Joining the Office Fantasy Football League

fantasy football league at workShould you join the office fantasy football league — even if you hate sports and don’t want to commit the time? What about other guy-centric office hobbies? Reader S wonders…

What is the rule on joining the office fantasy football league (or other comparable sporting activity) when you don’t know or care about the sport? I want to fit in and seem like a team player, but I also don’t want to look like an idiot when I don’t know what I am doing.

For context, I am a junior associate in big law; however, I work in one of the mid-sized branch offices. One of the perks of working in the branch office is that the environment is smaller making it is easier to get to know your colleagues. On the flip side, working in a branch office means that if you do not participate in events, you may stick out like a sore thumb. To make matters worse, I am one of three (3!!) female attorneys in the office and I am the only female associate — and the men in the office LOVE fantasy football. I would love some advice on this one. Thanks!

Interesting question, S. I am also not a huge fan of sports (have I told my soccer story on this blog? I forget*), but sources tell me that fantasy football is still appropriate to talk about now, so let’s discuss. My $.02 here is similar to what I’ve said before (regarding topics such as saying no to sports at work, and joining the boys’ club with office hobbies like sports): Do it. Tell yourself you’ll do it for one season, and try to get into it — commit to spending a bit of time on it every week (see below). This is partly about getting into office culture, partly about networking, and partly about paving the path for women after you — to feel comfortable in the league or to get friendly enough with people in the office to create other kinds of office activities (i.e., changing the office culture). Hopefully after one season you’ll have stronger friendships in the office, and you may find you actually enjoy it. If you don’t, though, you’ll be much more informed next season about why you don’t want to do it — and may have some new office friends to suggest other office hobbies with.

Some practical tips from our source (i.e., Kate’s husband, who never skips the office fantasy football league):

  • Watch some of seasons 1 & 2 of “The League— it’s all about a fantasy football league, including one woman among all the guys. (Kat’s note: I’ve actually heard great things about that show otherwise being hilarious, and it is on Netflix.)
  • Gauge how serious the guys at work are about this before you say yes. Our source notes: “If the guys at work take it seriously, you need to, too” — meaning you should change your lineups weekly, etc. If you’re really not interested, don’t just pick a lineup now and then do nothing for the next 16 weeks. People who are serious about fantasy football will get annoyed because you’re going to be picking players who otherwise would be available to coworkers. In that case, he says, “It’s better not to play at all.”
  • You may not want to get uber-competitive as a newbie. If you’re really competitive by nature and you do join in, just be prepared to not, say, win every week.
  • Podcasts and websites can help; ESPN’s Matthew Berry is a good resource for beginners.

SheKnows has some other good tips and advice on when and how to join a fantasy football league now.

Ladies, what are your thoughts on fantasy football leagues and other office-wide hobbies that aren’t of interest to you? For those of you who’ve said no to such events, have you tried to start other things to stay in the loop or change the conversation around the office? 

* My soccer story: Years ago, friends asked if I wanted to go to a professional soccer game. It happened to be a New York v. LA soccer game, so chances of seeing David Beckham were high. This was about all I knew about the game, beyond the fact that a white ball and shin guards are generally involved. (I should also mention that this was during my Single and Looking years, when I would say yes to just about any social event with friends. Just tell me when and where and I’ll show up. You know. I’ve also actually chatted with Claire McCaskill through a similar “just say yes” kind of event, even though I’m not hugely into politics or fundraising.) About halfway through the game, the audience around me started to get very excited and chant “RED BULL! RED BULL! RED BULL!” And I thought, huh, these people do NOT need more energy drink! It grew to a fever pitch and I actually started to get a bit worried, at which point I made a remark to one of my friends, and…

… it turns out the name of the team is The New York Red Bulls. Huh.

(And now I’m worried I said something similarly dumb to Claire McCaskill.  Hmmmn.)

Pictured: The Shame – Fantasy Football Draft, originally uploaded to Flickr by Boz Bros

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Comments

  1. TO Lawyer :

    From both watching the League (which is hilarious) and from listening to my boyfriend and his friends talk about fantasy football, it’s a fairly large time commitment and you do need to know something about football to do well. (I wanted to play and realized it would just be annoying to everyone else because I know nothing about football).

    I agree with the suggestion to gauge their seriousness about the league – if it’s not a big deal, I would maybe play. But otherwise, I would sit this one out.

  2. 1. If you’re really not interested, don’t play. Nobody wants anyone in their league that isn’t going to take it somewhat seriously, because it affects everyone.
    2. Are you sure you’ll even be asked to play? Most leagues top out at 14 teams (and 10-12 is arguably the best size) so in my experience it has been a “whoever played last year will be invited again, if there are openings we’ll include those who express interest.” So it might be a moot point.
    3. Assuming they set it up under a Yahoo or ESPN or NFL leauge (and perhaps others, I’m not sure), there is usually a “sit or start” tab where the algorithims will tell you who to pick. As long as you can remember to do it weekly (and don’t forget the Thursday night games!) then put in who it tells you and be done with it. Same thing – you can autodraft and it just picks the ‘best’ players based on projected points, which is honestly sometimes more accurate than anyone else’s predictive powers.
    4. Perhaps next year suggest some people participate in a “pick em”or “survivor” type league where you pick one team to win every week. It’s more arbitrary (just pick one team) and luck based and involves less time each week, but still can connect people through sports.

    Just my thoughts!

  3. A couple of thoughts:

    1) I hate Fantasy Football and my group of friends at my previous company all participated. The ONLY THING anyone talked about for the next 16 weeks was fantasy. Be forewarned that you may feel left out and/or be left out of the social aspects of work during this time period if you don’t participate.

    2) If you have a friend who is really good at Fantasy or enjoys it, enlist their help. Get some tips each week, ask their advice.

    I currently work for one of the NFL teams, there were a couple of leagues people were participating in. I chose not to participate. I wasn’t castigated. Either way, I think you’ll be fine! :-)

  4. Anonymous :

    You might actually do better not being a fan because your heart won’t be in it (sorry Tom Brady, I don’t care how good you actually are, I would never defile my team with you!) You can do some research by checking out the fantasy draft guides to pick good players, and weekly updates/injury reports. It would probably take a few hours initially and then no more than an hour a week to do it.

  5. I would try it for a season and see how it goes. Depending on the format, you might be able to let the computer do a lot of the work for you. Yahoo has a popular platform, and if you login on Sunday mornings it will tell you who on your team is injured, make recommendations for who to pick up, etc. I’m sure other platforms have similar features. You almost certainly won’t win the season doing this, and there will always be people who are so into it that they are making late night trades and monitoring all the football news. But you can automate it enough that you just spend 10-15 minutes updating your roster once a week, and that will give you enough participation to be able to talk to your colleagues about it and have some fun.

    • I second CHJ. You could get by with minimal effort of just doing the draft itself (takes a couple of hours one night, and it’s fun if it’s in person because it’s kind of a social event, or it might be online) and then spending 10 minutes every Thursday morning switching out your players who are injured/have a bye week for someone who is playing that week. You can very easily get through the draft by just picking the highest available player, and maybe make sure you get one player at each position (two WRs if possible). Side note, just get one defense.

      I say update your roster on Thursday because games sometimes start Thursday night, and if you have a player not playing Thursday night, you’ll lose points for that position if you wait too late to sub him out. You won’t have two of every position, so for minimal effort, you’ll have to accept that one week you will not get any points at, for example, quarterback– unless you want to use the waiver wire and pick up a free quarterback just for that week, but that is getting a little more advanced.

      If you try the minimal effort approach and you hate it, just don’t do it again, but it’s at least worth the experience. You won’t win this way, but you’ll actually beat a few people through sheer luck, which is kinda fun. I can give you more quick fantasy tips if you need them!

  6. Boot camp :

    Can anyone recommend an outdoor bootcamp (on weeekends) in the DC area? Thanks!

  7. RosslynLawyer :

    Even though I’m not a football fan, I gave in to my husband’s begging one year and played in his league. I second the sentiment that you don’t have to be a football or fantasy fanatic to do a respectable job. There are lots of websites to help you pick your team and I found fastasypro’s ‘who should i start’ website to be helpful week to week. I ended up finishing second in the league (much better than my husband), mostly because, as someone else mentioned, I didn’t have any preconceived prejudices to get in the way of the pure statistics.

  8. Wouldn’t one of the good things about more women in corporate power and all be that we didn’t feel we had to do stuff like this to succeed at work? Shoot me before I have to sit through one more boring conversation about these things!! Don’t worry, I’ve got enough work savvy not to let my true feelings show. I smile and just wait for the conversation to take a more interesting turn, but there is no way I am doing this.

    • Babyweight :

      We talk about “impostor syndrome” often.

      Doing something that’s a big time commitment that you don’t like just to fit in with “the guys” can be a cause of that. Don’t do it. Instead, find a common ground of interest to build relationships. Everyone will be happier.

      My common ground with a lot of men I’ve worked with — barbecue.

    • Yep. I once went to a Women on Wall Street event, and this amazing Deutsche MD said something to the effect of “I am too busy to have fake hobbies to make other people at work feel better about things.” She said it like a boss.

      I once joined a fantasy football league at my all-male hedge fund, only to learn that they only wanted me to be their patsy. It was the worst. If you truly don’t care, just smile and say, “My heart’s not in it–it’s not my thing. But I can’t wait to hear all about the drama of the league from you all fall!” This line generally works.

    • Alanna of Trebond :

      Totally agree. On the flip side, I really want to make partner and force the male associates to do things that they don’t enjoy.

      • I **live** for the day that I can force my male coworkers to get pedicures. “it’s all in fun” — “good group bonding!!” — “anyone can participate!” — “you just need to be a team player!!”

  9. Long time lurker here. I had to giggle when I saw seasons 1 & 2 of The League as practical advice for Fantasty Football. The League on FXX is very funny, but I’m not sure how applicable it would be in terms of your office’s league if you’re trying to understand how it works.

    I agree with the comments above — if you’re not specifically asked, don’t feel guilty for not joining. Having someone in the league who doesn’t pay attention is kind of annoying.

    • Kate’s husband here: Fair point about the League not being exactly expository for the ins-and-outs of an actual FFL newbie. I was more using it as an example of how normally mild-mannered friends can lose all sense of civility when it comes to a ridiculously trivial pastime. The show may be a little over the top, but not by much (at least not in my league!)

  10. It depends on your office. In my office, the email went out with three options: yes, no, and maybe if there is enough interest. I took that as a hint that it wasn’t established at my office and said no.

    My office has weekly raids for a video game. For the first time ever, I wish I played video games…

  11. Anonymous :

    I’m an associate at in a small firm with about 20 attorneys and I feel like our firm has been suffering from a serious case of “being blah” lately so I actually suggested that our office do a fantasy football league. The partners agreed and now I’m actually the commissioner of our league (means I’m in charge of it). We invited all employees (not just attorneys) and spouses to join for a small buy in of only $10 and the partners are throwing extra into the pot as well.

    The tip about seeing how serious your office mates are is crucial. You don’t have to know football or spend hours researching who had an injury to their pinky finger three years ago, but you do need to commit to keeping up with your team for the duration of the league. If you play a quarterback on his bye week instead of benching him, you are doing yourself much more harm than good and you are better off not playing at all. But if you are willing to commit to keeping up with your team for the full season and then just ride the wave and OPENLY rely on beginner’s luck, then you’re set and they’ll admire you for trying. Just because you play doesn’t mean you have to go all in. The FF app will tell you when a player is injured, when they have a bye, etc. so it’s easy to do the minimal amount of work and then just wear your “rookie” badge proudly. Everybody who plays fantasy football knows somebody who went in their first time knowing nothing and then won it all – I WAS THAT PERSON! I still don’t know or care about old stats but you can bet that I talk trash when I beat them, and part of the reason is because I don’t know what I’m doing and I still won.

    That’s the best advice I can give you.

  12. I’ve been working in this office for 16 months now and just participated in my second fantasy draft. Last year was my first time doing fantasy football and I ended up coming in second. It’s really straightforward — there are plenty of websites giving you simple drafting tips and there are projected points on the website every week. Put together the lineup with the highest projected total and you will be fine.

    I thought it was a great way to start talking with some of the people who I otherwise would not have gotten to know. A few teams were co-managed and doing it with a friend or another person who needs encouragement could make it more fun and take off some of the pressure.

    As others have said, if you are even remotely interested, it can be a lot of fun and an icebreaker. But if you are not committed to seeing it through the entire season, people will dislike you if you say you will participate and then don’t pay any attention to your lineups. Pay attention to the bye weeks!

  13. Ha. I love fantasy football. I wish our office had a league- maybe I’ll start one next year. I do play in a family league and occasionally on FanDuel.

    I don’t think this is that complicated: try it if you’re interested (you can enjoy fantasy football without caring much about actual football), don’t try it if you’re not. If you participate, I think the minimum people expect is that you start active players every week. If you give up halfway through the season and half of your team is on bye or injured every week, that will annoy people (though some might just take it as an easy win). But this takes minimum effort. Less than 5 minutes a week assuming its your standard nfl.com or espn.com type of league.

    If you aren’t sure about it, you can try out weekly leagues on FanDuel (for a minimal amount of money with chance of winning money- I’m talking $2 leagues here) or I think for free on nfl.com. This will give you an idea if you are interested enough to join the office league next season, and it will also give you some practice.

  14. I don’t feel any particular obligation to pretend I’m interested in “guy” activities when I’m not interested. It’s the 2015 equivalent of women dressing in suits with bows on their blouses because no one knew the female equivalent of a man’s suit. Be yourself. Be friendly. Try to find common ground. But don’t pretend to be a boy (unless you legit like the “boy” stuff). Who knows – you might find some camaraderie with other men who dislike sports and would rather talk with you about movies or plays or running or whatever you like to do.

  15. Jennifer FP :

    If you absolutely abhor sports, skip it. But if you’re just generally indifferent, try it out for a season. It’s a good way to interact with coworkers and get to know people. Fantasy sports are really about statistics. Really if you have no loyalties either way, then it’s the perfect mindset to pick a team. Most players are ranked when you do the draft, so just pick the highest person available. Seriously. It’s likely that most of the people you’re playing with aren’t experts either.

  16. My husband is really into Fantasy Football and every year he wants me to participate. I typically don’t, because I am just not into it, but one year I finally agreed to participate. I drafted my team based on Most Handsome Player and actually did really well! So, even if you are not into football, you can still make it fun and once I got into it, I became a little competitive and had fun.

  17. Carrie... :

    What is fantasy football?

  18. Life Rule: I am too old, and respect myself too much, to do things I don’t like just to please other people / make friends.

    This explicitly includes golf and fantasy football.

    I *will* try new things, I will occasionally do things I’m not wild about and laugh over it (the occasional bowling night), but I’m not going to sign up for a major time commitment for an activity that is distasteful to me, or pretend to like a sport that I really can’t stand.

  19. No, no, no. If you are neither into football nor into fantasy sports, do not play in a league, unless you are prepared to committing the time to get up to speed and spending time every week maintaining your lineup. You will not pay enough attention, and as someone who plays in fantasy leagues, I can attest that when someone in the league stops paying attention, it is beyond frustrating t the rest of the league because it impacts the competitive balance – someone who plays you head to head on a week where you leave injured players in your lineup gets an easy win and it is not fair to everyone else. If you want to be involved in this kind of stuff, there are things without the time committment, e.g., pick em pools (march madness, weekly college football picks, bowl game picks, super bowl ‘squares,’ and of course just meeting up to watch the game). A real league is a big time suck, especially if you arent already familiar with the players. Oh, one other option – ask one of the guys if you can co-manage a team this year to get up to speed and get a sense of what time is involved, then go solo next time.

  20. New Engineer :

    I just read this post, but I know I’m a few months late.

    I am a new engineer at a company that is about 80% male. I was invited to join the office fantasy league this season, and I joined in effort to fit in and be “one of the guys” – and I figured I didn’t have much to lose, other than my $50, since nobody expected much from me. I am the only woman in the league, and one of two first-time fantasy players. I got some help from coworkers in the draft and the first week or two, but then found myself accidentally winning. I surprised myself with how into it I got! Now I’m spending a couple hours a week researching players to sub in and I’ve been in first place for most of the season, which is driving the guys crazy.

    What I take away from this and would advise to other women: if you’re invited to join the office league, go for it! You might actually have a good time with it, and if nothing else then you’ll learn a lot about a subculture that a lot of people really care about. Also, my friends and family think it’s hilarious how much I care about my fantasy team now.

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