You deadbeats know who you are; you're the ones who aren't reading
this essay because you don't visit fantasy websites. You don't know
that Jamal Lewis is injured or what kind of contribution he made
to the Ravens last year or even what the Ravens did that was so
remarkable. Hint: They won the Super Bowl with Trent Dilfer as their
QB. But of course, you deadbeats don't even know enough to be astonished
by that Trent Dilfer factoid.
For the sake of clarification, allow me to define a fantasy deadbeat.
I'm not talking about a guy who refuses to fork over his entry fee.
Any of you schmendrick commissioners who are clueless enough to wait
on fee collection until the end of the season deserve any headaches
you end up with. The kind of deadbeat I'm talking about is a guy who
joins a fantasy league just for the sake of fitting in around the
office. Maybe the boss likes to play fantasy football, so the deadbeats
line up with their entry fees on draft day with the intention of scoring
a few brownie points.
Deadbeats know how to talk the talk in front of whoever it is that
they're trying to impress with their phony interest in fantasy football.
They show up to the draft with a copy of the Sporting News that they've
studied for all of fifteen minutes. They tend to play things safe
and stick to obvious draft choices. During the actual draft, they'll
be able to distinguish between Daunte Culpepper and Peyton Manning
because they'll really know the difference as long as it's spelled
out for them by some sportswriter. But that night they'll be hit with
a case of amnesia. By the time the season starts, they won't even
remember the players on their own rosters, much less anyone else's.
I usually get suckered into playing in a league with one or more deadbeats,
and they are, in my opinion, the most important obstacle to overcome
in order to enjoy a season of fantasy football. Deadbeats start players
that are injured or suspended or, in some cases, dead. They use the
same lineup all season long without paying attention to bye weeks
or player performances. And the worst thing about them, of course,
is that their team loses to every other team in the league-except
So what's to be done about them?
I talked to the commissioners of a few leagues about the possibility
of instituting a death penalty for anyone voted a 'deadbeat' by two-thirds
of the league participants, but that's roughly the same thing as putting
a band-aid on a broken leg. While it's true that a dead deadbeat will
be prevented from joining the league next year, ritual slaughter of
football idiots isn't excused in such hard-nosed states as Alabama,
Iowa, and Oregon unless it occurs at the end of the season, and that
does nothing to solve the problem of this year's deadbeats.
Of course, there's always the possibility of fining fantasy owners
for failing to pay attention to their own rosters. Some commissioners
have penalties set up so that if you start a player whose team isn't
playing, you have to contribute a nominal fee to the pool, but most
deadbeats don't mind such penalties. In leagues with transaction fees,
they'll pay less by ignoring the NFL and not trading players than
the regular league members will by studying the sports section of
the paper and tuning into the pre-game show for Monday Night Football
and constantly tweaking their rosters through trades and waiver wire
One commissioner told me that his method of keeping deadbeats under
control is to make it clear that any owner who fails to keep up with
his roster will not be invited back next season. Yeah, that's gotta
One league that I was on the verge of withdrawing from because of
rampant deadbeatism, however, has just instituted a fairly interesting
new procedure. Instead of determining draft order randomly on the
night of the draft, draft order was assigned in early August. Players
have until draft night (September 7th for us) to swap draft positions.
It's a traditional draft in which the player who picks first in the
first round picks last in the second round. Not surprisingly, the
guy who's slated to pick first is trying to trade with someone who
has the 4th-6th pick. I lucked out with the 6th pick and am already
getting all sorts of offers from other league members. I think I might
want to go 4th, but that depends on who will be ahead of me and what
their drafting strategies have been in the past. There's a lot of
rumor-mongering and 'buzz' about who will be drafted and when. Player
A says he will take Faulk first; Player B says he intends to go with
Culpepper; Player C doesn't mind picking late in Round 1 so long as
he ends up with Ricky Williams and Curtis Martin.
Right now, there are 12 people in the league. Come September 1st,
the commissioner will be accepting deadbeat nominations. Based on
conversations and e-mail exchanges, we'll each have to name the
one or two people that we think are least qualified to participate.
Anyone who gets over 6 votes is out-before we even make it to draft
day. I admire the commissioner for trying something new, and I hope
it works. But the problem with the deadbeats is that they get to
vote-and deadbeats aren't even attentive enough to spot their own