Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Finally a champ!

Most of you probably know I'm a huge football fan. I bleed Maize 'n' Blue (and there was a LOT of bleeding this year), and I've already written about how being a Lions fan has prepared me for the publication search. Sunday afternoon means my workroom TV is turned to NFL football. When we were living in London, I listened to Michigan games live on the internet, and taped Monday Night Football so I could get my fix. I subscribed to the premium sports channel in January just so I could watch the playoffs and Super Bowl. I even turned a trip to Scotland into an opportunity for football, taking the boys to an NFL Europe game. (Watching football in a soccer stadium half-full of Scottish fans is a mind-trip deserving of its own post someday, but not now.)

The final sign I've gone completely cuckoo for football was joining a fantasy football league a few years back. You may have heard something about fantasy football—it's gone from a weird hobby to a real money-making business over the past few years—but if not, I'll just explain the basics. Essentially, you pick your own "team" made of the basic positions: quarterback, running back, wide receiver, tight end, kicker, and defense. Your players can come from a dozen different teams if you like. When they play, you score points for each yard gained, touchdown scored, or fumble recovered (or lost). So every week, you see whether your players earned more points than your opponents'. Based on your performance head-to-head, you get wins and losses; you even have playoffs during the last two or three games of the year.

It sounds crazy, but the NFL loves it—it gives fans who might ignore the sport once their team is out of it* a reason to keep watching. I now pay more attention to all games, hoping to see how my players are doing. And I seemed to do okay with my picks. In my first year, 2005, I finished third in the regular season (thanks to Pats QB Tom Brady and the Indianapolis defense), but I tanked in the playoffs and finished last in the league. In 2006, I again finished third in the regular season (Brady again), and third in the playoffs. Last year, I finished first in the regular season (Indy QB Peyton Manning), but tanked in the playoffs, again finishing third.

But finally, in a year when I got no pleasure from local teams, my fantasy team came through. I got the jackpot #1 draft pick, so I not only got Vikings RB Adrian Peterson, but also Peyton Manning and Bears RB Matt Forte. (Consistent RBs are the key to fantasy success, I've decided.) With some luck in the draft, and some smart pickups, I finished first in the regular season. I squeaked by in my first playoff matchup, and only needed 8 points from the Monday night game to win the championship. I spent last night glued to the Chicago-Green Bay game, muttering "rush Forte!" through three quarters as Chicago's offense went nowhere. Finally, they listened, Forte broke through for some yardage, and eventually scored a TD. And I am now a fantasy football champion.

So I'm happy, even if the whole idea is a bit sad. (Even sadder: I'm trying not to think about how there's only one more month before football is done and I must endure the gloom of winter with nothing but hockey and basketball.)

*Not me, I was still listening to the Lions on the radio Sunday, hoping they might get that first win. They lost. So who's more pathetic, them or me?


  1. No doubt about it, the Lions are more pathetic. After all, they've been pathetic for fifty years, and you aren't even that old! Nobody and nothing are as pathetic as the Lions. (I was going to say 'our Lions', but I've decided to stop claiming them.

  2. Oh, how I hate the post-football, pre-NCAA tourney days!

  3. Yes, I should learn to love hockey, but alas, it's only really fun live or during the playoffs.