The fantasy football brotherhood that is my league provides me a way to stay in contact with many friends spread all over the (mostly western) U.S. The members of my league hail from California, to Arizona, to Colorado and Montana. Most of them are my friends from way back and only two are complete strangers. Even though I am rarely in contact with many of these people on a week-to-week basis, ever since our league’s fantasy draft last Thursday I have been in almost continuous close contact with several of them, lamenting our individual luck in building a roster, chiding one another for bad draft and waiver decisions, and just general all around good-natured taunting of the kind so familiar to most American males between the ages of 13 and 90 and so peculiar to everyone else.
Perhaps because of the prevalence of trash-talking, fantasy football is a phenomenon that women may never understand. Likewise, there is a kinship through trash-talk that is solely the province of men and is further practiced and refined through the medium of fantasy football. Of course, some are better at talking smack than others. One of the less-talented but more aggressive trash-talkers in my league frequently invites his competitors to perform sexual acts on his genitalia in a variety of ways. Beginning early in my high school days for a variety of personal and political reasons, homoeroticism ceased to have any appeal to me as a weapon in my trash-talking arsenal, nonetheless there are some who wield it proudly and without irony. You also have to admire the people that stick to the time-tested material of ‘mom jokes’ or those who focus on flaws in appearance and physicality. Due to a poorly executed shop class safety demonstration, a very close friend of mine who is also a member of my fantasy league only has eight and half fingers at his disposal. He takes the inevitable ribbing for this deformity in stride with humble jocularity. Last year he even named his team 1PN or ‘1 Pinkie Nation.’ His handicap is his pride and I applaud that (and make fun of it).
As for myself, I tend to take a more – ahem – refined, tactful and semi-obscure tone in my trash-talkery. To put it bluntly: talking shit is an art. And though I have yet to paint my Monet, I have dished out a few Goyas and even a few Kandinskys. Sometimes even a well-timed Pollack can serve to confuse and simultaneously unnerve an opponent, thereby raising the stakes and further strengthening the camaraderie of all involved (with the possible exception of the recipient).