Originally published Monday, December 17, 2018 at 06:58p.m.

Millions of anxious fans are now watching their fortunes rise or fall in the annual fantasy football playoffs.

Although fantasy competition is based on actual performances in the NFL, it operates in a way that is fundamentally different from real life. In fantasy sports, allegiance to teams means nothing; individual players are all that matter.

In fantasy football, each participant creates a roster by selecting individual players from among the NFL’s 32 real teams. So, your quarterback might be from the Green Bay Packers, while your wide receiver is from the Dallas Cowboys. Your score is based on how well each of your players performs in real games, without regard to the final outcome -- in this case for the Packers or Cowboys.

The NFL and other major sports leagues love this approach -- so much so that most teams actively support, and even invest in, companies that operate fantasy games. Why? Because the leagues are more financially stable and fans are more engaged. Nowadays, the sum of the players is greater than the sum of the teams.

If you are a San Francisco fan, for example, you’ve pretty much lost interest by now in the 49ers’ miserable season, with just four wins and 10 loses. But if you’re lucky enough to have the team’s star tight end George Kittle on your fantasy roster, you’re still engaged, and loving it.

Moreover, many fantasy players bet with their hearts as well as their wallets. If you don’t like the off-field behavior of a particular player, or the politics of a given NFL owner, you can ignore them in your fantasy world.

Donald Trump would not fare well in fantasy sports. He rejects globalism and declares himself a nationalist. He would not want his team to have a running back from Mexico or a place kicker from Haiti. While his goal would be to Make The Trumpsters Great Again, his exclusionary strategy would likely leave him in last place.

If I were making a fantasy political team, I would draft a player like outgoing Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake. In real life, however, Flake’s contrary positions on several key issues, such as immigration, made him unwelcome on the Republican team.

I’d include departing Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, a moderate Democrat who lost her bid for re-election in a state where voters elected Donald Trump by an incredible 19 points. She exits noting that too many of her colleagues have become “poll-driven and scripted.”

I’d probably give a spot on my team to Republican Mia Love, who earned the wrath of Donald Trump and paid the price when Utah voters were unwilling to send her back to the House of Representatives. She warns: “We cannot fall into the trap of thinking that there are Democratic issues and Republican issues.”

My fantasy squad would even dip into the real football world and select Colin Kaepernick as its quarterback. Having committed the sin of dropping to a knee during the national anthem to protest police killings of unarmed black men, Kaepernick has been blackballed by NFL owners for two years. Well, he’s got a spot on my team.

Imagine, as John Lennon might have said, if there were no political parties, no exclusionary clubs, and no sports teams that willingly hire wife-beaters but exile a person for simply taking a knee.

The best part about my team is that it isn’t a team at all. It’s simply a band of solid citizens, willing to put principle before party. Nothing fanciful about that.

Peter Funt is a writer and speaker. His book, “Cautiously Optimistic,” is available at Amazon.com and CandidCamera.