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Fantasy football: 21 things

Be thankful for fantasy football blessings

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Recent posts by Pat Fitzmaurice

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Posted Nov. 23, 2011 @ 4:28 p.m. ET
By Pat Fitzmaurice

Thanksgiving is a time to count one's blessings, so indulge me, dear readers, as I count some fantasy football blessings. I am thankful for ...

 

1.  ... my college friend Jay, who introduced me to fantasy football in 1989. I had already been playing fantasy baseball, and it didn't seem possible that fantasy football would be able to provide the same satisfaction. Jay's league was more of a pool with a payout to a weekly winner, but I was immediately hooked. I've lost touch with Jay, unfortunately, but since he was such an unrepentant sports junkie, I have no doubt that he's dominating multiple leagues somewhere.

 

2. ... league websites. I've been playing fantasy football long enough to remember a time when commissioners used to take lineups over the phone every week. Then, on Monday or Tuesday mornings, they'd get a newspaper, tabulate scores by hand and call owners to let them know how they did. It almost would have been less archaic to deliver scores via Pony Express. Now, scores are updated in real time, standings and schedules can be accessed instantly, and you can even look up how you've done against a particular opponent over the years. I probably used to spend 12 hours a week on commissioner duties. Now I'm a glorified treasurer.

 

3. ... DirecTV. It would kill me — absolutely KILL me — if I had to miss a Packers game because I live in Chicago and it conflicted with a locally televised Bears game. Well, OK, it wouldn't kill me. I'd go to a sports bar and watch the Packers there. But, hey, the beer is cheaper at my place, and sports bars tend not to have couches and ottomans. Long live the DirecTV Sunday Ticket. And beyond that, I've always gotten remarkably good customer service from DirecTV, ensuring that I'm never denied access to its full buffet of NFL football.

 

4. ... NFL Short Cuts. Football overload! NFL games condensed into 30 minutes each - what a concept. Set up the DVR on a Tuesday night, and in a few hours I have a video library that includes all the plays I missed the previous weekend. It's football manna from the heavens. (This could have been included with my thankfulness for DirecTV, but I think it deserves its own category of gratitude.)

 

5. ... Wes Welker. Not only is he a constant reminder to fantasy owners that no player should ever be dismissed out of hand, but he was also the MVP of a championship team of mine that had no business winning a championship. I was 12th in scoring in a 14-team league, backed into the playoffs with a 7-6 record thanks to three straight miracle wins to close the regular season and then fell ass-backward into a title when my playoff opponents had a series of awful weeks. Not even the 2006 St. Louis Cardinals, who finished with a regular-season record of 83-78, were less deserving of a championship than I was. My lineup was Welker and a rotating cast of bums. But Welker and Lady Luck each took one of my arms and dragged me kicking and screaming to the luckiest championship in the history of fantasy football.

 

6. ... smartphones. They provide constant access to my leagues and to a near-infinite wealth of fantasy information. You college kids might take this sort of technology for granted, but Gramps here still remembers the days when phones were teathered to walls and had to be dialed. That a phone can now tell me how many receptions Mario Manningham had last year is still a source of wonder to me. Now I know how the cavemen felt when they beheld fire for the first time.

 

7. ... Peter King. I'm probably violating in-house protocol by praising a writer from another publication, but it's not exactly a guarded secret that King's "Monday Morning QB" column is considered essential reading for any serious follower of the NFL. The man writes his tail off. And if King wants to make the occasional digression in his column to write about coffee and beer ... well, it just so happens that I like coffee and beer.

 

8. ... NFL Network. It's 'round-the-clock coverage of the greatest sports league on the planet, and it's usually done well. The network has a knack for hiring terrific on-air talent, starting at the top with Rich Eisen, the host with the most.

 

9. ... Aaron Rodgers. As I've mentioned before, owning Rodgers in a fantasy league is like being able to start a second quarterback every week. I didn't think I'd ever consider taking a quarterback with the first overall pick in a fantasy draft, but if I end up with the No. 1 pick in any of next year's drafts, it'll be a tough call between Rodgers and Arian Foster. And then there's the fact that, as mentioned before, I'm a Packer fan. During the peak of the Favre era in Green Bay, before the Packers had drafted Rodgers, my Packer-fan friends and I used to discuss the inevitable disappointment that would come with watching another quarterback someday take the reins from Favre. It was agreed that we would have been happy with a Favre successor who was merely as good as Don Majkowski, the mulleted QB who had a couple of decent seasons for the Packers just before Favre came along. But to go from Favre to Rodgers ... wow, Packer fans are preposterously lucky. Some franchises go decades without finding a good quarterback. The Packers have had two straight quarterbacks who belong in the best-of-all-time debate. If God likes to rest on the seventh day, I suspect he does so by watching Packer games while wearing a foam-rubber cheesehead.

 

10. ... my competitors. The best fantasy football leagues are driven by friendships. Rare is the league in which every owner is friends with every other owner, but I've found that the best leagues revolve around several strong friendships, buffered by a layer of friendly acquaintances. I'm thankful that fantasy football has helped me preserve longtime friendships and kept me in contact with friends I might otherwise have fallen out of touch with. And I'm thankful that many of the acquaintances I've met through fantasy football have become good friends.

 

11. ... Tim Tebow. Whether you're pro-Tebow or anti-Tebow (and personally, I think being anti-Tebow is being like anti-Santa Claus), you have to admit that the guy is adding an awful lot of fun — and an awful lot of spirited debate — to the 2011 season.

 

12. ... Andre Johnson's return. I own him in two leagues, one of which is a lost cause. But in the other league I managed to tread water in Johnson's absence despite having to give WR starts to the likes of Jabar Gaffney, Hines Ward, Emmanuel Sanders and Eddie Royal. And yet I'm 7-4, and now I'm ready for No. 80 to carry me to the Promised Land. (And with that I offer this sacrifice of ouzo to Hammytheses, the Greek god of hamstrings.)

 

13. ... Mike Shanahan. Most fantasy owners consider him a villain, since he seems hell-bent on destroying the fantasy value of every quarterback and running back he manages. Maybe so, but you have to admit: He's an entertaining villain. Enjoy his bizarre act while you can, because it won't be long before he takes his black hat and leaves the saloon for good.

 

14. ... Pro Football Weekly, for providing me with a release for all this pent-up fantasy football gas. I'm particularly grateful to publisher/editor Hub Arkush for putting up with me for all these years and for paying me to do something that I'd probably be willing to do for free. (Wait ... scratch that last part.)

 

15. ... my editors: Keith Schleiden, Neil Warner and Mike Holbrook, who have a light touch with my stuff, do a great job of catching my not-so-occasional bonehead mistakes, and never let on just how badly they want to strangle me when I blow a deadline. Thanks, guys. And special thanks to Neil, who's been doing the heavy lifting on my Web stuff since I first began churning it out back in 2000.

 

16. ... HD televisions. It's getting harder and harder to remember what it was like to watch football that wasn't displayed in high-def. Actually, I do remember seeing an NFL game in high-def for the first time and almost weeping with joy. And the televisions themselves ... my lord. It's hard to believe how cheaply you can get a good-sized high-def TV these days. I used to have an old Sony Trinitron that I loved dearly. It was a great set at the time. And I remember a Super Bowl Sunday when a friend who was throwing a party for the game asked me if I could bring over my Trinitron, since his TV was too small for a bigger crowd. I damn near killed myself trying to wrestle that monster out of the house and into my car, navigating an icy sidewalk in the process. I'm not sure how much that thing weighed, but I suspect it would have been only slightly more difficult to transport Haloti Ngata from my house into my car. The weight displacement of an HD television, on the other hand, makes it relatively easy to move from place to place. We've come a long way, baby.

 

17. ... Cecil Lammey and Sigmund Bloom of Football Guys for doing the best fantasy football podcasts around. Every week, Lammey and Bloom ladle up chicken soup for the fantasy geek's soul. Good luck finding another podcast that offers a thorough analysis of Da'Rel Scott's potential dynasty-league value. Perhaps their finest work is done on "The Audible," a weekly marathon podcast (usually two solid hours) that also draws upon the analytical expertise of Matt Waldman and Jene Bramel. Great stuff. Keep up the fine work, guys.

 

18. ... Matt Forté. I've now had the pleasure of owning Forté on three different teams over the last couple of seasons, and those teams are going to be three-for-three in qualifying for the playoffs. The guy is money in the bank in leagues that offer the standard one point for every 10 rushing and receiving yards. Even on the days when the Bears' running game is getting stuffed, Forté almost always makes up for it by catching a bunch of passes and getting to 100 yards from scrimmage (or close to it) on the strength of his receiving yardage. Most of my leagues include a handful of Bears fans, and yet I've been managing to keep Forté out of their greasy clutches, grabbing him in the late-first or early-second round. Forté isn't going to get the lucrative long-term contract he's seeking from the Bears, but I hope he's able to savor the fat short-term contract he'll get when the Bears inevitably designate him as their franchise player to keep him out of the free-agent market.

 

19. ... new blood. I love the jolt of excitement that rookies bring to each new fantasy season. And next year's class is looking like a bumper crop for fantasy owners. Can't wait to see where Stanford QB Andrew Luck, Alabama RB Trent Richardson and Oklahoma State WR Justin Blackmon are going to end up. (Well, I suppose we have a pretty good idea of where Luck is going to end up.)

 

20. ... my wife and children. Thanks for putting up with an unhinged husband/father every Sunday during the football season.

 

21. ... you. Yes, you, one of my eight loyal readers (including you, Mom and Dad). Thanks for taking mild interest in the inanities I spew each week and for occasionally getting in touch via email. It's always rewarding to find out that someone is paying attention.

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