A couple of months ago, my friend Sumant Bhat, sends me an email requesting my participation in a fantasy football league over which he would preside. Now, I will be the first to tell you that Fitzgerald does not complete the first football triumvirate of Lombardi and Parcells, but I know my fair share about the sport, so I decide to join. Hey, why not, it’ll be fun.
My first warning that I may be in a little over my head comes a couple of days later when Commissioner Bhat (yes, when I signed my Fantasy contract, the first clause was a stipulation that he be referred to as such) sends an e-mail detailing the rules of the league. My first reaction is to grab the Course Catalog and look for FANT 101: The Rules (trying to understand the rules is tricky to say the least, somewhat like trying to understand social psychology. You would think that because you are a football fan and, in the case of social psychology, a social creature, that it should merely be common sense. Not so fast, my friend. As my standing, in both the league and the class, indicates, that is not the case). Despite my reservations, I decide to continue on. I’m sure I’ll just learn as I go along.
As the draft approaches, Commissioner Bhat sends another email decreeing Sept. 5 as draft night, offering some helpful hints and encouraging all the participants to “do some research.” This is a bit unsettling, because I have a hard time discerning whether or not he is serious. “Research” for fantasy football? I didn’t even do “research” for my history research paper. The most “researching” I have done all year is to “research” the day’s activities so I can decide between boxers and boxer briefs ? a decision which should not be underestimated. Research? Who is he kidding?
Excitement, albeit short-lived, fills the air as the draft night approaches. As soon as I arrive I get the feeling that I would be better off simply handing over my $30 entry fee and leaving in order to save myself the embarrassment.
As I look around the room, I come to the realization that I am the only one without the necessary “draft materials.” There are some guys with fantasy football magazines. I read Sports Illustrated and occasionally ESPN: The Magazine, but Fantasy Football Weekly? Not so much.
Other guys have Excel printouts of the prospective draftees! Three-fourths of these guys don’t come this prepared to any class all year. As I lean over to Owner Crotty to innocently ask whom he is thinking about drafting, he returns a glare like I just asked to sleep with his sister, which, come to think of it? Ok, calm down. Give it a chance.
Still trying to gather my bearings, I hear the words, “Fitzy, you are on the clock.” I’m on the what? Suddenly, I know what it is like to be in the “hot seat” on Love Cruise. What, am I going to lose my turn if I can’t decide in 60 seconds? This is fantasy football, not “Wheel of Fortune!” With the seventh pick, I take Randy Moss. Seemed like a logical pick at the time. Little did I know he was going to be on leave for the fall semester. The hard part is over. Just roll with the punches.
After a few more rounds, my problems begin to grow like my affinity for Nelly Furtado ? quickly. As the draft continues, players are being selected whose names are foreign to me. This, I decided, is not a good thing. Meanwhile, with each player I select, the other owners let out a collective, sympathetic groan. Hey, what do they know? Stick to your guns.
Well, after a couple of weeks, it would be fair to say that West Coast Love (my team) has not quite hit its stride. My quarterback, Brian Griese, has been reasonably helpful, except for the fact that he is permanently listed as questionable for the games. Sounds like my status for class (Professor Burger: “So, John I will see you on Thursday?” Me: “Well, actually I am questionable right now. I am a little tired, but if I get a good night’s sleep, I might be upgraded to probable”).
My starting backfield is, or was, Terrell Davis (risky, but I am a Denverite) and James Stewart. As it turns out, Terrell seems to have the same problem with his knees that I have with girls: there is obviously a problem, but that problem is hard to pinpoint, so they (his knees, of course) aren’t seeing any action.
James Stewart is a bit like Colonial Pizza, the best option on a bad list, but terrible in reality (the calzones however, for my money, are the best six bucks spent in Williamstown).
After much deliberation, and after he denies my request to refund half of my entry fee on the grounds that I quit on the spot, I decide to petition Commissioner Bhat to institute fantasy futbol, whereby I can actually start soccer players.
I submit a lineup in Week 3 with Alex Blake and Stacey Starner in my backfield, but the Commish vetoes that on the grounds that I would have an unfair advantage. It’s still early. Things might turn around.
The funny, and perhaps disturbing, thing about this is that Fantasy Football now consumes me. I lay in bed at night thinking of trades. When I get back to my room, I no longer check my email; I check the status of my players.
Someone famous, most likely a social psychologist, once said, “People desire most that which they cannot have.”
After my latest trade fell through, I have decided, though I hate to admit it, that it might not be such a bad thing to have a greater purpose on this earth than to win a fantasy football championship. But then again, there’s always next year.