Fantasy football has corrupted you. This dark season of the soul began during your draft. You prepared yourself by streaming fantasy advice on your Xbox One's NFL app, swearing you'd play to win even if it meant going against everything you believe in. No more reaching on third-rate players in the fifth round out of pure homer-ism. This year, you're going to be smart, practical, and merciless. Forget loyalty.
In the best interest of your squad, you pull the trigger on Peyton Manning over Tom Brady, even though you're a lifelong Pats fan. You tell yourself that this wasn't you choosing sides in their storied rivalry. No, this was a tactical decision you were absolutely forced into. Aw shucks, you're stuck with last year's leading scorer. It's okay, though, you're sure Brady will have a good season too — just, you know, not as good as Manning's.
It doesn't mean you love him any less.
In the later rounds, you caught bargains on Knowshon Moreno and Chris Johnson. Sure, they play for rival AFC East teams, but those squads have struggled for so long that drafting their players almost feels like charity. Your fantasy team is looking good this year.
The real trouble starts opening weekend.
The loyal part of you — the part that paints face for home games and owns a tri-corner hat — knows you should probably bench Moreno for his Week One tilt against the Pats. You shouldn't pollute the atmosphere with your compromised rooting vibes. But the talking heads are predicting him to out-touch Lamar Miller, and you're so weak…
You reason with yourself. Fantasy football fandom isn't so divergent from your regular team loyalty. Either way, you're cheering for millionaires who have been arbitrarily assigned to random geographic locations for which they have no actual affinity, right? That's basically the same as fantasy football! Fandom is just, like, an agreed-upon lie, man. There's no reason your love for the Pats can't coexist with your drive for a fantasy championship. Moreno will start, the Pats will win, and everyone will be happy!
Sure. Keep telling yourself that.
It's a testament to your self-control that you remain stone-faced as Moreno gashes the Pats defense for 134 yards. Maybe you don't groan with as much genuine anguish as the other guys at the bar when the RB punches in a four-yard TD during the waning minutes of the fourth quarter to put the Dolphins up 10. So what? No one notices.
Of course, your friends do notice when you let out a cheer for a Chris Johnson TD, which just happens to follow Brady eating his fourth sack of the day. That one earns you some much-deserved side-eye.
So your team is a triumphant winner in Week One, the Pats lose, and you spend your week feeling like a crappy fan for the secret pleasure you took in Moreno's big day. Lucky for you, there's a solution. You can hide your black-hearted fair-weather fan self at home, plugged into the NFL app on your Xbox. No one needs to know your secret.
The app interfaces with your NFL.com fantasy team, so you're notified within minutes whenever someone makes a big play. While you're streaming the Pats game on Sunday Ticket, just a click of a button will update you on what kind of damage you're doing in this week's matchup. But of course you'll wait until the Pats have capped this drive before launching Snap mode to check out Manning's latest touchdown throw.
And if the Pats go down again, you can always pop in Madden for a little escapism. The app will keep on running alongside your game, letting you switch screens whenever the real-life action demands it.
Go ahead, give yourself over to your twisted loyalties. NFL on Xbox is here for you. And so are we, when you confess your transgressions in the comments. No judgment. (But use a burner account if you need to.)
Jeff Hart writes YA books about fugitive zombies. You can find him on Twitter.