What’s Making Me Happy This Week: The League
This is “What’s Making Me Happy This Week,” a weekly feature inspired by the Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast. It’s pretty self-explanatory.
What’s Making Me Happy This Week is a show that has been on television for several years but I’ve recently gotten around to watching. If you haven’t seen it yet, and you have ever played fantasy football (or are married to/dating someone who does), you need to be watching “The League” on FX.
I realize that no one visits this site because of my passion for fantasy football. The 2bitmonkey tagline is “Music. Books. Culture.” But I’ve been playing fantasy football passionately for over a decade. I’m usually in more than one league (this year I’m in three) and am even in several “keeper” leagues, i.e. leagues where we keep track of our players and manage our teams all year round. Only serious fantasy football players keep playing even when the real football season is over.
Nevertheless, when The League debuted in 2009 I was skeptical. Television represents does some things well (families, office environments) and some things poorly (the practice of law, sports at any level). I had a strong feeling that fantasy football would fall into the category of things that television writers turn into cartoonish exaggerations, and I didn’t need to watch a show mocking something I enjoy. Plus, I suspected that the humor would be crass lowbrow, which isn’t always a bad thing (Judd Apatow movies are great!) but is at the most risk of being deplorable. In a nutshell, The League looked like the bad spawn of Two and a Half Men and The Best Damn Sports Show, Period. I think that most avid fantasy football players had the same feeling – The League was not something talked about in my leagues, it just didn’t have any buzz among it’s most obvious demographic.
Over the years that began to change. More and more I’d get someone asking me whether I watched The League. When I said no, they weren’t surprised, but they always added, “you should.” Two weeks ago I queued up season 1 on Netflix and took the plunge. Now I’m only five episodes in but I can happily say that I was very wrong.
First of all, The League captures the attitudes and mannerisms of people who play fantasy football with uncanny accuracy. Second, the show isn’t about fantasy football. Sure it revolves around the game, but it’s really about the friendship between the men who play the game (and to a lesser extent, their relationships with wives and children). Third, and most importantly, the characters aren’t caricatures -they are three-dimensional people. It would have been easy to have each of the five main characters fit a particular male stereotype. Instead, each character (well, four out of five anyway) are well-rounded people with different aspects to their personalities. They aren’t TV show people – they’re more like people you actually know.
For example, there’s Pete, the leader of the group, the three-time league champion. His personal life is in shambles after his wife leaves him, but rather than make him a sad sack, or go the other way and make him a ridiculous person who cares more about fantasy football than his marriage, the show portrays him acting almost exactly like a normal person in this situation would act. He’s happy, he’s sad, he manages his team, he hangs out with his friends … he just it. Then there’s Kevin, whose tough wife runs his team. On any other show he would have been made out to be a weak character, kind of a sissy. But on The League he’s still one of the boys, with opinions as strong as any of them – it’s just that his wife is even more one of the boys than he is. The only exception to the well-drawn characters is Taco, the broke, dumb playboy. I know people who trend in the direction of Taco; I don’t know anyone quite like him, nor could I imagine it. (The episode “Mr. McGibblets” launches Taco into Kramer territory.)
So if you play fantasy football, watch The League. Watch it with a significant other who will laugh at you as you laugh at yourself, while both laughing at the show. And consider buying this for him/her for Christmas.
And That’s What’s Making Me Happy This Week.