Mar 11, 2008

Fantasy versus real life

by Jen Slothower

During my senior year of high school, I was addicted to the Madden football video game.  Although I claim full allegiance to the New England Patriots, Tom Brady is not exactly a speedy quarterback (in my family, we call him “the water buffalo”), so I picked the team with the fastest quarterback in the league.  That left me with Michael Vick and the Atlanta Falcons.
Vick was heaven for a gamer — he scampered around, outrunning linemen and slipping past tackles, flicking off left-handed passes and diving into the end zone.  With me at the helm, he broke every NFL record.  My team was undefeated. We won the Super Bowl.
Alas, life is not like video games, as much as we may wish it was.  This past NFL season taught me that all too well.
First, Vick disappointed a generation of fans, dogs and gamers with his well-documented demise before the season started.  However, for a Patriots fan like me this season was surreal, for the most part.
During week 14 or so, I turned to my brother and said, “14-0?  Can you believe this?  It just doesn’t seem real.”
Perfect seasons are easy enough in Madden, but real life is another story.

While the world is wasting away — spiritually or otherwise — people sidetracked by their vices seem content to check their Facebook, delve into the lives of TV or novel characters, conquer Halo or overhaul their fantasy lineup rather than addressing the real issues of life and helping people in need.<p>
People unable to look outside the bounds of their everyday lives find themselves disadvantaged in finding the true meaning of life and motivated only when tragedy takes the control out of their hands.
People have always looked for distractions from the pressures of life.
Money is the trick sometimes. Another is the love and gratification from pleasing people or being well known.
The Internet has only made means of escape and methods of control all the stronger.  Personal blogs and fantasy teams are just the beginning.
In moderation, these different avenues provide recreation and rejuvenation.  In excess, however, they impair a person from grasping the reality of life and acting accordingly.
The root of all this, of course, dates back to the Garden, where mankind began putting what they felt was good at the time above that which endures.  Control — the ability to know good and evil — pushed Adam and Eve to their actions, and the same basic attitude prevails today.
This is not condemnation against video games or money — for all can be used well.  When using these things that can be beneficial, however, one must remember moderation, always moderation, lest the habits spin out of control and take away the reality of life.
Whether people realize it or not, often diversions such as video games or “life” seen on TV function only as an escape from reality. They are a way for people to try to control some form of life since they cannot determine their own.
My beloved New England Patriots snapped actual NFL records this season — unlike my animated Falcons team — and they ran all the way to the Super Bowl.  Then, disaster struck, and Brady was left with the ball and less than a minute to go to conquer the field.
I had played this scenario many times in Madden.  My two wide receivers ran posts while the halfback streaked up the middle of the field.  Thirty-five yards there, then a timeout.  Curl pass to the left.  Timeout.  Post in the end zone, touchdown, game over.  If any step did not work, trick the computer by shutting the game down and trying again.  19-0.  Super Bowl champions.
Brady’s fourth pass went into the air, and I bartered with the football gods that I would give up all my undefeated Falcons seasons if only. . . .  Incomplete.  Game over.  18-1.
Worse than a lost game, however, is all the lost time over the months I have spent learning to be a champion of video games and fantasy leagues when I have not even learned how to master real life.
Hey, there’s always next season.

Contact Jen Slothower at

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