I loved competition growing up. It did not matter the game of skill, I found interest in it. I desired to master the rules, strategy and nuances of the game or sport that allowed me to get ahead… so naturally as I got older, I was into fantasy football. The game that required you to know 3rd stringers in every position to get a leg up on the competition began to consume my life. Why? Because it was fun to have it consume my thoughts and time.
If you have ever played fantasy football, there is something for you to do every day during the season. You draft your team. You scour the free agent market. Then you watch the games and monitor the stats and injuries. Thursday is the first game of the week. Friday and Saturday you check the final injury report and matchups, Sunday is a football feast with 3, sometimes 4 game slots. During the games, you constantly check your matchup, seeing if you need to make adjustments to the lineup for later games. Monday is the final game of the week which often has implications on your matchup. Tuesday is stat checking day and putting your waiver requests in. Wednesday is seeing if you got the players you desired and looking to see if you can nab a free agent that everyone missed. Thursday is the beginning of the next week’s matchup and the process starts all over again.
With the exception of watching football games, the activities for fantasy football can be done in less than 15 minutes per day. Generally speaking, I was good at keeping my screen time for fantasy apps under control. However, what I began to realize was that I was setting up a rhythm of life around consuming the NFL and fantasy football. I still prayed everyday, went to mass more than once a week, and put my wife, kids, and job first (for the most part), but what I was living for was not the glory of God. What I was living for was the next update/trade/matchup that I could play this supposedly recreational activity. My time and thoughts were ready at a moment’s notice to be distracted by my chosen recreation. Football had set up a rhythm of worship for itself and I had bought in.
Yet, this does not apply to just my infatuation with fantasy football. It applies to all people especially in a society that has as much wealth and access to entertainment as the American Culture does. The tendency is to either complete our responsibilities to get to the times that we can get to our chosen form of entertainment, or we see what responsibilities we can push off or half complete to get the thing we really want. We live for those moments of scrolling through social media, watching our favorite shows, or doing our favorite activity or indulgence. As a result, if God is in this lifestyle, He is compartmentalized and/or is a competing entity against other things that we worship with our time. If He is not present in this lifestyle, He is being replaced by the false idols which are the things to which we are devoting our thoughts and time.
I am not saying that recreational activities are wrong. By no means! We are a people made for leisure. Yet, we have to be careful that we do not grasp after our entertainment. Nowhere in the gospel does it mention how essential ‘me time’ is. But the gospel does tell us to lose our life so that we can find it; To seek the kingdom first and all things will be given to us. If our time and thoughts are devoted to the kingdom, God will give us the recreation and entertainment that we need.
In order to give God’s kingdom primacy in my life, I have drastically cut down my following of sports, especially football. I removed notifications from my phone and stopped searching for sporting events to watch. I asked God to fill that time with people for me to love. He responded by opening my eyes to the needs of my 80+-year-old neighbors. Each day, the time that I had given to football is now given to them, my family, and spiritual reading. I still play fantasy and somewhat follow football, but for the first time in my adult life, I can confidently say that God is my primary love, which is the question I will have to answer at my judgment. Each of us has to look at our own lives honestly and ask what we are living for. Does God get everything? Or have we set up a lifestyle of worship for some other thing? It is never a simple question to answer, and it is often full of nuance, but ultimately it would be a silly thing to go to Hell for love of fantasy football or some other form of entertainment.