Trials of a Closet Fantasy Football Maven
By Evan Benton
Week 1: Introduction; Hi, My Name is Evan and This is My Life Every Sunday
Influenced by my trip to England that I undertook three days ago and am still experiencing, I have decided to use the word maven to describe my title as returning champ of my fantasy football league, the Mid-Atlantic Football League (MAFL), started by Patrick Wall and having undergone several titles and descriptions since its inception in the fall of 2007, our sophomore year at University and the first year I started to really get into the game itself. Maven can mean both expert (or doyen, which is awesome) as well as pundit and devotee. I’d like to define myself in this case as something of a devoted expert.
I finished fourth, or fifth – I figured that if you weren’t even third place, which was nothing by itself, there was no reason to even have a number – that first year, but it did something to me. I started to care a great deal about the most formulaic and useless attributes of the game itself – its stats. I started to count the number of my starting quarterback’s passing yards because every twenty-five in our league meant a point. I began to telepathically beg Rams’ back Steven Jackson to get me ten points or more a game – as he himself promised week after week on his own fantasy blog on the ESPN (our carrier) website – but he never really listened. These stats became more important than the game itself – something I knew but ignored, but then in the MAFL’s third season would say was an excuse for my pathetic record – and that was just fine that year because I knew nothing about the game to really even care about it. But I still had to learn.
Learning as I went was tough in itself – everyone seemed to know something I didn’t – but in truth there was a relaxation in knowing that it didn’t matter how well I did, because I wasn’t a big fan like my insane college friends. I didn’t need to get attached; it meant nothing.
But, deep down, it did. And the next year – my junior year of single activity, debauchery, pouring wine out my window ten stories into the mouth of a screaming vandal, and my own room – gave me free time and a solitary wish to be damn good at everything I did. I began to take more interest in the things that made fantasy football the incredibly addictive and fascinating product it is: the waiver wire, tips from “the experts”, trash-talking friends, and secretly yearning that the best friend you smile to in person will, through the internet, take a dive bomb in points week in a week out.
I won that year – 2008, and it’s great to know that it wasn’t my first victory – and for the weeks leading up to Christmas had to battle between my mind and heart as to whether or not to put in the aging workhorse LaDainian Tomlinson as my number one RB, or his speedier, smaller backup on the Chargers Darren Sproles, who had been showing his ferocity in numerous breakaway yards. Weeks earlier I had lost to Josh “Bill” Nanns when I incorrectly underestimated the number of carries Tomlinson would get and benched him at the very last minute in favor of Sproles.
Nothing can possibly equal the pathetic disappointment one feels when they choose incorrectly in a final, can’t-turn-back decision. To weigh opinions against instinct, intrinsic evidence against human emotion, and make a choice that could carry or destroy your team with one ultimate click.
Well, perhaps something in the real world could foster a similar dilemma; but this a blog about fantasy football. You know where this is in the scheme of things. And if you don’t – well – you should.
So I chose Sproles and he was squashed time and time again; and when he did get the occasional series of first downs and yards (a point for every ten yards on the ground or through the air for RB/WR/TEs) he would be replaced by a fit and ready Tomlinson on the goal line, who would punch it in.
“Should’ve used L.T.!” Said Bill online, via a fitting chat inset called Smacktalk on our scoring site. “Yeah,” I said simply. But inside I was crying and cursing.
Fast forward to Fantasy Bowl II, where I was up against heavy favorite Bill, and in the course of two weeks (two weeks total equals Fantasy Bowl victory, as our team uses the last two weeks of the regular season – a crazy time in fantasy especially when playoff-bound teams sit their starting moneymakers – for the championship) essentially gave up until I went online the next morning and realized that I had won by a single solitary point. Put up by none other than L.T. himself.
So Tomlinson (to a person who he never met and doesn’t know exists) got the last laugh at my choice to play him and not Sproles again, and I giggled all the way to fantasy glory. The next year I did poorly and Patrick’s stupid cousin Dane – who went like 11-1 on the season – crushed whatever lackey he was up against for Fantasy Bowl III.
The next season was the season after the summer I had graduated college, and I was constantly celebrating by boozing it up and sleeping around. Doing such, I missed our draft, the seminal part of a fantasy team and a time where you get used to names that will either carry your team to glory or dog you as you wonder why you got a bust with your third pick. Having missed it completely, I spent the middle of every week picking up potential scorers on the waiver wire and plugging them into a team that was made up of 50% busts. Philip Rivers was my only dependable pick, and he did indeed carry me on his back until I picked up Peyton Hillis and the rest is history to myself, naturally, and to some of my friends who neglected to pick up HIllis and were run ramshod over. Hillis and company (BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Ryan Torain for the ‘Skins, even Rashad Jennings towards the end of the season) led me to Fantasy Bowl IV and I took advantage of the fact that my opponent hardly cared to trounce him and take the mantle of winningest owner (coach? Player, even?) in the MAFL.
To be continued…