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Opinion-Fantasy Football is a lifestyle

It's finally here. It's fantasy football season.

My friends and I started our own league back in 2006, the Blackstallions Fantasy Football League, six years later, I am in love.

For those of you who are unfamiliar to the game, the object is to collect players from various teams and set them in your roster. You have a certain amount of quarterbacks, wide receivers, running backs, kickers, tight ends and defenses whose results count toward your weekly score. As the players collect yards and touchdowns in their games, you get points. It is essentially your own "team" of players against someone else's each week. Most points wins.

To those who are familiar with the game, you know it's a lifestyle. You set your schedule each week around fantasy football. You make sure there is time to set your lineup, check for injuries, look at match-ups and then finally, watch the games. While I love watching football regardless of rooting interest, it sure is fun to watch multiple games each week where I have some players out there battling for me. If I have three players in my lineup playing in a game, you can bet I am watching it. Sometimes I prefer to watch my fantasy players over my favorite team, the Minnesota Vikings.

This is where you can feel free to insert jokes about how it is because the Vikings are so bad.

A win in fantasy each week puts a real pep in your step. You feel good about yourself, like you are somebody, and you sit on top of the world. If your fantasy loses, you question your existence. Fantasy football provides a simple way for us to fulfill our competitive itches without actually having to get up and move around or anything. It is perfect.

The draft is the most important part of any league. Not only do you select all of your players, but that is where all of the smack talk goes down. Players declare their team is the best and belittle everyone else. It is also always fun to grill out and relax with some good friends. Though at an event as big as the draft, relaxing can be difficult.

The lead-up to the draft creates the highest anticipation I experience all year. This is probably because draft preparation starts the day after the previous season is over. I always seem to find myself looking at next season's rankings for our August draft in mid-May.

However, it is not until you purchase a fantasy football magazine that the real fun begins. I spend $10 a year on that 200-page bible. I read it cover to cover and analyze the players and strategies for hours. Truth be told, I really don't know why I buy the magazine. I often just turn critical of the thing and completely disagree. I question how much more these "experts" know than I do, though it is usually quite a bit, but I will never admit it.

The problem with preparing for my league's draft is that I don't know what pick I will receive until right before the draft. We traditionally hold an event thirty minutes prior to the start to determine our drafting order. Last year we dove for golf balls, this year we randomly selected NFL teams to represent us in a simulated season of Madden 2004 on the Playstation. It is nerve-wracking and has a large impact because what pick you receive vastly changes your strategy.

But I am getting away from myself; the draft really is all about the players.

My friend and defending league-champion Lance Westberg said it best, "I adopt 15 grown men into my family for the next four months and give them lots of conditional love."

It is so true. Those guys feel like family.

As you watch your players' games, you are more nervous than their mothers. The disappointment when a receiver doesn't even record catch and the elation when your quarterback throws for three touchdowns creates the ultimate highs and lows. You live and die with your team.

A good season from one of my guys makes him an immortal in my mind. If I win the championship, I will draft the best player that led me to the title until he is three years into retirement. If I take a guy and he lays an egg, I won't touch him again with a 10-foot pole until the day I die. Fantasy football creates allegiances.

The problem I have is drafting with my heart, not my head. I often take guys that I like or I take too many Vikings when they are clearly not the best players available. Tarvaris Jackson always seems to end up on my squad one way or another because of my man crush on him. These tactics lead to a lot of finishes toward the bottom of the standings, except for one year.

You may remember the season of 2009. Brett Favre led the Vikings to a 12-4 record with one of the most potent offenses in the league. I regularly started five Vikings that year, and I came away with the league title. That is something I will never take for granted. It is one of my defining moments. I won the championship by a mere three points, a small margin when you consider most fantasy games score in the 100s on both sides.

Fantasy football championships are held in high regard. In my league, it is a matter of the "haves" and the "have nots". The group champions create an elite fraternity, one that will remain supreme over the rest of the members. We have made it so in our league the past season's winner makes most all of the major off-season decisions. It adds importance to the position, as if it needed any. In the Blackstallions league, there are currently four active players that have their name printed on our aptly named trophy, "The Elite", as the victor. There are six players that have not. I intend to keep it that way this season.

Our draft was completed on Friday. My team is highlighted by Matthew Stafford, Michael Vick (we start two quarterbacks), Jamaal Charles and A.J. Green. My goal is set for nothing less than another title.

To those of you that have never tried fantasy football, give it a shot. It is not that hard for beginners and I think you will like it. I recommend doing it either on ESPN or Yahoo's websites. They are free!

To the fantasy football veterans out there, good luck on your season. May the odds be forever in your favor.