It’s predicted that over 30 million people per year participate in some form of fantasy sports, be it football, baseball, NASCAR, hockey, or death row inmates.
Being a novice at the whole fantasy sports thing, this year I thought I’d give football a try. Now, I’ve always been a football fan, but usually only when it concerns my hometown team, the Denver Broncos. My favorite sport is and has always been baseball, and my inner jock can wax intellectual for hours about how WHIP (Walks plus Hits divided by Innings Pitched) is a more useful statistic than ERA (Earned Run Average), and why Barry Bonds doesn’t deserve the title of “Home Run King.”
But I decided this would be the year I’d finally try fantasy football.
Like a kid waiting for that last bell at the end of a school day, I waited for our draft day to come. I was amazed by the resources available at my fingertips. Statistics, pre-draft rankings, projected stats for the season, it’s like I was a real general manager about to field a team for the first time.
So, 15 rounds of the draft flew by, and I was left with…nothing. Except “America’s Sweetheart,” Terrell Owens. But somehow, I managed to win my first game, and another, and another, until miraculously I stood alone in first place with a 4-0 record.
Now, for those unfamiliar with how fantasy football is played, let me lay it out for you. You have your quarterback, two wide receivers, two running backs, a tight end, a kicker, and a defense. In some leagues you might have a special teams unit (for kick and punt returns), but the guys in my league decided against it.
A points system is devised to award points for the performance of your players, usually based on yards gained, touchdowns scored, etc, while points are taken away for turnovers and lost yardage. So it’s not uncommon for scores to look like those of basketball games (the high scorer last week won 125-91).
The object is to put the top performers out every week, and hope for the best.
At first I was amazed at how much playing fantasy football made me become more interested in the sport itself. I found myself tuning in to ESPN to watch late-night highlights, or listening to the rumor mill for who is going to be out in the coming week, etc. I would watch games I have absolutely no interest in, just to catch the stat ticker at the bottom of the screen. Now all of this is just part of my weekly routine.
My team, “Off Constantly,” has been slumping recently, going 1-2 over the last three weeks. But coming in to this week’s games, I still find myself as one-half of a two-way tie for first place with a 5-2 record (just like my Broncos).
Some of you are probably wondering why I chose a team name like “Off Constantly.” Well, I came in to the season not expecting to win many games, so to exact a little revenge, I named my team this. Picture it this way: “Hey Chuck, who’d you beat this week?” “I beat…” yeah, you get the idea. A little crude, but funny nonetheless.
The guy I’m playing this week keeps assuring me that five wins at this point in the season should be enough for a playoff berth, which is all that really matters. I think he keeps telling me this because he’d like to mop the floor with me and take over first place for himself, but what can you do?
He keeps telling me I should play all my backups, because he has a “good feeling” about it. Right, and I was born yesterday.
This kind of gamesmanship is yet another facet of fantasy football. Some teams are very evenly matched, so everyone is constantly looking for an edge, whether it’s by talking smack, or giving intentionally bad advice on which players to add to your roster. One usually doesn’t know who to trust in situations like that, so a player is basically on his/her own when making roster decisions. It’s very Machiavellian.
But I just keep plugging away at my season, hoping I can win the league championship, coming out of the very strong Kramer division, as opposed to the weaker Newman division, playing in the MDFL (Monk’s Diner Football League, the commissioner is a huge Seinfeld fan). The prize for winning it all this year is about $100. Not much on the grand scale of things, but I could really use the beer money.