A September Carol
Or, "A Visit From The Ghost of Fantasy Football Future"
[SCENE: the year 2006. A one-bedroom apartment that has been subdivided into a two bedrooms with a hastily constructed wall that surely violates multiple building codes]
[a twenty-something man hunches over a laptop with Homestar Runner stickers on it]
ME: Okay, I am pumped for tonight’s fantasy draft. This is my fourth league, but they’re all important to me. There’s the league with my bros from college, then the league with my dudes from high school, then the league with my buds from work. This one, though? This one’s with my guys. I’ve been preparing for this draft for weeks. I’ve worked up all the spreadsheets and printed them out at work, I know exactly the strategy I’m going to take. I think if I plan well, I can get Larry Johnson and Steven Jackson. This is gonna be great. Just gonna have one more Sugar Free Red Bull, and—
[wakes up, dazed]
ME: Ugh, did I black out again? I don’t get it, I drank that glass of water last week. Anyways, I hope I didn’t miss the draft. [stretches] Man, I’m sore.
SMALL CHILD: [enters room] HI DADDY
SMALL CHILD: I MADE A PICTURE OF A DOLPHIN
SMALL CHILD: I’M A HELICOPTER [makes zooming noises, leaves room]
ME: [quietly] What the hell is going on?
WOMAN’S VOICE, FROM OTHER ROOM: Are you done with your draft, dear? The kids are waiting to go on a bike ride.
ME: Who— what?!? I’m freaking out, man. What was in that Red Bull? [pinches self] Ow. Okay, I don’t think I’m dreaming. [pulls shirt off] Okay, I’ve still got that scar from when Greg accidentally threw me through the patio door sophomore year. [looks around] Whose house is this?
CHILD, FROM OTHER ROOM: QUIET DADDY WE’RE WATCHING JAKE AND THE NEVERLAND PIRATES
ME: [terrified] Who… who are you?
GHOST: [in a haunting voice that seems to echo from the very depths of hell itself] I am the ghost of sports fandom future. I am here to show you how your life will change. You can call me Gary, though.
ME: I don’t understand… I was just about to do a fantasy football draft. It was September 2006. What year is it?
GHOST: [spookily] Two thousand and nineteeeeeeeen
ME: Holy crap. Are the Browns good yet?
GHOST: It turns out nooooooo
ME: Well, that’ll happen. Hey, who’s the President in 2019?
GHOST: Let’s not get into iiiiiiiiit. Your draft is about to begin. [raises a skeletal finger, points to my laptop]
ME: Oh. Okay. Wow, this laptop is fancy! It’s so skinny and sleek. What did this cost, like, three grand?
GHOST: It is a three hundred dollar Chromeboooook
ME: Wow, the future is amazing.
GHOST: Please do not ask any other questions about the fuuuuuuture
ME: Okay, I’m logged in. “BonerJamz311”. That never gets old. [squinting] Ugh, this computer screen’s blurry.
GHOST: [taps me on the shoulder with an icy touch, hands me my glasses]
ME: Ah. [puts them on] [still squinting] I don’t recognize any of these guys. Alvin Kamara? Saquon Barkley? Ezekiel Elliott? Who the hell are these guys? Oh, okay. Eli Manning, I recognize hi-
GHOST: [shaking his head mournfully]
ME: I don’t understand. If this is really the year 2019, and everything else has changed…
SMALL CHILD: [runs into the room at full-speed to give me a hug, smashes crown of their skull into my groin, runs back out]
SMALL CHILD: [without context] ICE CREAAAAAAM
ME: [pausing to regain composure] I mean, clearly things have updated to 2019. There’s this futuristic computer, this house, these kids…. my eyesight isn’t as good, my back hurts for no reason, [suddenly concerned, puts hand through front of hair] okay, I still have my hair, that’s good at least.
GHOST: [spookily] don’t check in the baaaaack
ME: If all of that has updated to thirteen years later, why hasn’t my knowledge of football? I knew all the right picks in 2006, but now I don’t know who 90% of these guys are. Shouldn’t I have woken up with that knowledge, too?
GHOST: You have woken up with exactly the knowledge that you would have in 2019. You see, the way in which you consume sports has changed. It used to be the lifeblood of your day — you would read about it, but you would also watch every game, you would go to games, and you would talk about it with your friends at the bar every night.
ME: So, wait, I don’t follow sports anymore?
GHOST: On the contrary, you do. You even get paid to write about it, and you have a podcast.
ME: The hell’s a podcast?
GHOST: It’s like a radio show on your phone.
ME: Oh, wow, and people listen to it?
GHOST: [realizing I’m going through a lot and not trying to make it worse] Sure. Yeah. Let’s say yeah.
ME: So why don’t I know who these guys are?
GHOST: You still follow sports, but you value different things. The twenty-something man you were a moment ago devoted his every waking thought to it. He believed that fantasy football was an important thing, and he would follow it live as it happened. The person you are now simply hopes to watch three quarters of a football game in between time with your family. You only joined this league out of a sense of obligation to be social with your coworkers.
ME: Dang. That’s bleak.
GHOST: Not at all. You gain different things from sports now. It’s less about self-aggrandizement and following every play, and more about maintaining a connection to friends, family and your upbringing. You’re happier now than you ever were then, and more responsible. You do the dishes daily, and sleep in a bed with actual sheets. You have a good job and a stable life.
ME: Ooh, I bet I have a lot more money now.
GHOST: [looks over shoulder at kids] [chuckles, spookily] Listen, I said you’re happy, okay?
ME: Man, I’m just going to have to set this to autodraft. [yawns] I’m getting sleepy. What time did I get up today?
GHOST: You were awakened at five by demands for cereaaaaaal
ME: Man. Getting older sucks. [squinting at stats on screen] Wait, Tom Brady’s still good? Why isn’t he aging?
DEVIL: [appears] Hi! Let’s talk deals.