimes, when you’re trying to set your weekly lineup, the decision between whether to start McNabb or Manning really is a toss up. The stats are even and the experts are split. But your kid doesn’t have to know that. Turn the decision over to your youngster and watch her self esteem grow when she sees how much you trust her to make such an important decision.
So there you go. Who knew fantasy football could be a surefire cure for Adultitis AND an opportunity to better yourself as a father?
Jason Kotecki is a dad who also moonlights as an artist, author, and professional speaker. Jason and his wife Kim (a former kindergarten teacher) make it their mission in life to fight Adultitis and help people use strategies from childhood to create lives with less stress and more fun. Stop by www.KimandJason.com and follow them on Twitter @kimandjason