I deleted my fantasy football team because of OCD

My team’s deletion was announced on Twitter on Boxing Day 2018 and sparked a small debate, I cannot find the original Tweet. Although strangely, there was another deletion on Boxing day the following year also. Perhaps there is another me out there?

Why did I delete my team?

I love football (soccer if you’re American) and especially fantasy football. I’m good with numbers and patterns, and I’m very good at researching things – important skills if you are to do well in fantasy sport games. The most popular version in terms of football is Fantasy Premier League (FPL) with over 6 million people currently playing the game.

I’ve always done pretty well with FPL in the past when I’ve played it. Most of the time I “enjoyed” the game, although as many will attest, it is extremely frustrating at times (Pep roulette and all that). However, during the 2018/2019 season, at Christmas time, I was struggling significantly with OCD and I had to delete my team for my own mental well-being. Shortly afterwards I remember my brother told me people were talking about it on Twitter. Some couldn’t believe someone in the coveted “top 10k” had deleted their team. It might sound sad, but this wasn’t an easy decision; I put a hell of a lot of effort into that season. I was ranked around 400th at one point. Top 1500 by the time I deleted the team and had a solid team. I was also in the top 20 of Sky Fantasy Football earlier in the season, but also deleted my team when I was still in the top 100. Customer services asked me why I was deleting my account, I told them OCD. I wonder if they had that response before? 🤔 Anyway, amongst the comments on Twitter I remember seeing one lowly suggestion that perhaps this deletion was related to some form of mental distress. I can’t remember what was said exactly, but he was right!

Was this even genuine OCD?

At the time it was difficult to say because there was always another larger obsession I was dealing with alongside this. At first I probably regarded this more as perfectionism, something that is apparent in other areas of my life also. But this was different, it was actually causing me a lot of emotional and mental harm. In fact this was something I discussed during OCD therapy numerous times. Another reason why this was most likely OCD rather than perfectionism was that I actually didn’t care about the Sky Fantasy game much at all (even when I was in the top 20), nor did I care about the World Cup Fantasy game earlier in the year. Only FPL was the obsession. Similarly, this year the only game I play is the Telegraph fantasy game and I’m not overly fussed with it. To be honest I didn’t even understand the rules until like the 10th week in (FA cup matches count? WTF is that!).

Can you really have OCD about a game?

Yes, OCD knows no bounds, I’ve heard about it before. In fact I know someone who had an obsession with Tomb Raider (not in that way) and would have to complete levels perfectly without even touching a wall by accident. The term OCD, like with many other areas of life, is sometimes thrown about with FPL, but I’m yet to come across someone talking about actual OCD. Most of the comments will refer to something like having the shirt colours of players matching on the display screen (see below).

Example of using OCD incorrectly with FPL. Great throwback team btw.

So what exactly was the obsession?

When it came to FPL the obsession looked something like this: I must find the perfect decisions for my team to get the most points. The key word here is perfect. My OCD would tell me that there was a perfect combination of moves to make each week, I just needed to find the right information. Strangely, this wasn’t about winning at all even if logically a perfect set of moves would by definition make you no.1 at all times. OCD doesn’t adhere to logic.

What about the compulsions?

To achieve this “perfection” I would engage in the following compulsions:

  • Researching team news relating to players e.g. injuries, team rotation, team tactics (6+ hours per week)
  • Scanning forums for inside information and tips (8+ hours per week)
  • Hiding away when matches were playing refreshing my phone every minute to check the scores (2+ hours per week for the non televised matches)
  • Checking Flashscore or Twitter immediately to see who scored or got the assist during matches
  • Avoiding Match of the Day (highlights show) if my team did bad; watching if I did well

The consequences of this OCD cycle

  • Lost time with family
  • Loss of sleep if team did badly i.e. if I removed a player who scored the next match, or I left a player on the bench who performed well
  • No enjoyment watching or following football, I started to dread the weekends
  • Extreme guilt and regret over “incorrect” decisions made
  • Deep sadness that a poor gameweek meant I was a bad person

Now, I’m sure a lot of people who take the game seriously will relate to at least some of the above. So what’s the difference? Firstly, I was obsessed that there was a perfect set of decisions to be made each week. Which of course is ludicrous, there are so many variables with sport. Luck also plays a large part. I don’t think many would share such an irrational obsessive thought. Secondly, my behaviour became compulsive and harmful to my well-being. I mean who cares if Aguero starts or not? Not to the point of spending 8 hours trying to find out a slither of information as to whether he will, only to be let down by a journalist “in the know” assuring us he would be benched (serious players know what I’m talking about).

So how did I beat it?

Well, in a sense I didn’t, as I deleted the team. This was arguably avoidance, which is a compulsion with OCD most of the time. But you know what, I didn’t have the energy and I was already battling a much worse obsession. If this would have been the one and only obsession, then I would have faced it. I made the decision as this game was affecting my family, my marraige and other areas of my life. I hated weekends unless my team did well. It was consuming me. So I pulled the plug. It was a relief. I could watch football again not giving two shiny poops who got the assist. Some Saturdays I didn’t even bother to look at the scores until the next day – this would be the equivalent of blasphemy amongst decent FPL players.

The way I approach fantasy football now is simple. I don’t have the time or energy to focus too much on this game, so I don’t. Apart from the Telegraph team, which takes up 30min a week at most, I advise my brother on his FPL team – Top 10k also I might add 😉. But this has been a more ‘brotherly bonding’ type thing following us both facing personal challenges,mine being OCD of course.

Maybe I’ll play again another time. However, until I am fully recovered, if that’s even possible I’m not going to risk it. Especially not for the crappy prizes on offer; I mean at least stump up a bit of prize money FPL. Seriously.

Since deleting the team I have sometimes wondered if any other people have struggled with OCD playing fantasy premier league. It would be interesting to know if anyone can relate to this. Either from an OCD perspective, or just those who struggle to find the balance between playing a game and become overly consumed by it.

Thanks for reading 🙂.

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