Anyone involved in fantasy football knows The Stare.
The unmistakable looks from someone who just doesn’t get it.
It’s universal, and the message is pretty clear in most instances.
Get a life.
Guess what? This is the life of millions of football fans worldwide, and for guys like me who have been doing this for more than a little while, we don’t take the stares and glares from the non-fantasy league populace as hurtful. Man, we don’t have time to be hurt because there are championships, trophies and cold hard cash to be won.
The NFL season opener is less than two weeks away, which means this is the first of two big weekends of fantasy football drafts. We old-timers know there are no guarantees. We can show up as the most prepared owner at the draft and still finish under .500. Meanwhile, the one who shows up late, doesn’t consider the bye weeks, and makes uninformed picks off the top of the dome might get hot and win the championship. It’s happened to all of us and it will happen again.
Nothing is a given in fantasy. The smartest guy in your department can be the whipping boy in your office league.
But he continues to come back for more, while the others delight in taking him apart each fall.
I formed a 12-team league in Tyler with close friends, including my fellow tri-commissioners Mike Thomas and John “The Cop” Keith, back in 1995. In those early days of our league, fantasy football wasn’t the Internet sensation we see today.
Back then, I would team with my Tyler Morning Telegraph cohort and tennis rival Joe Buie to give weekly league updates. We would tirelessly pore over NFL boxscores every Monday night after deadline while watching WCW Monday Nitro (back in the NWO days). With calculators in hand, we would compile the stats and add up the results.
Then we would print out a comprehensive 10-page league report, complete with results, updated standings, game recaps, that week’s upcoming games and a commissioner’s column from yours truly. Members of the league would have to get with us at their earliest convenience to pick up the update, which was hot copy back then.
To call it a labor of love would be an understatement. We were amateur GMs, competing as much for bragging rights as we were for the money in the league kitty.
By the time 1999 rolled around, the Dereliction league (aptly named because we’re a bunch of fun-loving derelicts) and, thanks to Vice President Al Gore, the inter-webs made life a lot easier for number crunchers like me and Joe. We still did those hard paper updates for that first season on the web because owners loved reading them in handheld form (sound familiar?).
Besides, I had accepted a job at the American-Statesman in the middle of the ’99 season, which made it more feasible to ditch the paper updates in favor of the CBS Sportsline website.
Today, Dereliction is still going strong, with nine original owners still competing. Our drafts, held in late August at the La Quinta Inn in Tyler, are a literal bloodbath of trash talking. One great draft moment came after the three-time league champion Cow Spur Coyotes, owned by my former Tyler co-workers Matthew Postins and Chuck Cox, took Detroit Lions fullback Cory Schlesinger, who wasn’t exactly known for his running prowess.
“Cory Schlesinger?” I asked. “Really? What can he do?”
“Block,” answered Winners owners Ray Nye, the league’s resident trash-talking king. Laughter ensued. Insults were hurled. More laughter.
Good times. Anyone who has been involved in the same league for an extended period of time knows how cool it is to grow up with a group of friends and use fantasy football as a backdrop for staying in touch. When we started, each owner was living in Tyler, but over time, life happened and some, including me, have moved to different cities.
But the league keeps us connected.
Good luck this season.