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FF In The Groin
Week 16

The next year Christmas falls on a Wednesday or Thursday is 2008. I can't wait!

Christmas, Family and Fantasy Football

Championship Week. The final game for one team to claim the trophy, cash and bragging rights. The final game to heap praise and glory on the victor, while disappointment engulfs the defeated. The final game to ultimately decide if all that hard work and time spent, thinking, debating and taking calculated risks, small battles won and lost, started way back in, well, I'll say April for me (adjust as appropriate) finally paid off like your grand blueprint predicted.

What could possibly interfere with watching every run, catch and turnover in this one week that means so much, and for all intent and purposes closes the book on another fantasy football season? Christmas. More precisely, Christmas and family.

Week 16 of the NFL season - Championship Week - stretched right smack dab over the Christmas holidays. Even I, football aficionado who turned away from a promising and lucrative professional career and rendered 5 years of university education somewhat useless to start what is most easily explained to non-football fans (a.k.a. "commoners" or civilized society) as, "the football business" will admit (although somewhat grudgingly) that family takes precedence over football.

How I would love to watch the Packers and Vikings kick off the weekend early by dueling for the division title. Instead, I was at my father-in-law's church service. How I would love to see a classic Raiders-Chiefs rivalry which is sure to be an end-to-end shootout with their respective sieve-like defenses. Instead, wife Sarah, daughter Megan and I just arrived after driving 3 hours to see my family and open gifts (Megan made out like a bandit). How I would love to kick back Sunday to lay witness to Peyton Manning's record breaking TD pass, all the while cheering for LaDainian Tomlinson, Kevin Jones and others to bring me a fantasy championship. Instead, 5 members of my family were engaged in watching 1950's musicals on DVD, and then more driving for me.

I arrived home late Sunday afternoon to at the very least watch my Bills take a step closer to an improbable playoff berth. Nope, I've got to shovel out the driveway of snow and ice before more family members arrive for a visit here. Oh well. Watching football this past weekend truly was a fantasy, at least it was for me and I'm sure for many of you as well.

The closest I got to watching a game with some personal fantasy impact was the tail end of the Browns-Dolphins game, counting every Zach Thomas tackle, a point at a time drawing closer to my dynasty league opponent who was all-in. I checked my scores online. I had a very successful day on the fantasy gridiron. Some players were absolutely miserable as I amazingly survived separate decisions to start Billy Volek and Byron Leftwich, plus the onslaught against me known as Tony Gonzalez, with Herculean efforts by the aforementioned LT, Shaun Alexander, Muhsin Muhammad and even Lee Evans.

Am I disappointed I wasn't able to bear witness to this? A little, but more importantly, would these players have performed any differently had I been watching them? Of course not. And considering how my time was otherwise occupied - family, Christmas, laughter, great meals, watching Megan's eyes light up opening gifts, watching the grandparents' eyes light up from Megan's every action - I wouldn't trade it for anything. Not for a 20 year old passing TD record. Not for a fantasy championship.

Best of Both Worlds?

FYI: the next time Christmas falls on a Wednesday or Thursday, which I have to think are ideal days to avoid Christmas-football conflicts, is 2008 (Thursday). Just throwing that out there...

FF In The Groin Report Card

As for the commentary this week, it would seem obvious that I have very little to offer. I certainly hope you all had a great season which likely had little to do with this column given our entertainment and stress relief theme. For all my venting (you guys do know some of it is made up, right?) I can't complain about this fantasy season's results.

I am in too many leagues which I seem to alter back and forth on every other year, so I'm hoping to achieve more balance next year. In fact, I was getting some feeling the past few weeks of the losses having more of a negative impact than the wins having a positive impact on my psyche. If you watched the Dick Vermeil interview about a month ago on Monday night, you know that Dick knows exactly what I'm talking about. That was one of the main reasons he retired the first time.

Should I retire from fantasy football? Ha! And go back to being an accountant full-time?!? I don't think so... What I may in fact do though is change my approach a little. Play some less, and perhaps be a commissioner some more, like for some leagues here at FF Today. Or run some more contests like the Last Man Standing pool we have going on right now which has been a lot of fun. We will see. There is still some time to enjoy the "real" playoffs, relax a little and think things through.

Overall, I'm happy with these results. Definitely. This may in fact be the best fantasy football season I've had in my career, eclipsing last season where many regular season 1st place results and playoff berths were earned, but championship games were lost. This season, I thought I was following the same path. Similar top regular season results and an impressive playoff appearance record began with a rocky playoff start in leagues with my "best" teams, but ended with a pair of championships and one still to be decided tonight.

I guess one of the things driven home this year is no matter how much work you put in and how good the regular season is, once the playoffs start all you can do it let the chips fall where they may. Yes there were some disappointments, but I feel fortunate I got a few chips that bounced right this time out.

Closing off the 2004 fantasy season, here is how I stacked up against the field in my head-to-head leagues:

Dirty Dozen (Team: FF Today)

  • 12 team, second year of 3 player keeper league
  • 1st in regular season points; 8-5 record; wild-card team
  • Won league championship
  • Comments: Thought I was "set" with my great keepers - Steve McNair and Santana Moss. Hey, at least I held on to Moss because I needed that TD this week in place of an injured Terrell Owens. A lot of great draft picks on this team. Shaun Alexander and Muhsin Muhammad were Super Bowl co-MVPs.

Red Eye Masters (Team: FF Today)

  • 12 team, re-draft league with IDP
  • 4th in regular season points; 14-12 record; wild-card team
  • Lost opening round of playoffs
  • Comments: Talk about a tale of two halves. Started the season 12-2 through 7 weeks. Then the wheels fell off as injuries hit in waves and worst-to-first waivers couldn't patch up the ship any longer. I practically never take a QB early until this league I took Daunte Culpepper in the 2nd.

OUFL (Team: Leaside Lightning)

  • 16 team, dynasty league with IDP
  • 1st in regular season points; 21-5 record; 2nd seed
  • Lost opening round of playoffs (Volek!)
  • Comments: Particularly proud of turning this team around. This is a well established league in which I took over a team in 2002. I completely tore the team apart and finished terribly that year. Last year, I squeaked into the playoffs as the 8th seed and this year won the points title. The opening playoff loss posting my worst score of the year against a team firing on all cylinders with Billy Volek and Drew Bennett was disappointing. Could have really used a first round bye in this league but 8 teams qualify.

Ironman 3 (Team: Toronto Toucans)

  • 14 team, dynasty league with IDP
  • 1st in regular season points; 10-3 record; 2nd seed
  • Lost semi-final
  • Comments: This one hurt. I've scored the most regular season points for two consecutive years - by a large margin I might add - and feel the roster, especially offense, is stacked for a 14 team dynasty league. Last year I lost in the final. This year didn't get out of the semis losing by 2.5 points thanks to Willis McGahee scoring a measly 3 against the Bengals and "questionable" Derrick Mason on the bench. My opponent I'm sure had some divine intervention, namely the Todd Heap TD against the Colts after they took a FG off the board.

Zealots Field 7 (Team: Buffalo Bills)

  • 12 team, dynasty league with IDP
  • 1st in regular season points; 9-4 record; 1st seed in conference
  • League championship to be decided tonight
  • Comments: Just joined this league this year. For those who don't know him, Oscar Knight is doing an amazing job putting together the clan of IDP dynasty leagues over at Zealots Field. My championship game should already be in the bag if not for some terrible performances in the starting lineup and great performances on the bench. All I'm looking for now though is just 2 tackles by Adam Archuleta to capture the title. Update: Got the 2 tackles and took home the crown.

$50 AntSports High-Tech FFL (Team: Toronto Thunder)

  • 12 team, re-draft league
  • 2nd in regular season points; 11-2 record and 1st in victory points; 1st seed
  • Won league championship
  • Comments: I wanted to try out AntSports this year since Steve has a really good reputation running his leagues. I really like the Victory Points system. However, I much prefer a league where 5 or 6 RB/WR are in the starting lineup each week rather than only 4.

$50 AntSports Quick-6 FFL (Team: Toronto Tuna)

  • 12 team, re-draft league
  • 11th in regular season points; 2-11 record and 11th in victory points
  • Won toilet bowl
  • Comments: Oh my God. This draft was a nightmare by week 3 having lost Steve Smith (3rd round pick), Charlie Garner (4th), Kellen Winslow (5th) and Julius Jones (6th) to injury. Can it get worse? How about Hines Ward in the 2nd and Jeff Garcia as the starting QB? Interesting that the team I named "Thunder" won it all while the team I named "Tuna" was a huge flop. Hey, I guess if I didn't have at least one team like this to keep me humble then there would be little need for FF In The Groin.

See you next year!