Love is a spectator sport where the players are also spectating. We gather friends around the Apple TV while we swipe through potential lovers on Tinder. We consider everyone we swap spit with fair game for public dissection, so long as they do something strange and compelling enough for a viral tweet. Dating app disasters have a place on Tumblr, Instagram, and the shelf at your local Barnes & Noble. (That book, not coincidentally, was written by a former producer of The Bachelor.)
When it comes to love, the line between watcher and player is a slim and blurry one. This year, by jump-starting The Verge’s first Bachelor fantasy league (owing a great debt to Emily Yoshida and her Game of Game of Thrones), we will make it even harder to find.
The Bachelor, a television program in which one man dates anywhere from 20 to 30 women in hopes of marrying one at the end of two months, is now in its 21st season. That’s not counting 12 seasons of The Bachelorette, three seasons of the nihilistic shipwreck show that is Bachelor in Paradise, or three seasons of the ill-advised Bachelor Pad, the only spin-off that involved both emotional trauma and cash prizes. It is not the first reality TV dating show but it is currently the only one that matters. For ABC, the season premiere of a new unlucky-in-love babe’s hasty journey to marriage regularly trounces the competition in ratings. For Lifetime, it inspired a critically acclaimed (at first) and attention-grabbing fictional series about the behind-the-scenes — the producers who manipulate their stars in order to manipulate us, causing catastrophe and occasionally, by accident, love, in the name of good television.
The Bachelor is also social media’s favorite sporting event. Live-tweeting The Bachelor and its many spin-offs is an art form not unlike live-tweeting football or the Oscars, and to capitalize on that fact ABC has just introduced an official fantasy league in tandem with ESPN. Every week, viewers can play with their families, friends, or the “Bachelor Nation” as a whole, competing for points that might eventually net them a trip to the chaotic post-finale special known as After the Final Rose. The game itself is much simpler than fantasy sports you might already be familiar with, as viewers can only place their bets on Bachelor Nick Viall’s final four contestants and his eventual “bride.” And since playing fantasy football often means weighing criminal charges against rushing yards, it’s less of a moral conundrum too!
But here at The Verge we’ll be playing by a different, more complicated set of rules. Because what on earth, my friends, is more complicated than love? In particular, love compounded by the additional factors of cameras, competition, and a 10-year age difference between the Bachelor and most of his lovely suitors. Yes, everyone will behave badly, and Nick — who has slut-shamed an ex-girlfriend on national TV and then needled a close friend about being a virgin on national TV and then gave a chilling speech about his “heart knot” on national TV in hopes it would make us forget about the other stuff — will undoubtedly behave the worst. But all is fair in love and war, something nobody has ever said about football.
Last year, ABC dipped its toes in the fantasy league waters by offering a print-out fantasy league bracket, but we’re going much deeper. The Bachelor mansion is a place where a hot bod doesn’t get you anywhere (because everyone has them!) and only your scheming will save you. It’s a place where it’s acceptable for a dude to kiss 11 women in the same night and then send half of them packing. It’s a place where educated adults with jobs install IV drips of mimosa and then decide to unpack fun topics like third-wave feminism and ABC’s long history of racially biased casting while roasting their bodies in the California sun. It’s a mansion, and everyone is trapped there.
These rules are based on the Rose Buddies podcast, hosted by Rachel McElroy and our sister-site Polygon’s Griffin McElroy. Perhaps the most complicated rules are the rules about drafting contestants. I’ll let my editor, The Bachelor fantasy league expert Chris Plante, explain:
After the first episode, in which the contestants are introduced as they exit a limo in front of the Bachelor mansion, each team drafts three contestants. No two teams may share the same contestant at this point. Contestants are chosen in a snake draft format, so if three teams are competing the drafting order would go Team A, Team B, Team C, Team C, Team B, Team A, and so on, until all three teams have chosen three contestants.
Before each new episode, each team is allowed to deploy their once per season option to swap one contestant from their team for another from the pool of unselected contestants. When a team loses a contestant, they are also allowed to draft a replacement from the pool of unselected contestants.
After the fourth episode, each team must drop down to two contestants; however, from this point forward a contestant may be shared by no more than two teams. For example, if this season, Team A drafted Lauren B. and chose to keep her on its team through Week 4, one other team could choose to draft her beginning at that point. (Don’t worry, Bachelor fans; I don’t have any privileged knowledge giving me reason to believe Lauren B. will any better a contestant than Lauren R., Lauren H., Lauren ‘LB’, or Laura.)
When only four contestants remain, all teams drop to one contestant. Two teams may still share one contestant.
If you’ve watched enough of this show you’ll be able to tell from the jump which women are getting edits that imply they’ll be serious contenders for Nick’s heart or serious contenders for the title of worst-behaved. It is the most time-honored tradition of The Bachelor to make probably very normal women look as though they have the emotional acumen of drunk toddlers. When drafting your team you should keep in mind that the scoring system rewards cruel behavior and sweet behavior equally, as the only objective good in The Bachelor universe is screen-time.
At the end of the season, the team or player with the most points wins, regardless of who predicts Nick’s final choice for everlasting love. Our league winner will receive a bunch of stuff out of the Verge’s supply closet, including pencils, stickers, and FedEx Express envelopes, as well as a bottle of sugarcane liquor that was mailed to the office by a DJ promoter over 18 months ago.
Make Out: +2 extra to a kiss score
Get a rose at Rose Ceremony: +10
Get a rose pre-ceremony: +15
Hot tub: +5
Give the Bachelor a gift: +7
Learn to get over fears: +5
Steal the Bachelor away from another contestant: +5
Actually say “Can I steal you away”: +2
Sports car: +5
Extreme sports: +5
Experience local culture (Destination dates): +5
Refer to own sexual anatomy: +10
Say “is the perfect place to fall in love”: +5
Say “for the right reasons”: +5
Tell the Bachelor you see a future with him: +5
Tell the Bachelor about family: +5
Tell the Bachelor about an ex: +5
Tell the Bachelor you’re in love/falling for him: +10
Crying, tears in eyes, or gently rolling down cheeks: +5
Crying, mega sobbing meltdown: +2 extra
Scream-Fight another contestant: +5
Physical-Fight another contestant +10
Obviously drunk: +5
Swear: +1 (Max +5 per Episode)
Gets nude: +10
Requiring medical attention: +15
Caught with secret boyfriend: +20
Lame Accessory (Once Per Accessory): +3
Exploiting your child: +7
Go on a solo date: -10 (This negative creates a risk / reward for solo dates that reflects the show)
Leave the show voluntarily: –20
Get sent home pre-ceremony: -15
Get sent home at Rose Ceremony: -10
Hometown dates (final four)
Family Approves: +10
Family Neutral: +5
Family Disapproves: -5
Cool Family: +10
Lame Family: -5
Good Date: +5
Lame Date: -5
Fantasy Suite (final three)
Obviously Hooks Up: +15
Stays Overnight: +5
Does Not Stay Overnight: -10
Finale (final two)
Bachelor’s Family Approves: +15
Bachelor’s Family Does Not Approve: -10
Proposal Accepted: +30
Proposal Rejected -10
You can keep your own tallies on paper if you want, or use the helpful Rose Reckoner website to start a league and keep score. Or if you’d rather stay one degree removed from the brutal sport of love, you can just read our weekly recaps on The Verge. Our copy editor Kara Verlaney, news editor Jake Kastrenakes, culture editor Chris Plante, culture reporter / news editor Lizzie Plaugic, science reporter Loren Grush, and yours truly will be facing off for all the marbles.
See you on the court!