Because losing gets old.

For sixteen hellish weeks each year (plus the playoffs), your friends spend Sundays couchbound and glassy-eyed, screaming at the television with alternating delight and despair. The advent of Fantasy Football has worsened the epidemic; now they care about their home teams as well as every other team in the league.

Instead of three-hours-and-out, the crew hunkers down at noon for pregame coverage and doesn’t come up for air until midnight, when the beer runs out and people realize work is going to suck in the morning. You could skip it, sure. Spend Sunday reading a book or visiting family. But with football season comes FOMO, and it’s better to suffer a contest of grown men doing pig piles than to risk social exile.

Be warned: Just showing up is not enough to maintain your rank among the group. You must be able to talk the talk—or at least fake it. You’re never going to know what’s what in the NFL without actually watching ESPN. (Which, let’s be honest —Sports Center during football season is about as stimulating as listening to Ben Stein read dishwasher instructions.)

But if you can fake your way through a conversation about Fantasy, nobody will suspect you’re clueless about the sport as a whole. With that in mind, here’s an Abagnale-caliber cheat sheet to help you through the four dreary months of football.

The League

Not the NFL. I’m talking about “The League,” the half-hour FX comedy about a Fantasy Football league that should be required watching for any wannabe fan-impostor. You’ll learn about the basic structure of a Fantasy league, as well as valuable slang like “Eskimo brothers” and “vinegar strokes.”


Remember gym class, when the teacher designated two captains and they took turns deciding which children they wanted on their team? That’s what a Fantasy draft is, except with a lot more captains (called ‘owners’), and everything is imaginary. Most of the time, the worst owner from last year gets the first pick this year.


Most leagues require that each owner draft an entire defense. However that defense performs in real life on a given week will affect the owner’s score in Imagination Land. If your friends start discussing whose defense they want, you can drop in a cool remark like, “I have a buddy at work who got stuck with the Browns defense.” Everybody will laugh and be like: Wow, you know a lot about this sport!


Some leagues use IDPs — individual defensive players. It’s a lot like drafting offensive players, except much more boring. When my friends start arguing about IDPs, I use that time to practice tying nooses or drinking hemlock.


One person in every league is the Commissioner, which Fantasy players often shorten to “Commish.” If you didn’t roll your eyes so hard just now that they literally fell out of your head, good job! The commissioner’s responsibilities include setting up the league online, asking his or her friends to join, and then settling any disputes that arise among owners. If your friends are talking about the commissioner of their league, you can make up an interesting anecdote like, “I have a buddy at work whose league commissioner’s name is actually Gordon. Can you believe that? Commissioner Gordon!” Everybody will be like, That’s crazy!


An exceptional player who can be relied upon to produce week after week. Adrian Peterson is, historically, a stud. Talk about Adrian Peterson a lot.

Adrian Peterson|Robert C. Modra/Sports Imagery/Getty


A player who was expected to perform OK, but ends up performing super duper. If you hear someone talking about a sleeper, you can sigh and look off into the distance and say: “Remember Anquan Boldin in 2003?” Everybody will be like, Yeah, he had an amazing year. Your knowledge of football reaffirms our social compatibility. Here’s another beer.

Waiver Wire

Imagine you and all your friends have a crush on a really hot guy, but the guy is in a serious relationship. Now imagine his relationship ends. The guy is now on the waiver wire, and whoever called dibs has what Fantasy players call “first priority on the waiver wire.” You can pick that free agent up — now he’s on your team.


Releasing a player into free agency. Sort of like breaking up with your significant other, except you don’t have to change your Facebook password or avoid your favorite bars.

Bye Week

What used to be non-fans’ saving grace in the good old days, the bye week is a week when a given team does not play. Growing up, it was a reprieve from the sport. Now, it’s just something Fantasy players take into consideration when drafting quarterbacks. Having two QBs who share a bye week is Fantasy suicide — mention a buddy at work who blew his season by making this mistake. Everybody will be like Wow, that guy’s probably kicking himself!