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As you may or may not know, I dabble in fantasy football, and in fact I dabble in liking football, altogether.
I used to like football a whole lot more than I do now. Up until about 4 or 5, maybe, years ago, I would watch a game or two every Sunday (always pro; I rarely watch college football) and I knew the players and the teams and the coaches and the... I ran out of things that I could know about football teams, there. Logos? Mascots? Stadiums? I don't know.
Starting about 4 or 5 years ago, though, I began to drift away from being a passionate football fan. I'm not sure what started the drift. Getting older, perhaps. New interests, and increased job responsibilities, possibly. Nearly dying by being stung by bees? Probably didn't help.
So I'm at the point now where I watch a game, maybe, each week during the football season, trying to pick out the game that I'd find most interesting if I'm going to watch one, at all, and even then I'm more than willing to give up on the game if it turns sour. Instead of sitting through a dull football game, I'm just as likely to take a walk, or watch a movie, or read The Brothers Karamazov, a book I've been working on for a while now and which I find to be pleasantly like mowing the lawn: something that in theory I think I will not like but then once I get started on it, I find I kind of enjoy it.
This lackadaisical approach to football has allowed me to both grow as a fan -- I now feel free to dislike my favorite team (the Buffalo Bills) and admit that perhaps they are not going to the Super Bowl, without feeling like I'm somehow being disloyal or a bad person. True, by which I mean dumb, sports fans feel like if you are critical of the team at all, it's a heresy, like admitting that maybe your kid isn't the best looking in the class.
(NOTE: MY KIDS ARE, IN FACT, THE BEST LOOKING ONES IN THE CLASS. I JUST SAID THAT TO MAKE YOU ALL FEEL BETTER ABOUT YOUR KIDS).
True, by which I mean, you got it already, right? sports fans think that you have to love your team, and all the players on it, no matter what. Fans like me, on the other hand, can look at their favorite team and say "Well, they haven't been very good in about a zillion years and they probably won't be very good this year, either," and enter the season with a dose of reality that allows us to not claim that there are no hungry children in America.
TRUE STORY: Last year, the Green Bay Packers played the Seattle Seahawks in an actual NFL game that counted in the standings. The Seahawks won on the now-infamous "Worst Call Ever," and Packer fans, including a state legislator previously best known for leading a principled stance against pay cuts for teachers, took to Twitter to demand that the NFL reverse the game. That state legislator, Jon Erpenbach, tweeted that he was going to start a petition drive to the NFL or something like that.
So here's the thing: I felt that the amount of energy and anger directed at a game was disproportionate, to say the least, to the actual impact of that game on anybody's real life. I could understand the actual Green Bay Packers being upset (although really I couldn't because the Packers, while complaining about a bad call that 'cost' them the game somehow ignored the fact that they'd been completely incompetent for the entire game, including giving up, by my count, an infinite amount of sacks of their quarterback, the highest-paid jerk you'll ever see on TV) but I couldn't understand real people being so anguished.
TRUE STORY ASIDE: I once was like that. Once, when the Buffalo Bills lost to the Tennessee Titans in the playoffs on the "Music City Miracle," a loss that came on my birthday, thanks a lot, people who run the Universe, I was anguished for hours, and for about five years after that would badger anyone who listened about how the call was awful. Then, one day, I thought "You know what? It was a game" and I never cared all that much again.So I sent a Tweet to Jon Erpenbach, pointing out that he was using a great deal of amassed political credibility to... affect the outcome of a football game. (Erpenbach had tweeted about almost nothing in the weeks before taking to the Internet to demand that the result of a game be changed.) And I posted a Tweet to Packer fans reminding them that while they were spending all this energy on a game, there were other important things, like, for example, children in Wisconsin starving for lack of food.
To which a Packer fan responded, and. I. Quote: Pretty sure there aren't.
That was pretty much the end of my ever liking Packer fans again: so overwrought over a game that their team, not the refs, lost, they denied that children were suffering from hunger in America.
Although I'm pretty sure that no Packer fan ever goes hungry:
Anyway, I'm not that kind of football fan, not anymore. I like the game, I like the stories about the players and reading about interesting new strategies and human-interest stories, but something about football keeps me from being really engaged in the sport the way I used to be. Maybe it's stories about how NFL coaches like Sean Payton -- last seen encouraging his players to physically injure other players in order to win games, a scheme that netted him a one-year suspension -- spend their year-in-exile trying to crush the spirit of sixth graders:
During his Roger Goodell–mandated suspension from the Saints, Payton spent his time coaching his son's sixth-grade pee wee football team, the Liberty Christian Warriors, who eventually went to the league championship game.
The Warriors lost just two games all season, but both of those losses came against the same team, the Springtown Orange Porcupines.
For those familiar with Sean Payton, it shouldn’t be a surprise that he took this seriously (well, at least mostly seriously). After losing to the Porcupines 38-6 in the regular season, Payton enlisted the help of some rather noteworthy former NFL coaches to help devise a plan that could slow down Springtown Orange's offense.
Want to know who those "rather noteworthy former NFL coaches" were? They were Bill Parcells and Jon Gruden. Charged with instilling a little moral character, football knowledge, and love of the game in some 12-year-olds, Sean Payton opted instead to teach those kids "When life hands you lemons, enlist a billion-dollar consortium of professional contacts to crush the living bejeezus out of a bunch of little kids."
At least the story had a happy ending. In the rematch in the playoffs,
Payton's Warriors lost 58-18.
Good. #(#%&$ you, Sean Payton, Bill Parcells, and Jon Gruden, and every adult involved who thought it appropriate to bring NFL-level money to coaching a sixth grade team. You are what's wrong with sports.
So maybe it was stuff like that, and stuff like the Seahawks' owner Paul Allen owning a yacht that costs $384,000 per week to maintain, and stuff like how last year's playoffs and Super Bowl were largely depicted as a retirement celebration for Ray Lewis, a man who (at best, and keep that in mind, this is the BEST POSSIBLE WAY to depict his involvement) helped cover up a double murder.
That's the BEST POSSIBLE WAY you can depict his involvement. There are other implications, like Ray Lewis helped kill someone. CELEBRATE AWAY!
Maybe it was stuff like that that made me cool off my previous ardor for football, but I still like aspects of the game, which brings me back...
...to fantasy football, and this series of posts: NASSAU UNGRANULATED.
NASSAU UNGRANULATED is the name of my fantasy football league for bloggers. The name was chosen from a list of random words generated by a site that will (for free!) generate a list of random words for you, in case you can't think of any random words yourself. (Hint: You can't. They won't be random.)
I've invited several noteworthy writers and bloggers to take part in the league, and with a joyous cry of enthusiasm, over 90% of them said "Eh. No thanks." But author PT Dilloway took up the gauntlet and joined, which is why he gets a free write-up for his books here:
|When a supervillain's weapon turns Earth's greatest male heroes into its greatest heroines, they enter a whole new world. Can Apex Girl, Velocity Girl, the Mermaid, and Midnight Spectre come together in time to save the world?|
Get "Girl Power" from Planet 99 Publishing for just 99 cents!
That's the pitch for the league. Anyway, whether or not you join -- whether the league fills up or not -- I thought it would be fun (for me, anyway) to blog about my fantasy football team and how I choose players and why and see what I could make of it.
If you've ever read any of my other sports writing, or if you have correctly deduced from the foregoing that I know very little, in fact, about sports, you'll realize that this series of posts will not be very sportsy, at all. My old sports blog used to be billed as "The sports blog for people who hate sports blogs," and you will get very little actual analysis and even less actually helpful analysis, as I'm more prone to look at sports along the lines of which superheroes are sports teams like, or what 1980s one-hit wonder song will be symbolic of a team's season than things like 'power rankings.'
So even if you DON'T like sports, odds are I think you'll find something to like in these posts, and again, if you want to join, DO. Email me. I'm not just saying that because PT is superknowledgeable about football and is going to destroy my team, but that's mostly why I'm saying that. Also, I think we could be friends. Give it a chance.
Anyway, let's get to the meat of this post, which is PICKING MY TEAM'S DRAFT ORDER. I have already set up and named my team, the name being possibly the single most important part of fantasy football for me.
I am in two leagues, counting Nassau Ungranulated, and in my office league my team is called, as it has been for years, "The Battling Extraneous Es", based on the silent-e that fills out my name and makes "Briane" look pretentious, the way the ampersand in Barnes & Noble tells you they'll be out of business by 2015.
But I couldn't use that name in Nassau Ungranulated, because that would be lame and also when it comes to naming things, I usually have many more names than I can apply to something, resulting in my naming something, like a kid or pet or a car, and then immediately thinking "Boy, I wish I'd picked another name, instead," which is what happened the time I named my pet gerbils "Orville & Wilbur" (after the Wright Brothers) and instantly thought of about a zillion other names I could have applied.
(That happened, too, with the youngest boys, whose names are perfectly adequate, but who I sometimes wish had had other names that we liked, too. I get around that by applying nicknames to them, frequently, because they are twins, drawing on pop culture pairings. This week, for example, I have been calling them "Hardcastle & McCormick.")
HA HA HE DOESN'T LIKE THAT BAND AT ALL.
So for my Nassau Ungranulated team name, I picked the single toughest team moniker I could think of.
Did you know that "moniker" came into English usage in 1851? It came from "Shelta," an Irish dialect or creole language? To say "It's good to see you" in Shelta, you would say "Yoordjeele's soonee-in munya."
So the name I picked for my Nassau Ungranulated team is:
Seal Team i,
Which is the roughest, toughest, fightingest, dyingest team of space marines to ever face off against a universal cataclysm brought on by the collapse of all possible multiverses into one. (As shown in the nonfiction account of that event, "The Electronic Fish Tacos From Jupiter Save The Day??!?")
Having chosen a name, I now have to choose which players might be drafted onto my team. Nassau Ungranulated uses an autodraft, so if you're not good at drafting players and/or thinking on your feet, you can have the computer select from a list of players you pre-rank. I wholeheartedly endorse using this system rather than trying to draft your own players. The first year we did an office league, I tried to live-draft my players. The computer gives you 90 second to pick your player, which sounds like a lot of time but which in reality goes superfast, especially if you are, like me, sort of unsure who the players are, so you end up just drafting Peyton Manning over and over again, which is what I tried to do that day, and as a result my team that year had Peyton Manning and a bunch of random players autofilled in by the computer.
So now I pre-rank the players, telling the computer who I like, and, more importantly, who I don't like.
Because fantasy football is all about the fantasy, right? And also all about wanting the players on my team to do well, which is where it gets kind of tough because sometimes the so-called "best" players are horrible people
|July 18, 2007: "NFL star Michael Vick was indicted by a federal grand jury |
Tuesday on charges of sponsoring a dogfighting operation
so grisly the losers
either died in the pit or sometimes
were electrocuted, drowned, hanged or shot."-- ESPN.com
Or they are people who simply annoy me:
|I mean, why would you dump Jessica Simpson, for one thing?|
Or they are awful people:
|Once walked right by a fan without acknowledging her.|
That fan had just come from a chemotherapysession just for a chance to get an autograph.
He will be paid $8 per minute, this year, every minute of every day.
Even while he's sleeping.
So half the fun of fantasy football is, for me, getting to root against people. So here, then, are the top 3 players on my draft board, as well as the top 3 players I opted to tell the computer not to draft under any circumstances, and my reasoning for each.
#1 overall: Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks. This is a tough choice for me, mostly because I think Paul Allen should skip the dying part and just be bodily transmitted into Hell, preferably the part where they do the really ironic tortures. Again: $384,000 per week to maintain his yacht:
But Russell Wilson isn't directly responsible for Paul Allen being a horrible human being who should get spit on if he shows his face in public. (Although Allen gave away $372,000,000 in the most recent year I have records for, he is worth $15,000,000,000. So he gave away 2% of his money. TWO PERCENT.)
Russell Wilson was my fantasy quarterback last year. I picked him after he improbably made the team and then became the starter, an undersized late-round draft pick beating out a high-priced free agent (Matt Flynn) and was therefore quite surprised that he ended up (A) handing me the sweetest victory last year when he got the first-ever game winning interception, and (B) making the playoffs. This year, Russell has negotiated a deal whereby for every touchdown he scores in 2013 (regular and postseason) $2,000 will be donated by Russell Investments to Wilson's charity, "The Power Of Mind Foundation."
FIRST DO-NOT-PICK: Aaron Rodgers. I can't root for the Packers while he's on the team. Seriously, I can't. He is the worst.
#2 Overall: C.J. Spiller, RB, Buffalo: The thing about having a favorite team, like the Bills and me, is that in fantasy football you almost have to pick at least a few of the players from your favorite team, don't you? I feel like I have to have at least one representative Bill on my team.
The thing about liking the Bills, though, and having one of them on your team is that the Bills are really, really, a bad team. They're not enjoyably bad, like the 0-16 Detroit Lions who at least set a record for awfulness and futility, they're just mediocrely bad, managing to eke out 6 or 7 or 8 or even sometimes 9! wins in a season -- but with a good percentage of those wins coming when they no longer matter because the Bills are out of the playoffs/
This year, one of the Bills' players tweeted "Everyone in this locker room thinks we can make the Super Bowl," and I thought: I'm not so sure about that. I mean, I am sure that the Bills won't make the Super Bowl, or even the playoffs, but I'm not sure that everyone on the team thinks the opposite. I think the veterans, for one, are saying "Well, you know, I've been around this team for 7, 8 years, and we're really bad."
But I'm picking Spiller because (A) The Bills have a rookie quarterback, EJ somebody or other, who was, I believe, picked as the worst quarterback in the draft by many experts, and (B) EJ won the job over "Kevin Kolb," an Arizona Cardinals reject who lost his starting position by tripping over a floor mat, and (C) the Bills' brain trust recently said that the Bills' offensive plan is:
"...real simple: We're going to give [Spiller] the ball until he throws up."
I don't know if that's good or bad football but it's awesome quoting.
Second Do-Not-Pick: Tom Brady. Once a cheater, always a cheater. Signing Touchdown Jesus
to your roster doesn't absolve you of past sins. But who'd have thought that cheating his way to Super Bowls wouldn't turn out to be all that serious of a crime, when put into context? By which I mean that the Patriots* didn't stop at Videogate but instead seemed to be harboring a serial killer: Aaron Hernandez, former Patriot*, stands accused of something like three murders, all of which were committed during his NFL career.
Can you say "Hard Knocks/Dexter crossover?" Because I already did, so if you use that idea you owe me royalties.
#3 OVERALL PICK: Montee Ball, RB, Denver. Montee is from Madison, and despite having some legal troubles over his last year as a Badger-- people kept jumping him and causing fights but it totally was not retaliation for Montee starting fights earlier, guys -- I'm picking him because The Boy, our third youngest (or third-oldest) ran into Montee on The Boy's 21st birthday, and The Boy likes Montee, and The Boy didn't go up to talk to Montee, being too shy, maybe, so I'm the kind of parent who wants to have his running back do well so I can keep saying to The Boy "Hey, you could've met that guy, you know."
That's how kids learn.
THIRD DO-NOT-PICK: Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons. I wanted to put Joe Flacco's Eyebrows in at this slot, but after going through the top 100 players on the NFL draft board, I couldn't find Flacco to mark him as someone I didn't want on my team, so apparently NFL.com doesn't think that Flacco is a top-100 fantasy quarterback.
So instead I put Matt "Matty Ice" Ryan, who not only quarterbacks the single-most-boring team in the entire NFL -- seriously, Atlanta is the Ambien of football teams -- but also has a seriously stupid nickname. "Matty"? What is that? I hate when they call grown men by kid names like that. Except for the time Sweetie, who was then a Peyton Manning fan, called him "My Peytie," which I kind of liked.
There you go: four weeks to go before the season, and my team's all set. Stay tuned for further updates. And just to finish off the post, let's have:
The Football-Related Song Of The Week:
"Aaron Rodgers Tribute: I Could Be Your Jordy," by Sleeping Berries Three, a Wisconsin indie band. Even if you don't like football, this song is both awesome and inspirational:
Supervillain of the Week Who I Will Awkwardly Shoehorn Into A Football Metaphor:
"Human Flying Fish":
From Wikipedia: "One of Aquaman's major enemies, the Human Flying Fish was Vic Bragg, a human physically altered to breath underwater and survive the depths of the ocean while employing a suit which additionally provided flight through the air. His protege was Sardine."
Human Flying Fish was the brainchild of "Dr. Krill," who studied Aquaman's crime-fighting techniques and concluded that the only way to get away with crimes on water would be if you could fly away afterwards.
(NOTE: I would have guessed the opportunities to commit 'crimes on the water' would be more limited than 'crimes on the land,' but maybe Dr. Krill was just filling a niche.)
Comicvine.com says that Aquaman was, in fact, briefly stymied by this unique getaway, but came up with "clever methods" to thwart it. They don't specify those methods, but let's guess:
Anyway, "Human Flying Fish" is a metaphor for the "read-option offense," the offense that Sean Payton had to call in every single Super Bowl winning coach ever just to cope with at the 6th grade level. The 'read option' is what made Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick, and RGIII so successful last year, and is the hot new offense the way the "Spread" offense was once, and the West Coast offense was once and the Run-and-Shoot was once, and Air Coryell was once and so on and my guess is not only will most NFL teams not run the "Read Option" this year but you won't ever hear the phrase again after 2013, unless it's in the sentence "Hey, what was that 'read option' thing again?"
But you WILL hear it this year. Sports people are going to keep saying Read Option until you throw up.