Why Bears tight end Cole Kmet hates fantasy football
When Bears tight end Cole Kmet was growing up in Lake Barrington, a few buddies asked if he'd be interested in joining a fantasy football league.
Sure. Why not? Sounds like a blast.
The 13-year-old Kmet studied a bit and was ready to go on draft day. He remembers grabbing guys like Niners tight end Vernon Davis, Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson and ...
"I always tried to get Tom Brady," Kmet said. "That was my guy.
"I thought it was fun. You get all the friends together and pick your players. I definitely had a good time with it."
Now he hates it.
We'll get to why in a moment.
For those who don't know, fantasy football got its start when Wilfred Winkenbach came up with the idea in 1962. A limited partner with the Raiders, Winkenbach and seven others formed their first league for the 1963 season.
My first brushes with the game came in 1983 when I heard about an eighth-grade teacher in Stamford, Connecticut running a league for his students. A seventh-grader at the time, I couldn't wait until the next year to join.
That day never came, however, as my dad got transferred back to Chicago in May 1984.
A decade later, I joined my first league in Sterling, Illinois and remain a member to this day.
Fantasy football is fantastic for forming friendships and keeping those bonds tight over the years.
It does, of course, have some flaws. And that's especially true if you're a die-hard football fan.
After all, what self-respecting Bears fan would draft Brett Favre or Aaron Rodgers, plug them into a lineup and cheer for all those Packers touchdowns?
Talk about blasphemy.
This was the route I figured Kmet would take when I asked why he now despises fantasy football.
Instead, he ran a reverse on me.
"I think it clouds how people watch football," said Kmet, now in his third season with the Bears. "If you're into fantasy, you're not really watching football for what it is because it is a team sport.
"At the end of the day, you can't get mad at a guy that gets three targets in a game, but the team rushes for 280 yards. Or you're mad at a running back because the team's throwing 50 times a game.
"There's nothing he can do. He's just doing his job."
It's an interesting point.
The Bears are obviously a fantastic example when it comes to one of Kmet's biggest gripes with fantasy -- that you can't tell how good a receiver is based totally on his numbers.
Now, granted, we all can agree that guys like Miami's Tyreek Hill, Minnesota's Justin Jefferson, Las Vegas' Davante Adams, the Los Angeles Rams' Cooper Kupp, Dallas' Cee Dee Lamb and Kansas City's Travis Kelce are otherworldly pass catchers.
Nobody is going to put the Bears' Darnell Mooney, Dante Pettis or Equanimeous St. Brown -- or Kmet, for that matter -- in the same sentence with those guys.
Kmet gets that. But he also wants everyone to appreciate the talent level of the under-the-radar players.
"For someone to say, 'Oh, this guy's a better receiver because he has more fantasy points,' that doesn't make sense to me at all," Kmet said. "I watch the film and you see guys who are really talented and they may not get the same touches as some guys on other teams.
"People get clouded with, 'This guys puts up stats' and they equate that to, 'He's a better player than so and so.'
"There's a lot of talented guys across the league where if they were in a different offense they would be producing a lot more."
For the record, Kmet ranks as the sixth-highest scoring tight end in my league. He's really lit it up the last six weeks with 260 yards and 5 TDs. Only Kelce has more fantasy points over that time frame.
Plenty of friends and family have Kmet on their teams and hope he keeps it up as the fantasy playoffs are on the horizon.
And, yes, his phone will light up now and then with a "oh, you saved me in fantasy" text after a big game.
"That wasn't my purpose going into the game, to save you in fantasy," Kmet says, chuckling "But that's cool. Good to hear."