Wednesday, December 15, 2010

In Which The Warlock Twirls a Terrible Towel +6...

This may come as something as a surprise, but gaming isn't my only real obsession.  My passion for good food's been pretty well documented on this blog, but another one of my passions really hasn't.  You see, friends and neighbors, I love professional football.

"Big Ben" signs autographs for Steeler Nation
I was born and raised in Latrobe, Pennsylvania.  For those of you who know football, you know that Latrobe is the site of St. Vincent College--both my mom and my sister graduated from there!--which is where the Pittsburgh Steelers hold training camp.  My favorite wing joint--Dino's Sports Lounge--is a favorite of many Steelers, both past and present, when they're in town.  And, in a town like Latrobe, cheering the Steelers is as natural as French fries on a Primanti Brothers sandwich or a weekend trip to Kennywood.

It would seem to be a massive disconnect--my geeky predilictions for dice and wizardy, coupled with a fanaticism for smash-mouth football--but, really, the two are becoming more and more intrinsically linked, as time has gone on!

The start of this trend has to be due to the rise of fantasy football.  Indeed, both the Errant Nick and I were in an ESPN league at one point--which yours truly ended up winning, riding a combination of Ladanian Tomlinson and Brian Westbrook to an easy title!  I've since given up the fantasy football addiction, but the same tools, skills, and obsessions are present in any amount of character optimization as in setting a fantasy football roster!

For those not familiar with fantasy football, the game is pretty simple.  You, along in with eight to twelve other people, initiate a rotating draft of current NFL players.  Each week of the NFL season, you set a starting lineup of players--a quarterback, a few running backs and wide receivers, a kicker, and a team defense--which accrues points based on their individual performance.  FF players are free to trade players between one another--which is how I ended up with the lethal duo above a few years ago--and to pick up undrafted players from the waiver wire.

Barbarian?  Avenger?  Fighter?
I ask you, how is poring over stat sheets any different than checking a 'character optimization' board for a favorite game?  How is agonizing over a roster decision or "playing the matchups" from week to week any different than building a character for role-playing.  It's not, say I!  Sure, the stats may be different:  sacks instead of spells, touchdowns instead of trait dice.  But, in the end, it's the same action with a similar result.

Even outside of the fantasy angle, football devotees show a knowledge of the game that's almost encyclopedic.  We reminisce about great battles of the past, curse rival teams like they pillaged our home, and cheer on the big hits when a defenseman like Troy Polamalu (right) lays out a vicious 'crit'.  The passion's the same, the banter's the same, and really...even the snacks are the same.  Cheetos and Mountain Dew all around!

"Fantasy" Football!
Years ago, Games Workshop tried to cash in on this carry-over with Blood Bowl.  In its table-top game--and its later incarnation as a video game--Blood Bowl featured the standard fantasy races from Warhammer Fantasy facing off on the gridiron.  Orcish linemen, elven wide receivers, and ratling running backs were the orders of the day!  While the game was a marginal success, it still brought together two great tastes that taste great together.

Someday, the proverbial 'geeks' and 'jocks' will live in peace.  And, you know what?  It's our communal feeling of gamesmanship that's going to be the link that brings us all together.  We all love a great contest--now, if only we could build some d20s into our upcoming gridiron classics!

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