Over 50 million people participated in fantasy sports in the United States and Canada last year, but the only people that matter to me are the 12 in my fantasy basketball league, the Salmon Creek Thugs.
It’s an interesting league name for some boys from suburban Vancouver, Washington, but the trash talk and competition is some of the most intense I’ve ever been a part of. And that’s what makes it fun.
I joined the league three years ago, a year after its inception, when I was invited by a group of friends to play with them. I’d never played fantasy sports before, but as an avid NBA fan, I figured I could hold my own.
What I quickly realized is there was a stunning amount of strategy involved in managing a successful fantasy team. Deciding which players to take in the draft, who to snag from the waiver wire and figuring out which owners would bite on a favorable trade offer makes fantasy sports feel like you’re the owner of a real team. That first year was an experience I’ll never forget, for reasons I’ll explain shortly.
Another aspect of fantasy sports that drew me in was the trash talk. On the first draft night, each owner brought their laptops and figurative magnifying glasses to scrutinize every decision. With each pick came insults about how a player was going to miss the playoffs again and, for a notoriously bad drafter, how they’d never learn to make the right picks. Since it was my first year, I took the brunt of the criticism for my ill-advised choices, but I knew it was all in good fun and happily dished it right back.
Now that some members of the league have left Vancouver for college, the draft takes place over Google Hangouts so we can continue our smack talk. Not only is it good for that, but it lets us catch up with one another while doing something we all love.
I ended up winning the championship of the league that first year and I’ve been addicted since. If you’ve never tried fantasy sports before, but have an itch for some competition and a chance to prove your knowledge of whichever sport you choose, I strongly encourage you to give it a shot. It’s a great way to make friends or even lose some, depending on how intense you get with your trash talk.