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2:20 p.m. - August 29, 2005
Life Is Just A Fantasy...A Football Fantasy
Last night I indulged in an annual rite.

My fantasy football league draft.

Now, before everyone runs away in fear, I know that there’s only one more thing annoying than hearing people talk about their fantasy football team – and I can’t think of it right now. And I’m not going to go into minutiae about this player or that player or the other.

(Don’t worry if you’re not into football or sports, I’ll try to keep this entertaining. Well, as entertaining as my other stuff. Ok, be worried.)

To explain to the novices, fantasy football is a game where you draft a team of NFL players, create lineups, and play games against others in your league using the actual players’ performances from that week. It’s becoming quite popular (which is the understatement of the year) but it still befuddles Liz.

“So you draft these players?”
“And how they do on Sunday is what the scoring is based on?”
“So you’re totally dependent on other people to do well for you to do well, right?
“Does the phrase ‘get a life’ mean anything to you and your friends??”

Ah, gotta love the familial support.

I’ve been involved in fantasy sports since I was in college. I used to be super-serious about fantasy baseball. At one point I was involved in three leagues that cost about $50 per league (which is somewhat small potatoes for some leagues, but still a lot of money to someone right out of college). At one point, I drove to St. Louis to attend the draft of a baseball league. Get a life, indeed!

The main league I that I participated in was based in Columbus, Indiana. So every year in April I would drive down there and spend about 5 to 6 hours of quality time with people who I only saw once a year, and the only thing I had in common with them was that I was in this fantasy league.

These baseball drafts were ‘auction’ style drafts, where you put a player up for bid and then you’d go around the room upping the price. You had a certain dollar limit (the league entry fee) and after a while money got tight and the tension became palpable. Especially for me, since I was the only one who drank any beer during these things. I couldn’t get anyone else to take the edge off. “C’mon, have a beer. Also, you really really want Dana Kiecker, don’t you? Don’t you?”

The drafts were great fun, especially if you were drafting a good team and others were tight on money. Then you got to pile on the snark, and I did load on the snark (imagine that!) In fact, to this day, I could email one guy from this league with just the subject line “Ted Higuera” and I could still send him into a 20-minute rant and rave about it. Heeee!

An important aspect of these leagues is coming up with a clever name for your team. For years I always used the moniker “Smedley” for my team names (now you see where Smed came from – Smedley was a college nickname and Smedley is the name of a tiny spot on the map in Indiana near Salem. There’s a church and a grain depot. Who-hoo!). So for one league I was the Smedley Ghandis. Another the Smedley Gorbies (after Mikhail Gorbachev). A third was the Smedley Gumbies, Damnit! The longest lasting one was the Smedley Gwosdz, named after a catcher named Doug Gwosdz. (It’s pronounced gooosh!) No kidding, his name was Gwosdz. Click HERE and I can prove it! Go ahead, I’m waiting.

But I soon got tired of coming up with variations on that and so I branched out. I’ve named teams after my vacations (when I drove to Alaska I got about three seasons of names from the places I saw in Alaska and the Yukon) and named them after my daughter. (I had a fantasy hockey league team named Katie’s Kitty Cats – we led the league in penalty minutes.)

My current football team is the Alamogordo Mutants. I thought it was apt since it was 60 years ago that we blowed up something real good there in Alamogordo, and boy did that cause a lot of fun around the world, eh?

I’m only really in one pay fantasy league right now – this fantasy football league. I do have some online fantasy baseball and hockey teams but I don’t take them that seriously. Well, by not seriously I only spend 10 to 15 minutes a day futzing with them. See, not serious at all.

The guys in this football league are nice guys – but a little odd. When I ran the stat crew for the Indianapolis Ice (minor league hockey) most of them worked for me (well, it was all volunteer, but I just organized the chaos). Most of them are Butler grads. The scary thing is that while I am a self-proclaimed sports nerd geek-boy – these guys put ME to shame. Actually, there are two wives that play in this league now as well, but only one is active in drafting (and she’s in Nashville and does it remotely, so it’s just all male bonding here).

The fantasy football draft I was in last night was a straight draft – no auctions – just draft when your name came up. But there’s always a lot of smack being talked (especially if people weren’t there and were drafting by phone and the ‘net) and some interesting pop-culture references. I think at least three John Cusack movies were referenced, as well as countless references of Hoosiers, Bull Durham, and other sports movies. But this exchange had the lads in stitches.

“I draft Keenan McCardell, wideout, San Diego.”
“Hey, wasn’t he the original Broadway lead in Annie??”
“No, that was Andrea McCardle, but she was a top pick in the Tony Award Fantasy draft back in the day!”

(Ok, we’re lame…so sue us!)

There were pizza eaten and beers drunk (I was forced to bring Corona, because that’s all we had in the house and in Indiana, you can’t buy beer in a store on Sunday – that’s an entry coming up soon, for sure! Bringing Corona to a fantasy football draft is like serving Spam at an art opening. It don’t fly!) and a good time was had by all. And that’s what’s important – well that and the fact that I’m going to moider all dem bums this year!

Oh, my team? Ladies and gentlemen, your Alamogordo Mutants! (In case you care, and if you’re still reading I think many of you are either just being polite, or your browser is stuck...)

QBs – Trent Green (KC), Drew Brees (SD), Kyle Orton (CHI) – After my three keepers (we get to keep just three players from last years team) Green was my first round pick, and I stole (thieved, absconded) Brees a few rounds later. Many things were thrown at me, but I did not care. Good QBs are a premium, and you don’t want to be stuck with the guy who is going to be trying to sell you financial planning advice in a few years after he’s run out of the league.

RB – LaDanian Tomlinson (SD), Edgerrin James (IND), Michael Bennet (MIN), Stephen Davis (CAR). Tomlinson and James were two of my keepers. I only need the others in case the worst happens (and it did a few years ago, when James and two others of my backs were hurt – I signed everyone. I would have even signed Vicki, because she’s got a big heart and is good in the locker room, amongst other sports clichés, and has some breakaway speed).

WR – Ashlie Lelie (DEN), Terrell Owens (PHI), Derrick Mason (BAL), Eric Parker (SD). I finally decided to make Owens my last keeper, which totally goes against every principle I have in the book. I hate selfish me-first players, because it’s not about THEM. (It’s actually about ME!) I do think that Ashley Lelie has a pretty name, and that made my wife happy.

TE – Dallas Clark (IND), Matt Schobel (CIN). I needed a tight end and I realized that the tight end for the best offense in the NFL was undrafted, so I snuck right in there and snagged him. I love highway robbery.

K – Ryan Longwell (GB), Todd Peterson (ATL). The idea is to get a kicker for a team that won’t be THAT good in that they score a lot of touchdowns, but good enough so they kick a lot of field goals. I have a feeling Green Bay is that team.

DEFENSE – Carolina, Minnesota. You gotta have one. Actually, I think Minnesota may be a better pick. I think if I pick 11 random people in my life, I could come up with a scheme and prevent the Bears from scoring a touchdown, and the Vikings get to play them twice.

Hey, you…wake up. Yeah, you’re the only one still reading this…get outta here!.


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