Fantasy frenzy infiltrating reality

September 04, 2018 - 10:46 pm
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My wife is reading a Harry Potter book to my son as he listens patiently from the top bunk. He's entering fourth grade and Wednesday is the first day of school. My daughter is acting up a little; I hear something from down the hall about how she took two of her brother's stuffed animals and is refusing to give them back. She acts this way sometimes when she's nervous, and as Wednesday is her first day of second grade -- new school, new bus -- we have that tonight.

Her mother is now insisting that she return Cooper and Sleep Doggy Dogg (thank you) to their rightful owner. Sounds like she won't and things are beginning to get loud.

I'm down in my bedroom, alone, distracted by the situation. Somewhat grudgingly I walk down the hall and tell my daughter to return the dogs. Then I take her aside and tell her that it's normal to be nervous but not OK to take her anxiety out on others. She calms down a little, and I go back down the hall. The situation has settled down, for now.

Satisfied and even a tad relieved, I return to my important work -- calculating whether this fantasy team can go headlong into the season with only the one tight end, Eric Ebron.

I don't know in the previous sentence whether to put quotation marks around important, work, or important work. Maybe there should be quotes around the whole article.

This is my life right now.

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Here's how I got here: Two years ago, my friend Joe fantasy-shamed me. He said leagues I was playing in were "kiddie leagues" and I've done nothing until I've won his. I played in his, finished first in points, lost in the playoffs, and walked away thinking he was, while insulting, mostly correct. (In case you've never heard our show, insulting but correct is a facility to which I respond well.)

Last year, I upped it to eight leagues, put in overtime grinding at them, and walked away about tripling my money. I led Joe's 14-team league in points again (and lost in the playoffs again too). A listener invited me to his online draft and I proceeded to go 16-0 in that league. In the WGR league, I wasn't the best team, but nevertheless won it for the third time in five years. Last year went well.

Like a poker player on a roll, I came to 2018 ready to sit and play in every room that would have me. I would play and then replay fantasy-football podcasts, as if my goal were to memorize them. I added new terms to my language; handcuffing, streaming, helium, studs-and-duds.

Tonight, the night before my children's school year begins, I can't stop thinking about Eric Ebron.

Father of the Year is probably out.

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There's no bailing out now. If this were the movie Rounders, last year's me was building up the bankroll before flying headlong into Teddy KGB's aces full, and this year's me is trying to survive an overnight bender, hoping to avoid getting pummeled by the municipal workers upstate. Or, in terms of my actual life, trying to do well in all these leagues while not neglecting personal responsibilities.

It's 15 leagues, by the way. I'm also in six leagues where you draft a team but never touch it again as weekly lineups are manufactured automatically -- known as best-ball leagues. You don't attend to them once the draft is over so they shouldn't count toward the total. The other 15, however, yeah, to be good at it there's a lot of time to put in.

When you consider both scoring and free-agent rules, none of these 15 leagues has the same format. That means it's 15 different waiver-wire deadlines to meet. Three (four?) of these leagues are keeper or dynasty leagues, so considering a player's fortunes beyond 2018 is necessary. One league doesn't require you to start a tight end. Another mandates two quarterbacks. Some are 12-team leagues, others are 14, one is 16. When Jerick McKinnon goes down for the year with a knee injury it's on me to file through these leagues to see how I'm affected. (I don't immediately know.) One by one, do I have him? If I do, how should I replace him? If I don't, can I trade with the team that does? It's laborious, like being a baseball coach and having to call all the team parents that the game coming up in two hours is rained out.

I think I did a good job in most of my drafts loading up on receiver depth. I set out on Tuesday to find a trade partner or two, people that might sell me one quality starter for the price of two good backups. No sale, yet. I went back-and-forth running through trade ideas -- and back, and forth, and back, and forth. There's an art to trades. In the end, I made one offer, to a guy I've only briefly met, and it was rejected. "Let's revisit down the road," said the man, reasonably, and for a minute I was Willy Loman, not Mike McD.

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I'm going to share updates throughout the season, both online and on the air. I know your sort-of friend sidling over at work to tell you how his fantasy team did can be a conversation worse than death. However, I don't want to tell you how my teams are doing as much as how it's all fitting into my life -- or, I guess, if it indeed actually fits. The fantasy is a big part of the reality here. 

Big, but not the biggest. I'll be at the bus stop Wednesday morning giving hugs and high-fives as the kids head off into another school year.

Then, probably, it's back to Eric Ebron.

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