Big scientific theories are not contracted in heaven. There is always something earthly about the way they were conceived. In the case of Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection, the formative insight came from the clubs of pigeon fanciers in London. Darwin grew up on a farm and was therefore used to animal breeding. When he moved to London, he entered the circles of pigeon breeders, with their flamboyant exhibits, soemwhat unhealthy enthusiasm for avian beauty, and arcane conversations. Kaboom! The grand theory was born. Grateful to the breeders for solving one of the world’s mysteries, Darwin in turn gave these amateurs a scientific status.
Enters fantasy football that has become an all-consuming passion for millions of Americans. These guys are sport and football junkies, amateur experts who know everything about football. They do not play themselves, they only sit in front of the TV or computer and watch, absorb information, process it and store it. This wealth of knowledge contrasts with the high unpredictability of a game’s outcome. (More so than in baseball, which eventually allowed football to outcompete baseball in terms of popularity.) Even such non-football states as Connecticut sport millions of fantasy footballers. Now these closet experts have a way to turn this knowledge into gaming and go public. They can “own” a dream team by handpicking real football players at will. They know everything about these players – their ways, strengths, weaknesses, signature moves, who is a sleeper and who has been overated, whether the player’s style fits with its realtime team or not, etc. Whether they win at the end of the year largely depends on the actual physical behavior of their favorite players. They segment this behavior into constituent parts (low tackle, high tackle, pass, throw, squatting, etc.) They follow their record of injuries (ankle is the most common injury in football) because injuries impede performance, hence lower their chances to win. Behind this behavior are convoluted laws of physics (center of gravity, velocity, acceleration, trajectories of passes, etc.) and skeletal anatomy that they half consciously know or they would like to know more about.
There seems to be a weird but unmistakable similarity between pigeon fancy (and other animal breeding for this matter) and fantasy football. The human mind subjects all animate matter, whether fellow human or fellow animal, to its selective design. Not only that Darwin’s “natural selection” was inspired by purely modern human practices but the modern proliferation of sports as pure athletics may stem from the same interest in constructing natural orders and manipulating them to human advantage. We do have been gambling at both animal races and human tournaments for hundreds of years now but the desire do turn chance in human athletics into controlled selection assited by the new media and the Internet is a new development. A strange mix of video games, sports and animal breeding.
What kind of vision of nature would a fantasy football team owner have?