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Fantasy Football Diary: Losing Really Sucks

As prefaced in my first diary article, the 2017 season was when I first started watching football, specifically my home team, the Minnesota Vikings. As that season progressed, I couldn’t ignore the excitement surrounding the team’s success. I needed to be a part of that excitement, and thus began my story as a Vikings fan. The team ended the regular season with a record of 13-3, finishing first in the NFC North. Then, January 14, 2018, happened. This was a historic day in Vikings history, and perhaps NFL history itself- The Minneapolis Miracle. In this game, the Vikings faced the New Orleans Saints for the NFC divisional playoff game. On the last play of the game, with fewer than 10 seconds remaining, quarterback Case Keenum threw a pass to receiver Stefon Diggs that resulted in a touchdown just as time expired. I still get chills thinking about it.  

The 2020 and 2021 seasons were a struggle for the Vikings under Coach Mike Zimmer, and the organization made a coaching change coming into the 2022 season. They hired former Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell. This coaching change appeared to be successful as the Vikings went 13-4 on the 2022 season and again conquered the NFC North. Many of those games were close wins, which was excruciating as I nervously watched to see if the Vikings pulled out the victory. Yet they did. Winning each of those 13 wins was immensely satisfying and made me proud to be a Vikings fan.

In the offseason, the Vikings made a lot of notable changes, including cutting receiver Adam Thielen and linebacker Eric Kendricks as part of salary cap moves. They drafted wide receiver Jordan Addison in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft to replace losing Thielen in their receiving corps. The organization also brought in Brian Flores as defensive coordinator, assumedly to shore up deficits on the defensive front. It seemed on the surface that the Vikings planned to continue the winning momentum from last year and push this team forward to their Super Bowl aspirations.  

Week 5 just wrapped up, and the Minnesota Vikings are sitting with a 1-4 record. The one win they pulled out was against the paltry Carolina Panthers in Week 4. It’s becoming increasingly tough as a fan to sit there and watch this team come up short each week when you know they have the pieces to be successful. Justin Jefferson is freaking amazing to watch. Couple that with Addison, K.J. Osborn, and T.J. Hockenson? This team SHOULD be unstoppable. Yet, they KEEP. GETTING. STOPPED. It just doesn’t feel good to lose. Losing really sucks. And it’s hard when there’s nothing I can do about these losses except feel them. I know the team is feeling it, too. It’s frustrating. 

This is much like life, too, isn’t it? Sometimes, there’s nothing we can do about the hand that life deals us. Take Adam Thielen, for example. He was an undrafted free agent from Minnesota who was fortunate enough to get to play for his home team for 9 years. But then, due to the business side of things, he was told his time was done.

It didn’t matter the intangible leadership skills he brought to the locker room. He was no longer wanted on the team. In the team’s view, Thielen was replaceable. Vikings fans never wanted him cut. I never wanted him cut. I feel that loss, and I miss watching “our” guy Thielen playing on our team. Seeing “one of us” achieve that high stature of being an NFL athlete was awe-inspiring all these years. I am beyond thrilled he has found success with the Carolina Panthers. Now, Thielen gets the opportunity to display his athletic talents as the WR1 once again.  

Adam Thielen is a riser. He takes the adversity life throws at him and uses it as motivation to overcome. His increased production over these five weeks with the Panthers is evidence of such. I hope I can be like him. Like Thielen, life dealt me a hand I didn’t want or ask for. From April 2021- June 2022, I held an advanced position in a different work unit. This position was something I worked hard for and aspired to achieve. But unfortunately, that experience didn’t turn out how I planned.

It was a significantly toxic work environment that increasingly became unbearable to go to. I made the gut-wrenching decision to leave, subsequently taking a demotion and moving to another work unit. That was never part of my plan. I didn’t seek out to derail my career trajectory, yet this is where I am. Losing where I thought I’d be in life really sucks.   

As I navigated this path in the work world, I discovered that watching football and playing in way too many fantasy football leagues is a welcome escape. I feel delight in managing my variety of leagues and enjoy the distraction it gives me from real-life stress. That isn’t to say there isn’t plenty of anxiety to be had with how arduous this little game can be.

Sunday mornings, I painstakingly finalize my starting lineups while also making my rounds checking out my friends’ start/sit shows. Then, throughout the day, I attempt to restrain myself from checking my fantasy scores, but I fail every time. I experience the highs when I see my players score extremely well. I experience the lows when the production just isn’t there, and I discover I started the wrong player. Or the really frustrating times when all the right lineup decisions were made, but the matchup just does not go in my favor. Those losses are hard.

When Tuesday mornings roll around, and all the fantasy scores have been calculated, I get to see the final verdict on whether I won my matchup or not. Week 5 was a decent week for me on the fantasy front. When I opened my Sleeper app and scrolled down all my listed leagues, there were far more green bars than pink, signifying the win was in my favor.

I was fascinated to see that in a dynasty league I joined this year, I am currently sitting at 5-0. This is the first year for me trying dynasty, so these results are pleasantly shocking. This excitement is short-lived as I realize the other kind of loss in fantasy- loss to injury. Players on this dynasty team include Justin Jefferson, Khalil Herbert, De’Von Achane, and James Conner, who all suffered injuries this week. My dynasty roster will lose them as starting options. Of course, I will work my waiver magic, but the sigh of frustration is ever-present.

On the flip side to this undefeated dynasty team, I had one team that was 0-4 coming into Week 5, and I was just praying to finally get a win. Thankfully, it did and is now 1-4. Even though this team is still ranked last, notching this one win felt victorious. Hallelujah.

The goal in fantasy football is to win each week and, ultimately, to win the championship. It’s implausible to think this happens for everyone in every league they’re in. At least, it doesn’t for me. Yes, I lose. Despite trying my hardest to draft well and manage my rosters in-season, losing is still inevitable. Losing is very much a part of fantasy football. It very much sucks. But yet I keep playing. I keep hoping to have more wins than losses. And if or when I do, I will soak up every ounce of that joy.

Despite the frustration and defeat, I will also keep watching the Vikings play each week in hopes they pull out the wins and turn this season around. At the end of each NFL season, there is only 1 champion awarded at the Super Bowl. Losing is a part of NFL football. Every team feels it to varying degrees. Those losses really suck. But the hope of that treasured Super Bowl win keeps every team and every player fighting.

And losing is a part of life. Maybe you lost the job you applied for. Maybe a relationship you thought was the real thing fell apart. Or maybe you’re on a career path in your life you didn’t expect to be on, similar to mine. But that doesn’t mean that’s the end. That doesn’t mean a win isn’t around the corner. I’m still working hard to get myself back into an advanced position with work. I am not giving up. I hope I can be a riser, just like Adam Thielen, and find myself in a new opportunity soon.

Yeah, losing really sucks. It just does. Keep the hope. Keep fighting. And keep moving forward. These cumulative losses we all rack up throughout life shape who we are. Embrace this journey you’re on. It’s all yours.