As I tuck both of my kids tightly into their blankets, I kiss them on their cheeks, head out the door, and scurry back in for one last tickle throwdown before the last hug of the night. One last “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” tune should do it, but the little star I’m wondering about is going to cost me 50% of my blind bid waiver budget, and all I can think about is whether or not he’s worth the squeeze. I run down the stairs and almost trip over the overgrown Husky at the bottom, let the little hazard out, and brew one last cup or two (or three) of coffee. I see my wife off by prefacing an ever-so-sincere “You watching your show tonight?” to be followed with an ever-so-not-sincere “Yeah yeah.” I grab my freshly brewed cup of fantasy football spinach, fill the nicotine nectar in my electronic cigarette, and I stomp down the creaky basement steps to the bat cave – it’s fantasy addiction crunch-time.
Only it’s not Sunday afternoon kick-off. It’s not even remotely close to being ready to see football yet. It’s Tuesday night, and that means I need to start perusing the waiver wires for gems and scanning rosters for potential trade suitors. After all, the week heading into the games isn’t just about picking up players. It’s an arduous process, and it’s absolutely crucial to the success of my fantasy teams.
I’m up against the clock.
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This isn’t the repetitous routine for just one night a week. This is the typical Tuesday night, and Wednesday night, and Thursday night routine which causes me to chug coffee like there’s no tomorrow. It’s not long before I realize I’m puffing the crap out of my e-cig and pulling on my hair before I realize my foot, arm, and elbow are asleep from somehow twisting myself into pretzel. I’ve already managed to catch a waiver-wire podcast or two throughout bathroom breaks and car rides before go-time, so I’m fully prepared for the task at hand.
There was a time when I was just like everyone else. There was a time when I was “normal.” I would go about my life like every other systematic suburbanite – walk the dog, watch some television with the family, spend some time with the homeys, and be a husband and father. Life would take its course, and whichever way the wind blew, you would find me there as normal as can be.
Even before settling down, I was always the life of the party – always that guy that would hop from one house party to the next. First, I would hit up the local watering hole or Buffalo Wild Wings to watch the game and get tipsy or hit up the local club to get my drunken groove on. I know – stop it. I’d stupidly crash the “what the hell was I thinking going to the 4 AM bar?” None of this would have ever been complete having not been directly followed up with 4:30 AM Meat Lovers Skillet at Denny’s. Remembering this lifestyle is like trying to remember my early years of childhood. Distant memories cased in cloud-like borders of this quasi-normalcy now blend in with one another in Momento-like fashion and form a conglomerate of past-time haze only a slight strain of my eye will surface.
Waking up at 12:30 later that afternoon in a drunken state of migraine and mumblia was ok. Take a hair of the dog that bit me and head over to the TV. (The more words I write, I’m starting to realize this quasi-normalcy I spoke of wasn’t so normal after all…) Nevertheless, It was time to turn on the games and check the stat-lines scrolling across the bottom of the screen. There was no Twitter, no push notifications, no early morning podcasts to stay on top of everything. In my world there was ESPN and Yahoo and nothing else. Ignorance was bliss, wasn’t it? If I was feeling really dedicated any given week, I might hit up the Fantasycafe and head to the forums. Start/sit forums was about the extend of real-time fantasy advice and roster gratification. I distinctly remember refreshing my browser multiple times a minute eagerly awaiting some sort of activity. Then, I would get activity. A view! I got a view! Wait, no comment? What the hell, don’t read my question and not give me your input you jerkbag! See if I comment on your question – I’ll show you. But I digress:
Before we knew that Travis Henry was pimpin-since-pimp-pimpin since pimp-pimpin, I was waking up in the 2nd quarter and seeing his name across the bottom of the screen: Travis Henry – 13 yards, 2 TDs. “YES!!! Eat that man! I knew I was right putting him in my lineup!” This outburst was abruptly followed with a walk toward the bottle of aspirin. It sure is a good thing my drink of choice these days is hazelnut with cinnamon sprinkles…Next step: throw on a smoke infested Bears hat and head out the door to Buffalo Wild Wings. If there was NFL Ticket at that time for homes, I sure didn’t know about it. I was a casual fantasy gamer. 2 leagues tops, one of each with a couple of groups of friends. 8 of us would meet every week at BBW and fight over the big screen after we painfully watched John Schoop attempt to coach Cade McNown up to the next elite quarterback in the NFL. Thank God for Jim Miller, we’d say…
Somehow I was able to at least get Seattle on the small screen. Matt Hasselback and the Seattle offense was the next big St. Louis attack, I just knew it. Koren Robinson was the next coming of Andre Reed. People just didn’t see it yet – but I did. I had Koren and “I later shot myself in the leg by accident at a club” in my lineup. Rolling them out with LT and Gates, I couldn’t lose. Like I said earlier, these memories are all jumbalia in my tiny little brain, so I know some of these years and players are all mixed and matched – but you get the point. I drafted Antonio Gates in the last round of the draft because I knew none of my leaguemates had ever heard of him. A few years later I would draft Marques Colston in the last round with all eyes looking at me like I’m crazy because no one knew who the hell he was. But I knew, he was a TE eligible WR via Yahoo leagues.
This was the extent of my “advanced” fantasy knowledge. I was perfectly happy playing in a couple of fantasy football leagues and being able to blissfully watch and root for my players every single week. My girlfriend at the time (beautiful wife and mother of my children now) had no idea it could actually get worse. I was only tip-toeing around the edge of the rabbit hole before I slipped and took a head first plummet down the tunnel of fantasy frenzy.
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Two leagues became three. Three became four, and four became twelve. Right around the 4-5 mark you realize that you’ve become a fantasy snob.
Normy: “Jeremy, we need another player for our fantasy league, are you down?”
I would get asked this question a few times a year from friends and friends of friends or co-workers.
Gumshoe: “Hmmm – I appreciate the offer. Please send me a link to your league by-laws or constitution. I also need to know the owners that are in the league, what you’re playing for, and the complete scoring format before you send me the information.”
Normy: “Did you say by-laws? We just play fantasy football, man.”
And that’s how it mostly ends. When you get to that point, you find yourself playing among a league of extraordinary fantasy ballers. Kind of like how Facebook begins to segment certain individuals based on common interests, likes, politics, friends, etc. Google search results begin to categorize your results differently than they would for a normy. It’s the nature of the beast, and I Can’t bring myself to joining a league that might play for 5 jellybeans each with a group of owners that aren’t going to be on their P’s and Q’s, aren’t going to show up to the draft and will start to suck very quickly. These are the guys that still have Brandon Gibson in their lineups after he’s placed on IR.
Gumshoe: “So you don’t use decimal scoring, you don’t have a definitive draft time or plan in motion, and you don’t use PPR to some extent. Is that right?”
Normy: “We don’t use any of that weird PPR stuff. I think most of the guys might make the draft, but we usually have a few guys that do auto-draft because they can’t make the draft. We can use another guy though as Jim-Bob isn’t coming back this year.”
Gumshoe: “What happened to Jim-Bob?”
Normy: “He got mad and left the league after two guys traded last year, and he didn’t like that the guy in first place heading into the playoffs made a trade with his friend and ending up winning the league because of the trade.”
We already know how this story ends. The waivers are set up as a default worst to first if you’re lucky, and there’s somehow always a guy that asks if he can have the player back that he dropped the previous week because of a bye week. Half the league goes out to the Bears game one week and no one bothers to set a lineup. One guy gets pissed mid-way through the year and drops his team because somehow the league is fixed. Another guy brags all year-long about how is team is just stacked. All year-long, you have to hear about it when you’re hanging out throwing bags or out to eat with friends or on the message board. Congratulations on a successful auto-draft there, auto-draft guy.
Managing more than 10 teams a year becomes a science, and you have it down pat. You realize that no matter how “good” you are at playing fantasy, you also come to realize very quickly that there are so many factors that decide the ultimate fate of your teams that you have as much control over as your 5-year-old that just ate a cosmic fudge brownie only to sneak another while you were “going to the bathroom.” (Fantasy addicts alike all know that the bathroom run is the most efficient and effective way to get 10 minutes away from whatever you’re doing wherever you are in order to accomplish a quick player update search, a trade negotiation update email, or a quick Twitter scan of a guy that you know is sitting on waivers that will suddenly be thrust into a starting lineup this weekend due to a mid-week injury.) Once you realize that as good as you are you can still be beaten by that guy’s wife that joined the league and drafted guys based on their jersey colors, your realize the law of averages helps you win every year.
In fact, no matter what your level of competition may be, you simply stay active, hit the wire every week, and you know you have a fighting chance at the playoffs in redraft leagues every single year as long as your team doesn’t get the worst case of injury bug you’ve ever experienced. Once you’re in a the playoffs anything can happen, which is why I started to research dynasty football. Managing a fantasy roster from week-to-week doesn’t fill that void. I want to be a GM — I want to dedicate myself to a team and see it through the good times and the bad. Well, more the good than bad, of course.
You suddenly realize that you’re not THAT guy:
You’re not that guy that only watches the games from which your players are featured.
You’re not that guy that only watches particular games because you’re hoping for fantasy points.
You’re not that guy that brags about his fantasy team in the bar, yet he auto-drafted his team.
One league will never be enough. Hell, ten leagues will never be enough. Redraft league involvement will never be enough.
This new-found affinity for the game leads you down a path of reading books on football fundamentals and scouting incoming rookies classes. You find yourself getting involved in more dynasty leagues than redraft leagues because you simply love the challenge and YOU KNOW — as long as you’re active, you have a solid chance of getting into the playoffs every year in redraft leagues.
You work too hard on the construct and state of your fantasy teams all year-long to continue denying the fact that you are knee-deep in the love of the game. You have a passion for the game which tingles from your toes to your fingertips and out into a blogspot. You’ve become a detective of fantasy football – a Gumshoe, if you will. You are turning over every possible stone in the NFL and searching for every last cue and clue that will give you an edge over your competition. You wouldn’t have it any other way.
Normy doesn’t stand a chance — neither does normalcy as I once knew it.