by Chris Tillen, Staff Writer, October 2021

Whether you’ve been in a league with your friends since you were ten or you’re just starting out this year not knowing who Christian McCaffrey is, there’s a place for you in Fantasy Football. In Fantasy, players build a team with all their dream players from the NFL. Each week, those players receive points depending on who gets the most receptions, yards, touchdowns, and more. In a league, players go head to head with a different team every week, and whoever wins the most points wins the matchup. A common theme in Fantasy at school is that it’s more than just a game—it’s a culture. There are communities and traditions surrounding individual leagues, such as punishment and reward systems for the victors and losers. 

A lot of students have been active in the same Fantasy league for many years, illustrating the strong community that Fantasy builds. Will Mclane (Class II) fondly recalls that he’s been engaged in Fantasy with the same friends for six years. He said, “We’ve done it every year, it’s the best thing in the world, I always look forward to it.” Corban Shih (Class III) has been active in the same league for four years. “It’s a lot of fun, the biggest part is all the competitive trash talk and hanging out with my friends. It’s a perfect platform for that,” Shih said. The biggest part that draws these two gentlemen back is the people. 

One of the strongest traditions in Fantasy football is draft night, where everyone picks players to add to their team. Draft night is an occasion, and one common custom in many leagues is getting dressed to the nines in a suit. There are varying levels of preparation that one can bring to draft night. Grimes said, “Last year I went hard. I went all across the web and looked at all kinds of different rankings. I researched players myself and their past states, I went back to their high school injuries.” Shih approaches his draft night with a different tactic: he listens to a lot of podcasts and relies on the Fantasy Pros ranking. Om Paithankar (Class II) comes to draft night with a ruthless attitude. When deciding on who to choose, Paithankar said, “It’s just business. It’s who scores the most points.” Other players may come into draft night blind and go with their gut. 

Fantasy football is perhaps infamous for the punishments. A lot of leagues include both a financial reward and, for the losers, a humiliation aspect. Most leagues that feature cash have buy-ins, and the winner takes all. These buy-ins can range from five to one hundred dollars, and it all depends on how intense the league is. Some leagues don’t even require players to chip in. 

However, the loser is subjected to some kind of punishment. A classic punishment based on embarrassment is the waffle house—the loser must sit in a waffle house for 24 hours, and every waffle that they eat is one hour off their sentence. Shih even went to Pennsylvania to fulfill the waffle house punishment, where Shih and his friends stayed in nearby hotels while the loser sat in the waffle house. Shih also recalls another punishment where the loser was forced to retake the Secondary School Admission Test (SSAT). 

In Grime’s league, the loser has traditionally been subjected to teasing and humiliation for the whole year leading up to the next draft. Yet this year, the group is considering a punishment where the loser must sing Waterfalls by the band TLC shirtless on the Boston Metro (the “T”) for three whole stops. One of Paithankar’s leagues has a punishment where the loser must sit on Santa’s lap in the Natick Mall until they are kicked out. Paithankar comments that this is his first year of doing punishments, yet he is nonetheless very excited for the added intensity it brings to leagues. 

There is certainly a difference between leagues in and outside of school. For example, most leagues brewed on-campus are much newer than leagues conceived in the early days of middle school. Shih believes that there are merits to both, as school leagues offer added relevance to punishments. For instance, singing in assembly would be a great punishment for a school league. Yet Shih also said, “You can do some more outlandish things with your friends outside of school.”  

Regarding trash talk and banter, McLane said, “The culture at Nobles is very respectful, which I’ve not encountered in other leagues.” McLane is referring to how Nobles leagues are typically more censored than out-of-school leagues, as students won’t say extremely vulgar things with their school connections. Teams with friends from home feature names that are rife with profane jokes, yet these mostly disappear with school-centered leagues. 

With leagues that were born in middle school, Fantasy football serves as a great way to stay connected with some added pressure due to punishment. With school leagues, Fantasy football is an excellent method for building community in a less intense environment. In both situations, Fantasy brings friends together to have fun with varying levels of outside pressure. Fantasy is never just a game – it’s a culture and a tradition.