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Beyond the Boxscore

Arian Foster's irregular heartbeat exposes berserk fantasy football culture: Perspective? Not tolerated

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Arian Foster Vikings alone
Arian Foster left the Texans game with an irregular heartbeat. Photo by Michelle Watson/CultureMapSnap
Christian Ponder pressure
Who cares what Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder did? It's not like anyone has him on their fantasy football team. Photo by Michelle Watson/CultureMapSnap
Arian Foster Vikings alone
Christian Ponder pressure
News_Chris Baldwin_managing editor_arms crossed

One would hope that word that an irregular heartbeat is what drove all-pro tailback Arian Foster from the Houston Texans lineup in a crucial game would put football in perspective.

But let's be real. All those Mayan doomsday soothsayers had a better chance of being right.

"It's pretty scary," left tackle Duane Brown says. "I didn't know what was going on until I had a chance to talk with him a little. You don't ever want to see your guy go out like that. It's pretty scary."

It is — and it probably still won't stop irate fantasy football owners from spewing hate in Foster's direction for not coming up huge in their twisted version of "championship week." There were plenty of tweets like this one from a fan: "I wonder how many people lost their fantasy football championships because Arian Foster decided to play like a bitch today."

 "You could just tell that something was a matter. He was trying to work through it, but you could tell." 

For his part, Foster insists he will be all right and it's all no big deal. Just like the 12-3 Texans will be if they win at Indianapolis next Sunday and render this 23-6 home loss to the 9-6 Minnesota Vikings relatively meaningless. At least in terms of real football.

"I’ll be fine," Foster said in a quote delivered by the Houston Texans PR department (Foster had left the locker room by the time reporters arrived). "I’ll be OK. It’s a very minor situation, so I’ll be OK."

Houston's offense wasn't OK without the NFL's rushing touchdown leader when it tried to score on a first-and-goal series from the 1-yard line in the third quarter.

With Foster the lone player sitting on the offensive bench a little removed from the sideline, the Texans turned that opportunity into a fourth-and-15, squandering a chance to pull within six points. They'd never seriously challenge in the game again.

After the game, Texans coach Gary Kubiak said Foster was essentially cleared to return later but the coach decided not to risk it.

"It's probably not fair for me to try and explain it to you," Kubiak says. "I just know that it's happened before to him at practice. He calms down and he's fine.

"They told me there was a point where they said he's OK and I said, 'No we'll let Ben (Tate) and Justin (Forsett) take it. I don't see any issues here.' "

Even before Foster went to the bench and then the locker room, right tackle Derek Newton says it was obvious something wasn't right with No. 23. Newton wasn't going off Foster's stat line: 10 carries for 15 yards.

He was basing it on Foster's look and demeanor.

"You could just tell that something was a matter," Newton says. "He was trying to work through it, but you could tell."

Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson says Foster seemed recovered by the time he ran into him after the game.

"He seemed fine when I was walking in the locker room after the game and he was walking out," Johnson says.

An irregular heartbeat appears to just be something Foster deals with — and pretty successfully based on his career stats. Not that this is going to pacify an enraged fantasy nation.

The whole phenomenon of treating professional athletes like chess pieces in your personal game, with a large segment of fans rooting for players solely based on how their stats help a fan show superiority over his buddies, isn't going to go away anytime soon. If ever.

Fantasy football's a huge reason for another recent jump in the NFL's ever-increasing popularity. Foster himself is one of the few players who's taken on the fantasy establishment, daring to point out some of the basic absurdities in the whole thing.

Fantasy Football No. 1 

In another bit of real-world news that threatened to put football in perspective, the Texans silent gameday auction of memorabilia ended up raising $34,400 for the Sandy Hook Support Fund. With Texans owner Bob McNair vowing to match the amount raised, the total jumps to $68,800 for the shooting victims.

Of course that probably doesn't mean as much as fantasy football titles to some.

 As if Arian Foster went into the Texas night, singing Christmas carols himself. As if it doesn't bother him even more. As if it isn't his body. 

"I officially hate Arian Foster. Gave me zero points in my fantasy championship. You'll never play for me again son." That tweet came from Brian Pearson, a fan who identifies himself as an assistant basketball coach at Amory High School in Mississippi. And it came long after the irregular heartbeat news was out.

News flash: Arian Foster never played for you. And he's not your son.

You could pick out hundreds of tweets like that one with ease though.

It's all par for the course in the modern day NFL. As if Arian Foster went into the Texas night, singing Christmas carols himself. As if it doesn't bother him even more. As if it isn't his body.

"He was frustrated because he wants to be out there on the field playing," Johnson says. "You just hate to have something like that happen during the game."

Let's not get crazy Andre. Let's remember what really matters. What Arian Foster did to thousands of couch potatoes he doesn't know.

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