What does the word call to mind for you?
Perhaps a genre of literature, à la J.R.R. Tolkein. Or a classic R&B song by Earth, Wind & Fire. Or a dark world of disreputable city districts and Internet denizens — but let’s not go there.
What does Google say? Here are the top five results when I searched for “fantasy”:
1. Fantasy Sports — Yahoo Sports
2. Fantasy Football — Free Fantasy Football (NFL.com)
3. Fantasy Football — ESPN.com
4. ESPN: Fantasy Games
5. Yahoo Fantasy Hockey …
Yes, for many sports fans at this time of year, as summer wanes and the NFL season beckons, fantasy means one thing: fantasy football.
More than 41 million people have played fantasy sports this year in the U.S. and Canada, according to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association. And 33 million are reportedly playing fantasy football.
(For the uninitiated, a brief explanation of fantasy sports is below.)
As I’ve read fantasy sports stories in recent years — I don’t play, but it’s part of my job as an editor — I’ve been fascinated by the relationship between fantasy football and a common human denominator … namely, trust.
By the way, while I don’t play fantasy sports now, I played fantasy football once or twice (I don’t recall which). But I do recall that I made exactly zero transactions during the entire season(s) I played and didn’t change my lineup once — either setting or tying a fantasy record that will never be broken!
If you’re a fantasy sports fanatic, perhaps you’re raising your eyebrows or rolling your eyes or otherwise eyeing me with incredulity. But hear me out.
This was a league with colleagues at ESPN.com, and they were short one owner. I let them know up front that I would likely have little time to devote to fantasy football, and if they were OK with that, I’d join the league. That’s the main reason I don’t play fantasy sports — real life, I find, takes up an inordinate amount of time, leaving fantasy sports in the dust.
But I digress — back to the topic of trust. Check out some statements from ESPN.com about fantasy sports:
Eric Karabell discusses whether you can trust QB Carson Palmer and WR Larry Fitzgerald in the upcoming weeks.
From Matthew Berry — RB Stevan Ridley, Patriots: If coach Bill Belichick doesn’t trust him, how can you?
Should you trust your fantasy playoff fate to QB Kirk Cousins?
Fantasy: Bengals-Eagles Preview
Christopher Harris discusses who to trust in Bengals vs. Eagles.
Fantasy Football Now Friday: Week 13
Michele Steele, Christopher Harris and Stephania Bell discuss which injured running back to trust in Week 13.
Why so much discussion of trust in the context of fantasy sports?
I suppose the answer is simple: Every time fantasy owners set a starting lineup, they’re trusting those starters to produce fantasy points and contribute to a victory.
Naturally, the same is true of real-life coaches and owners in professional sports. When an owner signs a quarterback to a big contract, the owner is trusting the QB to play in a way that’s worthy of the contract. When coaches decide who will play in a given game, they’re trusting those players to help the team succeed. Players trust each other to be at the right place at the right time.
To say that trust is a fact of life is like saying 10 + 10 = 20. Trust is a must in the sphere of human existence. It runs through every community like blood through a body.
Some people believe trust is limited to the religious realm: “I deal with facts, not faith.” But the irony is that in order to accept a fact as a fact, you must decide which facts are actually trustworthy.
Is it a fact that George Washington was the first U.S. president? No historian I know of disputes this, but likewise, no one I know was there in the 18th century to verify it. So to accept this basic component of U.S. history as a fact, we need to take someone’s word for it — we need to trust.
This elemental reality is tied inextricably, of course, to the realm of worldviews. The evidence indicates that trust is an inescapable factor in every human life — whether you’re a theist, atheist, pantheist, polytheist or other-theist.
If the fantasy sports examples above don’t convince you, here are some examples from marketing slogans across the years:
Cooks who know trust Crisco — Crisco (baking)
You can trust your car to the man who wears the star — Texaco (gasoline station)
Trust Northern — Northern Trust Corp. (bank)
Technology you can trust — Gateway Computers
Trust the Midas touch — Midas (auto shops)
And to return to the world of fantasy sports:
Dominate Your [Fantasy Football] Draft … #1 Site Trusted By Fans Since 1999! — DraftSharks.com
Apparently, we value trust — in society, in our business dealings, in politics, in families … and in sports (actual and fantasy).
But how exactly does this apply to the worldview conversation?
To be continued
For the Uninitiated: Fantasy Sports in a Nutshell
Fantasy sports give fans the opportunity to be the owner and general manager of a team.
Fantasy team owners draft actual professional players to form their teams in fantasy leagues, and the actual stats of those players from each game count toward the fantasy team’s score in head-to-head matchups with other fantasy owners. During the season, owners can make trades with each other, release players who underperform or become injured, and pick up players who are available.
The main goal of fantasy sports writers is to give fantasy owners advice about which players to release or keep on the bench, and which ones to acquire or start for a given game.