The 2010 NFL season kicked off this weekend and I couldn't be more proud of myself for figuring out a way to watch three games at once from home. My Denver Broncos got the top spot as they were featured on my flat-screen television, while I rotated two games at a time on my laptop.
I was very intrigued to see how the Broncos were going to do as I had yet to watch a single down live. I've adopted a policy to not watch any preseason games as a protest of sorts to a friend of mine who thinks the preseason games help you gauge your team's chances in the regular season. The only problem with this policy of mine is that the preseason is probably the best way to get to know the young up-and-coming players on your team. I'll never forget my grandpa for being the first person to point out Terrell Davis to me as a special teams ace in the preseason.
As the Broncos were playing I found myself a bit more interested in another team I like to follow ... my stupid fantasy football team. I swore years ago that I would not play fantasy football. I thought it would be horrible to root for guys on teams I didn't care about, or even worse, teams I didn't like. But here I am six years deep into playing fantasy football and wondering what type of effect it has had on my Broncos fandom.
I maintain that my diehard Broncos fan status took a hit after John Elway retired after the two Super Bowl wins and even wrote about it on Denver Stiffs in an article titled What would you do for a championship? But I also wonder how much of a hit my fandom took with my rising interest in winning a fantasy trophy. A fantasy football team is nothing more than hoping the puzzle pieces you put together can come out on top and combine for more points than your opponent ... yet it's something that dominates water cooler conversation.
On Monday I spent probably five minutes talking about actual games with a co-worker. Today I spent probably another five minutes talking to my boss about the actual games and then we delved into fantasy talk. Sure, we were still talking about actual players, but the focus of the conversation was about how individual player X did for his fantasy team and how individual player Y did for my team. We laughed about how my boss was able to pick-up running back Brandon Jackson of the Green Bay Packers ahead of the poor guy who had the Packers Ryan Grant (Grant is likely out for the season after sustaining an injury last Sunday).
It's safe to say that I have more knowledge of the NFL as a whole today because of fantasy football than I did when the Broncos were winning Super Bowls in 1997 and 1998 (when I wasn't playing fantasy football). The problem, I could probably name countless second-string running backs and third-string wide receivers before I could name the starting offensive line for the Broncos last Sunday in Jacksonville. And that is sad because I can still name pretty much all 22 starters off the '97 and '98 squads (there was a quiz for this on the Denver Post.com a few years ago).
While the Broncos still bring me and my friends together, my fantasy league with my friends from college helps to keep us in contact. Of the ten guys from college in the league, seven of us are Broncos fans, while the other three of the out of state boys have loyalties to their hometown teams. The fantasy league helps us keep in contact by giving us something to give each other crap about. Over the weekend I heard from most of the guys in the league as they watched their fantasy players debut games for thier made up teams.
Like the Broncos, I could have used a little preseason to help myself to get to know the team. And now, also like the Broncos, I'm a bit behind the eight-ball. I wonder where these 2010 Broncos are going. Like my fantasy team, there are a lot of new faces in Denver (the newest being Laurence Maroney) and I wonder how long they'll be around. Denver is a team in transition with a mix of veterans who want to win now (Champ Bailey and Brian Dawkins) and guys trying to figure out their place in the NFL (Knowshon Moreno and Tim Tebow).
How much should I invest in this team? We have the Colorado Rockies fighting for a playoff spot and the Denver Nuggets season on the horizon with the Broncos stuck right in the middle. From what I saw on Sunday the Broncos are going to struggle to win games easily this season. Close games make for exciting games, but they also are typically unpredictable, and if one thing goes wrong you are on the losing end ... as we saw against the Jaguars.
Most experts don't expect much from Denver this season and most of my friends don't either. When you get the feeling your team isn't in the running for a championship you have to find other things to root for and other things to get behind. We saw the Miami Dolphins shed themselves of veterans Zach Thomas and Jason Taylor over the last few seasons and I wonder if the Broncos would be better off just gutting the entire team and starting completely over versus a rebuilding on the fly method. But having veterans around who can teach rookies the ropes is key, even if it means wasting the last few seasons of guys who could be chasing a ring some place else.
After the first week of the NFL season I find myself with more questions than answers about my Broncos and about my own fandom. Week two can't get here fast enough.