An Ex-NFLer Speaks Out About Player Safety, And Fans’ Problematic Relationship With The ‘Bloodsport’

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The world of fantasy football is about instant gratification. One week an NFL player can be a hero to millions of doting diehards. The next he’s a bum, not even worth rostering in a fake league. Fantasy fame is fleeting, but the impact of playing the game on each and every person in the league isn’t.

All 53 guys — not counting practice squad representatives — are still giving their all for the entire season, trying to help their team win and keep their bodies in tact in the process. Former NFL tight end Nate Jackson stood at the nexus of this dichotomy when he sat down to write his second book, Fantasy Man, which comes out on Sept. 20.

Jackson, who got a little notoriety from his first book, Slow Getting Up, has been a staple on the lecture and trade show circuit, primarily for his thoughts on the potential benefits of cannabis use for pain management and recovery. He’s also become an obsessive fantasy football player in his free time. And he grapples with that world and the actual world of the NFL, while taking brief segues to examine the real world outside of football (real and fantasy) in the book.

Fantasy Man traces Jackson’s life over the course of the 2015 season, which saw his former team — the Denver Broncos — win the Super Bowl. Jackson travels from his destination draft, to his high school in San Jose, to Menlo College, to a cannabis conference in Arizona, to Denver, to his part-time home in Venice, California, and to the Super Bowl in San Francisco. He writes about life after football and the strange contrast between fantasy glory and day-to-day life in the NFL.

UPROXX Sports had a long conversation with Jackson on his book, that nation’s fascination with fantasy football, the league’s treatment of NFL players in general, and more.

Martin Rickman: One of the first things you wrote in the book was that you don’t have many fantasy football tips. In the first 20 pages, you give a bunch of tips on why you pick who you pick. The most important thing was you were drafting with your heart. Does that help you enjoy the game more now that you’re outside it?

Nate Jackson: Yeah. To me there’s two kinds of wisdom when it comes to fantasy football in general. The way fantasy football has taken off, it’s put a premium on numbers, statistics, and analysis. All this speculative number chasing, to me, doesn’t capture the nuance of what the game is about. It’s more important that I appreciate the game and the process instead of turning into a stern number evaluator. It’s more fun to go with my heart, the guys I like, the experiences I had, and the things or guys I find interesting. I’m not going to just take the advice of some guy on TV who did a bunch of mock drafts.

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I’ve gone through drafts before where guys are super prepared. They’ve read magazines. They have printouts, and Big Boards. They think putting all this time in is going to help them know who’s going to get hurt or not get hurt. When I do a draft, I’ll get excited about a guy I covered when he was in college. It’s more fun for me that way.