• Travis Caples

Getting Real About Fake Football

For two straight years now, the team and I here at The Fantasy Whisperers have hosted the epic Mock Draft Marathon. This event puts us live on air for 24 straight hours of mock drafting with fellow analysts, personalities, and fantasy football enthusiasts on our YouTube channel. And look, doing anything for 24 straight hours without sleep is quite the feat but this time around, things felt different.

This time around though, things felt off. Things felt different. Maybe it was the fact that on the Friday before our big event, the Fantasy Football community was shocked to hear of some really terrible and predatory behavior by one of the larger personalities in the industry. Maybe it was the fact that we are in the midst of a global health pandemic, a pivotal presidential election year, and some of the most real civil and political unrest I can ever remember seeing in my lifetime. Because of some of these very real issues swirling around us and dominating our news cycle this year, this fantasy football offseason, and the looming fantasy football season have felt, well, just weird. Being forced to face those very real problems and not knowing if we would even get a football season or if we got a season how long it would last all made for a very uneasy feeling going into our flagship offseason event.

Long before COVID-19 hit the U.S. or at least before we knew it had, before Kobe Bryant’s tragic death, prior to shutdowns, and no haircuts a hard conversation had to be had. TFW’s fearless leader Johnny “Game Time” Hicks and I were at a crossroads. We knew we wanted to keep the brand alive and keep chasing this dream but we were exhausted. We felt as if we had drifted off course and failed Whisper Nation at the end of last year. So in January of 2020 John and I had multiple long and heavy conversations about the future of The Fantasy Whisperers. We ultimately decided we needed to get back to what makes our brand unique: Community. With our renewed focus we kicked off the new year and started year 3 of our efforts. Fast forward through government shutdowns, mask debates, and live sports closing and reopening, I could be more thrilled that we made the choice we did.

The Mock Draft Marathon was the biggest reminder of why we got into this business and why we will remain in this business for as long as you all will have us. Whether it was Johnny sniping picks from Evan Silva in hour one or in the final hour, Sigmund Bloom reminding us how fortunate we all are to have a game like fantasy football to lean on in these tough times, we were reminded of how amazing this community was. Stepmom Lauren, Liz Loza, and our very own Chelsea Lee Byers’ contributions reminded us that we can and will do better for and with the women in our industry. Adam Rank’s one in a million personality helped take Whisper Nation on a rock and roll journey that just reiterated how much fun this community is. Our Canadian counterparts Mack and Landon from the Snap Fantasy Football podcast helped us work through key player takes on Melvin Gordon and David Johnson. We were blessed to have a second straight year from the always on point, Nate Hamilton. The entire crew over at Club Fantasy FFL provided plenty of hot takes and great laughs as we moved into the prime-time hours. In those prime-time hours, we were grateful to have some real OG’s in the industry: Smitty from The Fantasy Football Show and The Fantasy Football Couch take us through their origin story in the industry and provide true inspiration to all of us out here chasing our dreams. Alex Strouf and that sultry voice of his took us through the Mock Draft Marathon witching hours. In the morning hours of and the final stretch run we were humbled to have The Fantasy Football Lord and The Fantasy Football Plug on. We are huge fans of these men in the industry and they really helped bring elite energy for us on Sunday morning. Jeff Hasely of footballguys.com was one of our favorite segments as he was dropping knowledge bombs left and right. We could not have pulled this event off without any of those amazing guest co hosts but without Whisper Nation active in the chat and filling the mock draft lobbies we really would have been dead in the water. Looking back at some of the comments we received from hour 1 to hour 24 still warms my heart in such a great way. We had plenty of fans telling us that with the world in such uncertainty we gave them something to look forward to or that we made their weekends. We had Whisper Nation going to bed on Saturday night and wishing us luck only to wake up on Sunday morning and hop back on the stream and chat. It gave us great joy to give away 4 separate jerseys, hundreds of cookies from Sleeper, and a couple Draft Kits.

On a very personal level this event made it very clear to me that I belong in this industry. We were going toe to toe with Evan Silva, Adam Rank, Liz Loza, and Sigmund Bloom on so many unique and hard hitting takes for the 2020 season but to me, even more important was how the MDM reminded me why I love fantasy football. It gives you that feeling of belonging to something bigger than yourself. Growing up as a chubby kid who was never great at sports but loved them so very much, fantasy football has provided me a path to glory. Desiring the camaraderie of the team sports dynamic, being a part of multiple leagues has given me a sense of community, friendship, and family that is rare in a world made more and more distant by technology. Destination drafting has fortified bonds with leaguemates over the years. Following the players personal narratives and development has provided a layer of story telling to my life I never could have imagined possible. Engaging in fantasy football talk hypotheticals, trade negotiations, and rule change debates has honed my communication skills. There is no doubt in my mind that my love for fantasy football and the community that is created around this great game has made me a better person.

So yes, this year has been incredibly sad. This football offseason has been tough. If we do have a season, how long will it last? Trying to make money off our passion has been even harder this year. Will anyone realistically want to purchase our draft kit or swag for a season with so much uncertainty around it? Do sports even matter? Does fantasy football even matter? How will I adjust to these new roster limitations and added concerns around player safety as a Fantasy GM? Johnny and I have been in our league of record: The Only League That Matters for 10 years now. This year was our 10 year draft-iversary. We were set to travel as a league of 12 to Flagstaff, AZ where we all went to school together and draft and celebrate and remind ourselves of the community we have built. That trip, like many other events for so many other people this year, was cancelled. I have heard people say online that they were robbed of 2020. But I am to challenge you, Whisper Nation to not subscribe to this line of thinking. Do not give into those aforementioned and very real fears. Instead look at these hurdles in exactly the light they should be looked at. This year, these challenges are all an opportunity for us to be better Fantasy GM’s, better co-hosts, better business partners, better friends, better family members, and better people. Fantasy football can help you get there if you let it.