It’s almost football season, which is great enough as it is, but the related fact that it’s almost time for fantasy football season has you a little fearful of a repeat of last year. Three point losses, dropped touchdown passes, untimely fumbles: All the bad luck in the fantasy world befell you last year. So who can blame you if your enthusiasm for the 2010 fantasy season isn’t what it was this time last year? You just need a pep talk to get your inner scout working and figure out a plan of attack for 2010.

Every year, as summer bleeds into autumn and children return to school, adults turn their focus to an annual tradition so important it spawned a billion dollar industry when it sold out. Just as sure as the sun sets, fantasy football season begins as groups of stats geeks and sports nuts from all walks of life gather, both in person and in private chat rooms, to draft a group of superstar muscleheads to represent them throughout the year. These muscleheads, assigned to such venerable franchises as The ‘Tard Cats, Off Under the Bleachers, and Your Mom, come to represent the hopes and dreams of the common man.

Sure your team came finished in last place in 2009. And so what if that jackass Gary keeps abusing his power as league commissioner to approve bogus trades with Steve, who’s little more than a farm team for Gary to test and mine hidden talent. And big deal if your girlfriend beat you last season by only picking guys she knew were “cute in those tight pants”?

This is 2010. You signed up for the league again, filled with the hopes that this would be the year you win the office fantasy league and the half day of PTO that comes with it. This is the year you’ll get the better of your friends from the bar and earn a free first drink for the rest of the year. This is the year you’ll see your name in lights on ESPN.com after your team wins you that 56″ 3D TV, or at least a gift card to Chile’s.

So why aren’t you interested? Don’t you want bragging rights? A big TV? Free beer?

FREE BEER, MAN!

You’ve made a commitment to your organization and the players it will employ come draft day. You clicked “Accept Invitation,” and with that comes the commitment to your friends not to trot out a roster where half your players are on injured reserve. You did that last year. It was a rookie mistake. So was drafting a kicker in the fourth round.

But you lived to fight another day. Right now, you’re within a quarter mile of bountiful information about how to make this season a success. There are whole books published every year about who you should draft and how to find a hidden gem in later draft rounds filled with also-rans and has-beens.

But there are more implications to it than this. You’re in a league where everyone is suddenly on a level playing field, and that never happens in real life. There are guys who make five times more money annually than you in this league. Your boss is in this league. Your jerkwad attorney neighbor with the fast car, trophy wife, and smug attitude is in this league. For once, you’re eye-to-eye with them. You’re brothers. You can send them trash-talking emails with no fear of consequences. Heck, you can send your boss an email with a picture of a little kid flipping him the bird and telling him how much he sucks, and he’ll actually laugh and write you back.

Best of all, you can beat these guys. You will beat them.

And when you do, you’ll sit with your feet up on Monday nights when your victory is already secure. You’ll have a week to gloat and to rub their noses in your superiority. When you win that final playoff game, you’ll have seven months to remind them about how much better your running back was than theirs.

This is a rite of passage. This is where fandom meets obsession and IT’S ACTUALLY OK! Most of all, this is tradition, so get down to the newsstand, buy the latest Sporting News, and honor it.

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