Fantasy FB

By the conclusion of last fall’s fantasy football season, I thought I probably wouldn’t bother playing again. And then, just like the year before, a couple of invitations came around in August, and I caved in, dragged, kicking and fighting, into two competitive leagues. Next year at this time, the NFL may well be in the midst of a lockout, which doesn’t bode well for fantasy football. Also, these are low-stakes leagues insofar as there is no money involved. Not much on the line here: disembarrassment plus a few minutes of time and attention each week. Right? Right.

The first is an eight-team league; the second is a twelve-team league. By some stroke of fantastic luck, I scored the number one pick in both leagues this year. Rosters look like this:

Team Oblivion (eight-team league, Facebook)
QB	Phillip Rivers		SD	
RB	Chris Johnson		TEN	
RB	Steven Jackson		STL
WR	DeSean Jackson		PHI
WR	Calvin Johnson		DET
WR	Dwayne Bowe		KC
TE	Brent Celek		PHI	
K	Stephen Gostkowski	NE
D	Baltimore Ravens	
B	Jay Cutler, QB		CHI
B	Jahvid Best, RB		DET
B	Ronnie Brown, RB	MIA
B	Mike Wallace, WR	PIT	
B	Mike Sims-Walker, WR	JAC
Ypsilanti Juggernauti (twelve-team league,
QB	Joe Flacco		BAL	
RB	Chris Johnson		TEN	
RB	Deangelo Williams	CAR
WR	Roddy White		ATL
WR	Malcolm Floyd		SD
W/R	Ronnie Brown		MIA
TE	Jason Witten		DAL	
K	Dan Carpenter		MIA
D	San Francisco 49ers	
B	Greg Olsen, TE		CHI
B	Chad Henne, QB		MIA
B	Dez Bryant, WR		DAL
B	Eddie Royal, WR		DEN
B	Nate Burleson, WR	DET	
B	Davonne Bess, WR	MIA

Obviously the pool of players to choose from was somewhat more diluted by the late rounds of the twelve-team draft. The second team doesn’t have an established, elite quarterback. Who knows how the 49ers defense will be this year (even in a weaker-than-most division)? And there’s not much depth at the RB position. I may be able to cover for this because the second league has a WR/RB flex slot. Even so, if Chris Johnson or Ronnie Brown was to get hurt, both teams would falter. I don’t know whether either team will contend in its respective league. That’s contingent upon so many different factors between now and December. But I do think the drafts went okay. Just two regrets I can recall: in the smaller league, choosing the Ravens D as early as I did (a ran-out-of-time pick) and, in the bigger of the two leagues, missing my chance at Colts RB Donald Brown.

A Short Bench

Sunday’s game in the Ann Arbor Men’s League was special. It was the final game of the regular season. With a win, we would move into a three-way tie for first place, at 7-3. We were facing a youthful, full-court-pressing team from Washtenaw CC (their club team, if you will, although they have a deep bench, a coach, and, for Sunday night’s game, cheerleaders). I haven’t played in a game with cheerleaders since 1995; they even twiddled their fingers in the air when we shot free throws.

Our group has been up and down this year. We started 5-0, which was good enough to lock up a sponsor for the state tournament later this month in Midland (why it is in Midland, I have no idea, since all eight teams are from SE Michigan). We started the season with ten guys, more than most carry. One–the only guy older than me on our team or in the division–decided to quit for reasons I won’t bother going into. That left us with nine. Several of our early games were 40+ point routes (against teams in a division below ours). One was a triple OT win against a team that later beat us by 40–our poorest outing of the season. The other two losses came to a close rival; we lost one of those by four points, the other by five. So: although we finished in a first-place tie, we wouldn’t win any of the tie-breakers based on head to head matchups or point differential. So it goes. I don’t know how they’ll settle who gets the trophy.

Why was Sunday’s game special? Well, aside from the eventfulness of playing against a “team” of 18 and 19 year-olds (i.e., babies who were born the same year I graduated high school), instead of having our usual nine players, we had five. Four didn’t show up because of Winter Break, injuries, absent-mindedness, I don’t know. We hadn’t been short-handed like this before. I am too old to be nervous about basketball games in a recreational league. But: it was going to be difficult to hold off a team of fit, pressing youth for four quarters.

The game started off smoothly enough. We were down 31-29 at halftime. Nobody was in foul trouble. I had just one foul in the first half, and fouls are as you might expect the main concern when playing without a single sub. A couple of bad plays (or bad calls or both) can leave you in the unwinnable mismatch, four vs. five. Next, something terrible: in the first 1:24 of the third quarter, I was called for three fouls: two blocking fouls, which might have been charges were I willing to fall onto my back (I’m not), and an official’s hallucination. The new problem: four fouls with 6:36 remaining in the third quarter.

We adjusted (put me on the right frontcourt corner of a 2-3 zone). And–this is why it was special, mostly–I managed to finish the game without fouling out. Also, we won by 12 or 13 points, entirely because our team defense was excellent. We held them to something like 20 points for the second half.

I’m blogging it because I’m pretty sure this is the last league game I’ll ever play in. I will travel to Midland in late March for the state tournament. After that, the only basketball I play will be lunchtime pickup games with EMU’s regulars twice each week. I still enjoy playing for fitness, recreation, and communion, but I like being able to skip a day when I want to, I like being able to go home when I’m done for the day, and I like being able to walk one building over from my office to play among people I know (and who are not absurdly competitive).

Week Eight

FF.Team Charmin: Week Eight

I don’t think I’ve mentioned that I’m in a fantasy football league this fall. It’s a low-key affair: select a “starting lineup” from among your team of players and then watch each Sunday as their on-field performances translate into fantasy points. I’m finding that I enjoy it far more than straight-up picking winners for every game each week (and getting half or more wrong). This fantasy football league strikes a nice balance, meaning that it’s not too time-intensive (just a few minutes each week to set the roster) but it re-focuses my attention and my drifting, contingent fanhood to a different group of players than I would otherwise root for, much less notice. Because I’m in on the FF league, I’m slightly more interested each Sunday and partial to certain players than I would be otherwise–perhaps it’s the only way to remain interested as an unflinching Lions fan.

Above, I adopted the Fantasy Football analysis format used by Sean Yuille at Pride of Detroit. My impression is that our league is not as detailed in its scoring, and I don’t have the time or inclination to provide analysis on all eight teams, but I have summed today’s clash between my own Team Charmin and the Salacious Antiquarian Society, a team that handily trounced us and disposed of our three-game win streak today. Today’s loss makes it a sweep of Team Charmin for the Antiquarian’s this season.

What’s not to feel lowly or dispirited about? Well, for one thing the rating shows that I scored exactly as many points as I could have with the roster I have. It wouldn’t have helped had I started my other QB or juggled the lineup otherwise. I should qualify that this will remain the case until Chris Johnson (RB, Titans) has a record-setting four touchdown game tomorrow night. He’s on the bench (i.e., Team Charmin’s bench), and perhaps he should have started ahead of Maurice Jones-Drew (RB, Jaguars) who racked up a staggering three points for the club earlier today. Anyway, that’s today’s FF analysis: Team Charmin was walloped, 103-75. Next week, always next week.