I treat fantasy football the same way I treat poker.
I use statistics, psychology and my talent for observation to try and gain an advantage playing a game that I truly love.
One of the funniest things about both past times is the “bad beat” stories. Everyone has one and they’re usually similar when it comes to poker, but there is nothing like the crazy late game things that hundreds and sometimes thousands of fantasy football players can point to as their badge of honor bad beat. There’s nothing that gets two fantasy football nuts jabbering like teenage girls who both found out they like Justin Bieber (or whoever is the Tiger Beat cover boy of today is.) like a shared fantasy playoffs bad beat story. It immediately becomes a one-ups type of conversation where each fantasy nut comes up with the crazy way they could have won. A penalty on a field goal and the points come off the board. A stat correction. An Aaron Rodgers kneel down. What ever the way they lost it is the biggest and worst thing that could possibly happen when they are explaining it.
I am not above these conversations. There’s something cathartic describing all the ways your “superior” team should have, could have, maybe in another dimension would have, won.
This post will be my catharsis and will tell you how I gained a little perspective as I was on my knees going through the agony of fantasy football defeat.
Everyone cares about their home league more than every other. Sure they go on to play in other leagues that are run better and have new fangled scoring systems, but they always care about the first one that turned them on to this incredible hobby. I am no different. My home league is a dinosaur. It’s standard scoring and has been going for more years than I care to mention, but it’s my home league. I literally only see half of the guys in this league on draft day but I still consider them relatively close friends.
This year I thought I had a tremendous draft, but had no luck early in the season. I was 4-5 after week 9 and had to make some hard decisions about my team. I had a huge hole at WR and another at TE where I missed on Kyle Rudolph and Travis Kelce had me hating Andy Reid more and more every week. This being a standard scoring keeper league top running backs are still considered the go-to keeper so I had some trade chips. I had DeMarco Murray and Jamaal Charles and knew I could only keep one for next year and had a lot of holes to fill. Another owner in my league was 3-6 and wanted to have Murray and a top pick for next year. With us being in sync as far as a trade goes, I traded Murray for a struggling LeSean McCoy, a struggling Brandon Marshall and a “How many more TDs can he score” Julius Thomas. The key to the deal was getting Marshall and Thomas. Thomas and Marshall played pretty well the first two weeks and then things went to hell. Thomas hurt his ankle, Marshall broke some ribs and I was cobbling together a team out of spare parts. Even with all the injuries I made the playoffs and made it to the semis with a real shot at a championship.
In the semis I got to play the Lovable Loser of my group of friends (Editor’s note-Lovable Loser is only in terms of this league where he has never won and literally turns red from nerves when you discuss trades with him. He is one of the best guys I know). My buddy Chazz is the sweetest guy, but when it comes to fantasy football, particularly this league, he has not figured it out until this year. He is one of only two people left in our 12 team league who hasn’t won at least one title and the other guy joined four years ago. This looked like Chazz’s year until his running backs started to get hurt. He lost Montee Ball, Andre Ellington and Rashad Jennings for long stretches of the season and only has CJ Anderson left as far as a decent starter. I was fairly confident going into the weekend because I knew Jennings was a health risk and my RB’s had nice match ups.
When people tell you their bad beat stories they are always one-sided. They never tell you about how or why the other guy could have or should have won as well. This story will be like all of those. I do not care that Andrew Luck didn’t produce and that TY Hilton pulled a hamstring. I’m not going to mention CJ Anderson losing a TD when it was reviewed. Okay, I’ll mention a few of the fluky things that happened to his side, but now it’s my turn.
Crazy Thing #1- Jamaal Charles has the ideal match up against the Oakland Raider but takes a hard hit in the first half and Knile Davis goes on to be a fantasy star as Andy Reid takes it easy on Charles. Apparently Jamaal Charles was very upset that Reid and the Chiefs coddled him after the hard hit, but hsi anger was nothing compared to me and other fantasy owners.
Crazy Thing #2- The Eagles have three rushing TDs and McCoy has zero of them. Not only did he not score, but he played lead blocker on Darren Sproles rushing TD. McCoy would have scored had the Cowboys not thrown a challenge flag on a play in which Jeremy Maclin was tackled at the one, but with the timeout Chip Kelly decided he should put in Chris Polk to do the dirty work. UGH!!!! That wasn’t the only time Polk became the target of my anger. After McCoy was somehow stopped on what looked like an easy sweep touchdown the Eagles again gave the ball to Polk for an easy TD. (When the second one happened I knew I lost. there’s no way that can happen and the fantasy Gods let me escape with a win.)
Crazy Thing #3- Jordan Matthews shits the bed! If he caught the one pass that was thrown his way and fell out of his finger tips I would have won. I give him a bit of a break because he’s a rookie and apparently was hurt in the first few plays so he may have been a bit of decoy the rest of the way. Either way you know you’re going to look at the guys on your bench and ask yourself why you didn’t start Vincent Jackson over this rookie. I still think the process and thinking was right in starting Matthews over V-Jax, but the results weren’t there.
Crazy Thing #4- I almsot started Travis Kelce over Julius Thomas. I had Kelce in and out of the lineup at least twice because I was so scared of Julius’s usage this week. Kelce was coming off of his first 100 yard game and looked good against Oakland only a few weeks ago. This one hurts because I grew to loathe Thomas because of his injury after I traded for him, but I would have been the poster boy for over thinking it if the outcomes were reversed.
Crazy Thing #5- I could have blocked Chazz from getting Baltimore’s D, but I already had Arizona in a nice match up with St. Louis and Buffalo on the bench who had a great week 16 match up against Oakland. The thing that hurt is if I really used my poker brain and said Baltimore makes his team that much better I would have used pot odds on what I could win if that becomes the right move and spent $10 dollars for a chance to win $1400. We use real money Free Agent bidding and I honestly just brain farted because I already had Arizona in tow. Looking at it now with Baltimore scoring more than 25% of his points I am sick to my stomach.
Crazy Thing #6- I started Justin Tucker over Connor Barth and I would do it again and again if I could. Tucker was in an ideal situation against Jacksonville. This league also gives yardage bonuses on long field goals that borderline on outrageous. 50 yard field goals count as 5.5 points. In a league where you only start 8 and is standard kickers can be a huge difference. Tucker missed two 54 yard field goals. One of which would have been good from 49 where he was supposed to attempt it from before Baltimore took a delay of game. Ouch! As a former sports better I used to cringe when a team missed a field goal when I took an over because you knew it would eventually hurt you. That’s what I felt when I saw that ball not go in.
Crazy Thing #7- The Cardinals had two sacks that replay said didn’t happen. When that happened on Thursday I said to myself,” Can you imagine if I lose to this guy by two points.” Ha!
With all those things happening I was up by ten with New Orleans having the ball and only a minute and change left on the clock. I have to admit I relaxed a bit and started to think about the final and maybe even thinking about adding another title to my totals.
Mark Ingram explodes off the right side for a touchdown. No!!!!!!
Now his kicker gets another point and I’m at risk with Alshon Jeffrey on the field and Rob Ryan already thinking about what bar he was going to hit when he got back to New Orleans.
Everything seemed to be shifting his way, but I had one thing on my side.
The problem is this guy needs one of those ‘One-Time” miracles you always hear people asking for on the World Series of Poker. I know in the back of my head that he’s already used his “One-Time” miracle on a 100 dollar bet he made back in 1997 when he got on his knees at Rutgers with everyone around he prayed to God for a miracle as Pittsburgh was lining up for a Field Goal to beat the Jaguars. He needed Jacksonville to block the field goal and return it for a TD for him to win his bet. The odds were astronomical, but still he prayed on his knees on a booze soaked carpet. Sure enough the kick was blocked and Jacksonville returned it down the sideline to win a huge game against the Steelers. I looked at Chazz and could not believe that he used his one actual miracle on a 100 dollar bet.
Now with Chicago lining up I knew he had already used that life-line. He doesn’t deserve two! I hoped the Bears would hand it off to Forte and send the Bears fans home booing, but nope, Cutler cut loose against a bunch of guys playing prevent defense who had already taken off their tape a few minutes earlier. I knew I was in real trouble when Keenan Lewis was no where to be found on the final two plays. The Bears lined up on in the last few seconds with Alshon flanked to the right and who was covering him? Brian Dixon of Northwest Missouri. Who the hell is Brian Dixon and why is he covering Jeffrey when my season is on the line?!!!! I didn’t even need to see Cutler throw it. It had already played out in my head. The pass actually being caught set something off in me.
I am not a throw the controller type of guy. If someone scores a bullshit goal on me in NHL or while playing FIFA I won’t even squeeze the controller harder. That shit happens, it’s not the end of the world, but all of a sudden I was acting like this miracle bad beat in my home league was the end of the world. I yelled out using words, that I hope my daughters never learn, and I completely Hulk Hoganed my shirt while I flailed forward out of my chair and across the room. I landed on something hard and the pain was blinding so I screamed again. I imagine I sounded a lot like John Goodman as he broke through the mud and dirt to break out of prison in Raising Arizona. I looked down to now focus my anger on whatever hurt my knee and it was one my daughter Sophia’s toys.
I picked it up and immediately I was calmed. I became worried that I broke her Princess Sophia Tiara, but it somehow survived my tantrum.
I realized that I had my “One Time” miracle already and didn’t even know it.
You see, my wife and I are one of many, many couples that had difficulty getting pregnant. We went through years of surgery, medications, testing and daily monitoring with lots of false starts and no end in site until our doctor finally changed something up that was not in the medical books. It was something that the medical field still hasn’t even proven to be a direct link for women with hormonal issues that have trouble making eggs. That out of the box thinking and last gasp, what the hell meeting with my wife’s doctor led directly to us getting pregnant and boy did we get pregnant when it finally happened. (I know a lot of people get angry or take issue with people that say WE when talking about getting pregnant, but in cases where there’s infertility it truly is a WE when you finally get pregnant.) I prayed for us to get pregnant every night from just after we got married. It was so stressful and when the miracle finally did happen you forget just how much you wished for it. It had become part of my every day routine wake up, shower, eat, Pray for my wife and for us to get pregnant and then go to sleep.
My wife was pregnant with triplets and I had no idea what was to come. We had them at 31 weeks, they were 3 pounds each, and they had to spend a month in the NICU before we could take them home. There were issues with eating and blood transfusions were needed. Each time I prayed for a miracle. Shoot we needed a miracle for us to make it work once they got home, but we survived and they thrived. They’re going to be four years old in January and I thank God for every day that they’re alive.
Holding that Tiara I realized that Chazz deserved another miracle and you know what maybe he deserved a title and all the good feelings that come with it. He’s been the lovable loser long enough and I couldn’t be happier that he’s the one who beat me.
I went up stairs and moved the Elf on The Shelf and then checked on my girls before I went to bed.
Life’s full of miracles. Some fantasy football owners used up one of them this week. Luckily there are more to go around.