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One League Too Many

Time to tidy up your list of endless leagues.

The United Football League, created out of a merger between the resurrected USFL and the resurrected XFL, completed its inaugural season in June. The ratings were better than either league managed last year, but attendance outside from the St. Louis market (no doubt from fans hoping that, somehow, the NFL was paying attention) was unimpressive. Still, finishing the season is an accomplishment in itself, and there was enough interest to generate some optimism that it could continue as a viable league moving forward.

But did you even know they were playing? Or that the season is over and the Birmingham Stallions won the title? Did you watch more than a few minutes of any game this season? In most cases, the answer is a resounding no. For many fans, there isn’t enough time or interest to take on an additional league or team to support. And that’s the exact mindset you should take as you evaluate how many fantasy leagues you plan to join this season.

And when I say “join,” I’m counting leagues you’re already in. Every year is different, and you’re technically rejoining the league once it renews on whatever site or app you’re using. And I think that’s a good thing. You should re-evaluate every league, and make sure you still want to be a part of it. One of the main culprits of diminishing fun in fantasy football is managers being in leagues they should have left long ago, or never joined in the first place.

One problem is that the barrier to entry is so low. Say yes, chip in a few bucks, download an app, and presto! You’re a new franchise manager. And it's even easier once you're in. Just send some money electronically each year, and you've fulfilled your duties.

But is that really fulfilling? Does each extra league add more fun to your experience? Forget the law of diminishing returns. Are there any returns at all? Or does it become a weekly chore as you prepare for the leagues you actually care about winning? If you're not sure, it's time to say goodbye to that league.

I was once in a league for about a decade. Won the title a few times, missed the playoffs sometimes but always tried my best. But after a while I forgot why I even joined. I lost contact with the people I barely knew who were in the league, and communication during the year had really slowed down. The rare examples of good-natured trash talk were usually met with silence. It felt like I was playing alone, so I decided to leave the league. I sent a group text and wished everyone the best.

You know what the response was? Nothing. Not a thanks, not a goodbye, not even a single thumbs up emoji. Literally nothing. I was left off the group chat and that was it. I've had a friendlier experience unsubscribing from spam newsletters. I realized I should have left years before.

At least I learned my lesson. A couple years ago, I was in just one league. Last year I doubled that total. This year I might go really crazy and add a third, but no more than that. It's not that I'm losing interest. I'm losing interest in wasting energy on leagues that don't matter to me. Now, when I'm spending time doing research or watching a game, the results matter more. I'm not going down a spreadsheet of leagues to see where I ended up this week. I don't have everybody on my team across a dozen leagues. I have my players and I root for them. It's simpler, and much more fun.

Of course, my usual caveat applies: Play the way you want. If you enjoy being in two dozen leagues, go for it. But ask yourself if you really feel that way, or you're in that many leagues because you used to feel that way. Maybe you don't have as much free time, or you have other hobbies, or you're not really friends with that group anymore. Maybe you've found a couple of amazing leagues that you really enjoy, and the others are just kind of there. Why not spend that energy on the leagues and friendships that mean more to you, and ditch the ones that mean less?

I know it seems weird for an article on a fantasy football website to encourage you to play in fewer leagues, but that’s what I’m doing. And really, the purpose of Fantasy Index is to make your fantasy football experience better. Ian and Andy do that by providing you with insight and analysis that will help you better prepare for draft or auction day, and then keep the analysis going throughout the season. I try to do that by presenting ideas and suggestions that make the time you spend on this hobby more worthwhile. Win or lose, I want you to make the most of your time, waste as little as possible, and end the season feeling like you had fun no matter how it turned out. And I think that doing a “summer cleaning” of your fantasy leagues can help you shed the ones that don’t serve you well today, and give you more time to focus on the ones that matter. And in July, that’s a great use of your fantasy time.

Finally, a couple things I wanted to mention: This column comes out Tuesday mornings (I sleep late, so the site publishes it automatically), so that’s when you can catch new ones. And we have this cool new feature that adds photos to articles, which really improves the look of the site in general and puts a visual touch to the content. I think it makes the experience much better for the reader. But my column is a little weird, and I’m not very good at finding ones that fit the weekly theme yet. As a result, I tend to choose one at random, so please don’t read too much into it. I think this week’s photo is from indoor football. I’ll try to get better at it.

How many leagues will you be in this year? Has that number gone up or down over time? What criteria do you use when deciding to join a league? Share your thoughts below.

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