Last night was draft night for a fantasy football league that I’ve joined for the first time. My brother has been in this league for several years and they decided to expand this year, so I finally got a spot in it. About half the people in the league I knew socially before the draft, and the other half I didn’t know at all or only by appearance, so while I was the new guy, I wasn’t completely unknown. As one of the guys I knew fairly well in the group said when I walked in, “The smartass quotient just went up. And whatever you do, don’t play poker with this guy.” This is gonna be fun.
There are two things you need to know about fantasy football. The first is that I used to make fun of people who played it. I thought it was stupid and pointless. Until I realized the second thing you need to know about it – it’s not really about the football. Fantasy football, in reality, is nothing more than competitive trash talking. Since pithy and caustic comments are as innate to me as grasping and suckling are to an infant, how could I resist? And as I found out last night, this league is, in the sarcasm department, a target rich environment.
For those of you who have never experienced a fantasy football draft, let me give you a few of the archetypes you are bound to run into:
The College Uber-Fan: This is the guy who is hopelessly devoted to a college football team, so devoted that he will pick any NFL player that played for said college even if they’re the 4th string punt returner. In this league, we are blessed with two of those, one a Michigan State fan (his team name is Spartans) and the other a Michigan fan (team name: Wildcats. Why? Well, he drinks a lot).
The Confident Idiot: This is the guy who consistently makes picks that leave everyone else scratching their heads. When you derisively ask him how on earth he could pick the rookie 5th rounder ahead of his perennial pro bowl teammate, he just smugly says, “You’ll see” and implies that he has some super secret knowledge of the situation that you’ll never know. This is similar to those people who are into the Kabbalah and claim an esoteric understanding that the rabble will never have. It goes without saying that this guy’s team always sucks worse than an evening with Yoko Ono.
The Drunk Idiot: This is the guy (some leagues have more than one, of course) who is already down a dozen beers before the draft begins, can’t keep track of who is picking next, who has already been picked, or who may have retired years ago or even died. In our league, this is the guy who last year picked Fuad Reveiz as his kicker. Mr. Reveiz retired. In 1995.
The Chick: I know, I know, it’s not politically correct. But it is situation-appropriate because fantasy football is a quintessentially male activity, if only because most women are smart enough to avoid such pointless pursuits. If your league has a chick in it, it’s a safe bet that the chick falls into one of two categories – she’s either “one of the guys” (a woman who fits in with the men because she’s not easily offended and she can likely kick half their asses), or she’s the wife of one of the guys who can’t bear the thought of not “sharing” everything together, and he’s too much of a jellyfish to tell her she can’t play because she doesn’t know anything about football.
As it turns out, neither of those is really true in our league. The token chick, Dawn, is the league commissioner, but I think they picked her for that because she types faster than the rest of them combined. And while she is the wife of one of the guys in the league (newlyweds to boot), she’s not at all one of those high-maintenance “we have to do everything together” wives. She’s the kind of wife who rides a motorcycle (they honeymooned at the Sturgis Road Rally) and doesn’t care when Chas blows four grand on a Harley Davidson golf cart because it looks cool. By the way, Chas and Dawn are about the two least biker-like bikers you’ll ever meet, but unlike most suburban biker types, they do have real motorcycles, not Honda Goldwings with all the lights and reflectors on them (Oh Christmas Bike, Oh Christmas Bike…). But one of these days I’m still going to buy them matching leather jackets that say “Hell’s Title Examiners” on the back.
Now, having said all that, it still has to be said that Dawn is pretty bad at fantasy football. While I have to give her credit for maintaining a plucky demeanor in the face of a barrage of Martha Stewart jokes, it still wasn’t a good idea to use the #2 pick in the entire draft on Tiki Barber.
The Smartass Commentator: As you might have guessed, that’s me. He keeps up a running commentary most of the night, busting on people for some of their picks, but not all – he’s quick to praise a pick, especially when someone nabs a guy just before he was going to. He also needles the people who are taking too long to make a pick, primarily to goad them into making a really bad pick, which affords him the opportunity to say, “You wasted all that time to end up with Brian Griese? Did he even make a team this year?” The Smartass Commentator’s success is measured not so much in how he drafts, but in how many times during the night he hears, “Hey, fuck you, man”. He also makes most of the requisite jokes. Some of my favorites from last night:
When Eddie George was picked #1 overall (no, I’m not making that up): “And the first player with prescriptions for both Viagra and Geritol is off the board. Didn’t he break a hip?”
When the aforementioned chick picked Tiki Barber with the #2 overall pick (no, I’m not making that up either): “He must be cute”
When Jason picks Morten Anderson as his kicker: “George Blanda was unavailable?”
When drunk guy inquires who Ki-Jana Carter plays for this year: “He’s backing up Rashan Salaam for the Bismarck Roughriders”
When Onterrio Smith (currently serving a drug suspension) is picked to backup Jamal Lewis (currently under indictment for drug trafficking): “You should rename your team Supply and Demand. Bet you can’t wait for Ricky Williams to un-retire.”
So how did my draft go? Pretty darn well, all in all. It’s a keeper league, so all of the folks who played last year got to keep up to 3 of their players, one of whom could be a running back. So all the obviously great players were already gone before I could draft, especially the running backs. Given that, it is only through the sheer incompetence of the people drafting ahead of me (Eddie George and Tiki Barber 1 and 2? Have they lost their minds?) that I managed to get Domanick Davis and Chris Brown as my starting running backs, two quality starters. My starting wide receivers will likely be Santana Moss (I predict a career year if Pennington stays healthy), Steve Smith and Rod Smith. I can certainly live with that. I nabbed the first kicker, Mike Vanderjagt, in the 7th round. He hasn’t missed a field goal since the middle pleistocene. I also got William Green as a backup running back (“The first stabbing victim is off the board”). My starting QB is Marc Bulger, who puts up consistently big numbers, and in the last round I picked up his backup as my backup, the partially-petrified Chris Chandler (I know, he’s so old that when he was a boy the bible only had 4 books in it because the rest hadn’t happened yet, but he’s seen it and done it all and is still capable of big numbers through sheer guile and experience if Bulger goes down).
Overall, I’m pretty happy with my team. Now I just have to wait for the league commissioner to get all the picks entered into the computer so we can fire up the message board and let the real smack talking begin.