Fantasy Football: The stages of grief and loss

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When researchers are calculating the possible spike of gloom that Americans exhibit around the holiday season, I wonder how much the psychologically dark impact of a lost Fantasy Football season is taken into account. Christmas may be just around the corner but the playoffs are here now. And, save for the two or four teams in your league that are still gloating, giggling and frolicking their way through another week, most of this year’s participants are left with a sudden and cavernous void that can be overwhelming.

The five stages of Fantasy Football grief and loss are a guide through the emotional whitewater you may have to endure after a disheartening playoff loss, or missing the playoffs altogether. In any event, your season’s over. Let’s get on with the healing process, shall we?

1. Denial – This first step in the healing process is your brain refusing to believe that your season is really over. You may try to convince yourself that there were two Geno Smith rushing touchdowns in two different games in October that were both inexplicably called back due to poor officiating and that the league office, upon rigorous debate, has decided to retroactively overturn those botched calls, ultimately giving you two more wins and a miracle ticket to the last seat in your playoff bracket. But slowly, as you refresh the league page over and over again, waiting for updated standings that will never come, the fog of denial will begin to clear.

2. Anger – Once it sinks in that you actually started Geno Smith twice in the first place, and that it was actually your terrible judgment — and not that of a fictitious, blind official — that aided in your loss, you might want to schedule some vacation time, away from innocent bystanders, because you’re about to get pretty upset. By upset I mean that you may wake up one morning, wearing only an open robe, and hate-walking your way to the nearest grocery store to open all the milks, sipping from each one and throwing the cartons around while screaming ‘till you’re red-faced, “You’re all stupid idiots just like Geno Smith!” I understand; it’s hard to come back from that.

3. Bargaining – In the bargaining stage, once you’ve cooled off from your rage, you’ll begin scheming as to how you can manipulate a playoff-bound team manager into giving up the reins to their roster in exchange for, well, pretty much anything. First you’ll offer to match the first place winnings; then you’ll double it. By the end of the conversation you’ll have offered to legally change your name to Samantha St. Claire, give them that sombrero you got in Cabo and be their personal driver/chef/jester for a month, all so that you can take over managerial rights to the Flatulent Floozies — a reference you don’t even get.

4. Depression – Pajamas, tacos, ice cream, corn dogs, Sleepless in Seattle on VHS, a putrid aroma of your non-showered body and pee-bottles, and watching Geno Smith highlights on mute while listening to Sarah McLachlan are in your future. That’s pretty much it for step four.

5. Acceptance – The fifth and final step is usually not reached until your league’s champion is crowned, prize money has changed hands and the fresh hope of the New Year helps to wash away the filth and scum of the previous season. Once you’ve accepted that you can’t change the past, you’ll be free to move on to healthier and less competitive hobbies that allow you to flourish as a creative individual and human being. (At least that’s what they tell me. But this is usually the point where I start researching for Fantasy Baseball.)

My heart goes out to all those who are stuck in the muck of one of the first four stages of grief and loss of an ended Fantasy Football season. I assure you, as someone who has spent the last 13 years losing at fantasy sports, the fifth step always comes, sometime.

You’ll soon learn to fill idle time sitting on the toilet or the few moments after you wake with something other than tinkering with your line-up. All the usual clichés apply: "life goes on," "there’s always next year" and "you can’t win ‘em all." But, if you take one thing away from this season please let it be this: maybe avoid Geno Smith next season, alright?

Nic R. Krause was born a cranky, curmudgeon of a child in a Minnesota suburb. He was plucked from the muggy tundra and relocated to Colorado Springs 22 years ago. From intramural jai-alai to his complicated relationship with the Minnesota Vikings, Nic, plainly stated, is bonkers for sports. Follow him on Twitter @NicRKrause.

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