They say that anything can happen on any given Sunday in the NFL.
They're right, of course. And the fact that anything can happen
is precisely what most of us love most about the game.
When I was 4-1, I didn't mind going to 4-2 after losing to another
good fantasy team because it stands to reason that if anything can
happen, even fantasy owners as accomplished and ingenius as myself
will lose to lesser owners from time to time. My love for the NFL
and fantasy football continued through the next week, when 4 players
on my 16-player roster were unavailable because of their byes. I
lost. But I didn't mind losing to a better team because it was,
after all, a better team. And since anything could have happened,
I never gave up hope. (My opponent's kicker was Martin Gramatica.
Since I was only down by 6 points, I went into the Monday Night
game in week 6 hoping for six missed field goals/extra points. And
everything Gramatica did right early only meant that he would have
to add to the number of things he would do wrong in the end. He
disappointed me, of course.)
The next week I lost to the only undefeated team in my league. Even
with the mighty Kurt Warner on my side and a career day from Rod
Smith, there was little my players could do in the face of Marshall
Faulk's stellar performance vs. Atlanta. I was 4-4. But I still
loved the NFL and the fact that anything could happen. After all,
I was going to get to play 2 games in week 8. And I intended to
win both of them.
One of my opponents, the one with a record of 1-7, sent me his lineup
on Tuesday. It was one of the funniest things I have ever seen.
With most of his running backs off for the week, he had to go with
a run-and-shoot. His fourth receiver was going to be Rocket Ismail
(who, I mused, could only catch a ball if Troy Aikman threw it to
someone other than a defensive back). Even worse, his sole runningback
was Brian Mitchell. And as if that were not enough, he intended
to start the wretched Cade McNown at QB. As a fairly alert fantasy
player, I am always relieved to see a name on an opponent's roster
that I do not recognize. And that was the case with his kicker,
K. Brown. I didn't even know whether the K was for Kevin or Keith
or Kris. I had to do a search to find out that he played for Pittsburgh.
I was not at all worried.
As far as I could tell, he was going to have to beat me with his
three primary receivers: Harrison, Carter, and Morris. I knew that
a good day for Morris would be possible against the Rams defense.
But frankly I felt very good about New England's ability to shut
down Peyton Manning and guessed that Carter would have an average
day against the underrated Buffalo Bills.
How could his 3-man crew best my roster of 8. I had a real quarterback
in Kurt Warner, not some Chicago poser. I had Tyrone Wheatley running
against the sieve-like Seattle defense. Moreover, I had the fairly
dependable Ricky Watters as my second RB. At wide receiver, I expected
Rod Smith to do well against the Bengals, Donald Hayes to have a
nice day vs. the terrible 49er defense, and Joe Horn to be adequate
vs. Atlanta. My receivers, as a group, weren't nearly as good as
his. But at least I had a few other players to go with them. I wasn't
merely confident; I was completely unconcerned.
But then the games got underway. When Warner went out with a broken
finger, it was bad. But even worse was the 70 yard TD run by Ricky
Watters that was called back on a penalty. When I flipped over to
the Steeler game, I saw that this K. Brown character had kicked
five field goals (the number a kicker needs in order to get his
bonus in my league). And whenever I flipped through the other channels,
it seemed as if all of my opponents' receivers were simultaneously
catching touchdowns. (Needless to say, my other opponent, who had
a roster of 8 real players, trounced me.)
I have had better rosters available in past weeks. But this week
I thought my lineup was solid--certainly solid enough to dispatch
the likes of Cade McNown and Brian Mitchell. I am not supposed to
be 4-6. My players are better than that. I am a better owner than
that. Not knowing what else to do, I called Tony Dungee so that
the two of us could discuss the ways we might help our teams out
of their respective funks. But we didn't really talk; we just sobbed
uncontrollably. I had to hang up on Tony when Tom Coughlin showed
up at my door with Vince Tobin in a playful headlock and a bottle
of Chivas in his free hand.
We tried to cheer each other up. But somehow it isn't enough to
receive support from other losers. Tony, Tom, Vince and I have decided
to request the support of football fans everywhere. We will be accepting
flowers and chocolates (along with condolence cards) sent to our
homes. If you choose not to send gifts, please feel free to make
charitable donations in our names. If you're not a part of the NFL,
maybe you have to play fantasy ball to understand what demoralization
really means in the NFL: It means knowing that on any given Sunday,
anything can happen--except for a win by your team.
:: comments to mike
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