It’s the last day of the year and, while I was hoping to write something about the upcoming Double Gameweeks, we have no news about it at the time of writing. I’ll just park that on the side and instead – fittingly as it is the end of the year – pen down some of my thoughts about this game we play.
It has been quite the 12 months. Our world is not quite rid of the virus that has been plaguing us for most of the last two years. That said, we have had a full year of football and along with that, a full year of Fantasy Premier League (FPL).
On a personal level, last season was a great learning experience. I’m not talking about FPL lessons learned (which were quite a few) but just general life lessons, which this game does teach us in more ways than you’d imagine.
Online FPL friendships
The game is growing at a staggering rate. With so much content out there via articles, stats, Twitter accounts, podcasts and YouTube videos, the number of well-informed serious managers is also growing rapidly. In a world of lockdowns and struggles with loneliness, this game enables you to establish connections with so many like-minded individuals.
I have seen the connection established over FPL lead to amazing things. It has led to me being ‘business and pod partners’ with someone I’ve never met in my life. I’ve seen a bunch of friends who found each other on this website remain friends for over a decade, pulling resources together to send gifts when one of their own was suffering from a serious illness. The happiness caused by this managed to feed the soul for a long time.
Speaking of serious illnesses, I have had a couple of people very close to me face tough battles this year and, unfortunately, they have lost those battles. Obviously, when something like this happens, the head goes into weird and dark places. And that’s when logging on and reading a bit of football or chatting FPL with a few people brings a welcome sense of normalcy, even just briefly. Personally, I’ve found that this temporary distraction does soften the blow and makes a slight, positive difference when dealing with real-life situations.
That said, there are two sides to this fast-growing game. Since there are so many FPL managers that you know, many of us struggle with feeling happy due to this game. There is the mental health aspect of it. FPL is very much an escape so, when you have all your hopes pinned on this outlet, a bad Gameweek can hit hard. It is difficult to get a sense of what doing well is, due to the number of informed FPL managers growing.
Look online after a fairly decent Gameweek and there will always be other FPL managers who will do even better, making it difficult to derive happiness from your own good score. Currently sitting at 36k, this is the best first half of the season I’ve ever had and, despite that, there is a little shine taken off it because you’ll always see others at 30k, 10k or top 500. This is going to be the norm every season, so we need to amend our expectations from this game.
Pressing the ‘switch’
At this point, I just want to tell you about the ‘switch’ when I was in eighth grade. The short version is that I basically imposed a lot of pressure on myself when it came to exams and expected a lot from myself. The obsessive-compulsive trait that I (and most of us) have in terms of being well-informed FPL managers was very much alive back then as well. For me, exams were always all-or-nothing. Due to an illness, I couldn’t cope with my self-imposed timetable, which led to me thinking that if I’m struggling to cope with this, how will I cope with the hardships that life will throw at me in the future. A mental block was created.
I spoke to a ton of professionals to help deal with this but nothing worked. We had a summer break at that time and all I did was sit in a corner for three months, not speaking to a soul and not wanting to do anything in life. Eventually, I was somehow convinced back into school on the first day of the next year and I had a perfectly normal day. This is what led to me pressing the ‘switch’.
The crumb of normalcy given by a perfectly good day at school and finding a passion in the form of a school drama role was what I needed. It immediately made sense to me and I realised that everything that I had thought was so unnecessary. It is one of the biggest lessons that life has taught me: do what you can to the best of your ability. The rest is out of your control and there is no point worrying about it.
FPL is out of our control
Those of us struggling to find joy in FPL need to realise that when Mohamed Salah (£13.0m) scores a hat-trick and you’ve captained Kai Havertz (£7.8m), there is a huge amount of randomness involved. At its core, you can try learning about the game’s predictive nature to the best of your ability (whether you are an eye test person or a stats person) but the rest simply isn’t in your control. I talk a big game in terms of temperament but it is obviously very painful when that huge turn of variance happens and it affects your mood. I just control my mood by switching off the television, watching a different programme or talking to a friend and it’s a lot easier to deal with the next day.
I mention this because of the innate competitive nature of the ‘average FPL manager’. The truth of the matter is that this hobby we have developed has led to us making connections and friends, offering that crumb of normalcy and hope which helps us ‘press the switch’ when real-life situations hit us hard.
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