In Week Two of the NFL season, the Minnesota Vikings were battling the Green Bay Packers, late in the third quarter. Vikings running back Adrian Peterson carried the ball up the middle for a few yards, a seemingly unremarkable play. Once the pile cleared, Peterson slowly stood up, only to suddenly crumple to the ground. Vikings fans and NFL followers collectively groaned with anguish at the sight of their worst nightmare: a star running back holding his knee.
Immediately, the most-hated three letters in football (other than Suh) came to mind: ACL. Short for anterior cruciate ligament, a torn ACL is one of the most frequent injuries among football players, and is, at a minimum, season-ending. Fortunately, we now know that Peterson avoided disaster, instead tearing his meniscus, which will sideline him for at least three to four months. However, at the time, it was impossible to avoid fearing the worst.
I have been a massive Peterson fan ever since he entered the league. In my dorm hangs the first NFL jersey I ever owned, an old Reebok-made youth jersey, with Peterson’s number 28 almost completely worn off. So when I saw the news last week that AP had gone down with a potentially-devastating knee injury, I was desolate.
So of course, I did what any normal person would do when such a significant event occurs: I went straight to social media. I expected to see some predictable emotions: an outpouring of support for one of the league’s all-time greats, inconsolable Vikings fans waving the white flag and possibly some elated Packers fans. Instead, I saw something far more distressing: outraged fantasy owners.
Here we have a Hall of Fame running back, who, given his injury history, age and the unknown severity of the injury at the time, may have never been able to play another snap in the NFL. The Vikings have a young, promising team that has now lost their starting quarterback and running back in the first two weeks of the year, and despite these concerns, the discussion is dominated by angry fantasy players, complaining that Peterson has ruined their season. As if Peterson owed them something, and he has a responsibility to reward all those who drafted him in the first round. As if he selfishly, voluntarily decided, “I’m going to get seriously injured today, screw you fantasy football.”
Peterson joins Keenan Allen, Teddy Bridgewater, Sammy Watkins, Russell Wilson, Jamaal Charles and seemingly the entire New England Patriots roster as just a sampling of high-profile NFL players to miss significant time this season due to injury. Yes, fantasy owners have the right to be disappointed, but we must realize whom these injuries hurt most; the players and their respective teams.
Full disclosure, I’m just as obsessed with fantasy football as anyone else. My ideal Sundays consist of watching NFL Red Zone on one screen and ESPN FantasyCast on another. In fact, I drafted Adrian Peterson this year, and am of course extremely disappointed that he now has an “IR” designation next to his name. I love fantasy football, but I’m beginning to hate what it has done to us.
Athletes have always been objectified. Particularly with stars as big as Peterson, they have always been viewed as larger-than-life, somehow greater beings than you and I. But fantasy football has taken this dehumanization to another level, by reducing their very-real performances to virtual ‘points.’
In the past, athlete objectification has always been redeemed by the concept of a team in that at the end of the day, we care more about a team’s success than individual performances. Now, even team support has diminished. We can create rosters with players from all different teams, and every fantasy owner has found themselves painfully, but willingly, rooting against their favorite team in favor of a player in their fantasy lineup.
I’m not necessarily asking for sympathy for players that make millions of money and get to play a professional sport for a living. Nor am I demanding that fantasy football should be abandoned altogether. But we must abandon the idea that these athletes have any obligation to fantasy football and recognize that their health means far more to their respective teams and families than our fantasy rosters.
Andrew Morrison is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.