Shoe’s Guide To Fantasy Football
By Tim “Shoe” Sullivan
I love early September.
That’s always the time of year when 40 or more NFL fans from the Stevens Point area get together over two nights and draft their Fantasy Football teams. Both leagues that I’m in have 20 franchises in each league.
More and more football fans join fantasy football leagues every year. I know some guys who have about 10 different teams, but that’s just crazy.
Some people think fantasy football has been going on for maybe 10 years. They’re wrong.
I started playing fantasy football in the 1970s — way back in the day. Roughly speaking, here’s how it goes…
You get about 20 people together and meet somewhere for the “draft”. Everyone pays a small entry fee. The fee allows you to pick your team. After the draft, you are given a weekly schedule. Your team plays against another team. You are trying to pick real players from the NFL teams who you think will have a great upcoming season. After the draft, the first thing you do is submit a lineup to your league commissioner. The “Commish” of both of our leagues usually is Tina Zagrzebski. She’s a Hall of Fame Commissioner.
The league scoring systems may vary a little, but the idea is to score more points than your opponent that week. To give you an example, one league’s rules say: (1) You get 6 fantasy points if your player (who you have in the lineup that week) scores a 9-yard touchdown. You get 14 points if your player scores a 70-yard touchdown.
You also get “bonus” points depending on how many yards your player gains rushing, passing, or receiving. You can add to your point total with field goals and extra points from your fine placekicker. It’s a bummer when your placekicker remains on the sidelines and the team goes for two instead. Your defensive unit can also get you points for neat stuff like sacks, fumble recoveries, interceptions, returns, and goodies like that.
Everything is done by computers now, but way back in the day, things were a lot different. The first time I ever heard of this new thing called fantasy football was when it started around Stevens Point in the 1970s. A bunch of fans who became franchise owners all piled into a small smoke-filled backroom in the Dewey Bar on Stevens Point’s southside.
Gary Bogie from the railroad was the Dewey League’s first commissioner. The league was pretty much started by Billy Opiola, Gil Molski, and Ed McCann. Maybe a few others. You walked into the room, and in the front was a huge board with the names of players hand-written on little sheets of paper. It must’ve taken those guys weeks just to print up all those names. Can you imagine sitting up all night printing “wide-receiver TJ Houshmandzadeh” or “running back Tim Biakabutuka”?
Then the “owners” drew cards to determine the order of drafting. The first team might say, “The Scorpions take quarterback Joe Montana”. Ed McCann would then take the “Joe Montana” paper off the board and pass it on to the Scorpions. Nobody else could then select Montana.
When the draft was over, you then submitted your lineup to the commissioner and your opponent turned in their own. One of our leagues says that each week you must submit a quarterback, three running backs, three wide receivers, a tight end, a kicker, and a defense/return unit. That meant you might play the entire Green Bay Packers’ defensive unit plus their special teams guys.
Your team plays a certain amount of regular-season games, usually about 14. Then you have the league playoffs and Super Bowl. Some leagues play for money. Others play for trophies. Bragging rights is also big.
Every Monday or Tuesday morning, some fantasy football players are elated and others want to jump off a cliff. I was usually the one looking for a cliff. The draft is the key. You can add more players throughout the year, maybe, but the draft is thee big thing. Gosh, some of these owners come into the draft with laptops, spread sheets, cheat sheets, magazines, and you name it. Drafts can get intense.
Well, usually they get intense. Leagues always love it when I get in because my drafts almost always suck. One year, I had a few too many “soda pops” prior to the draft. When I got home that night after the draft, it turned out my first-round pick was running back Marcus Allen and I also took him in the fourth. That wasn’t overly bright.
Another year, our league drafted 14 players. I took eight quarterbacks and finished last. You just never know. I selected Randy Moss and Devin Hester for eight straight years, and picked another guy who ended up playing in Canada that year.
I’ve had the good fortune to have several franchise partners over the years, including Mandy Fabich, Kris Arendt, Doug Barsness, and Lisa Grasshoff.
“He never listens to me anyways but it’s still fun,” said Arendt.
In 40 years of playing fantasy football, my teams have won one Super Bowl. One. Luckily Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison went nuts for me that year.
At every draft, after someone drafts a player, a lot of times the other owners will say, “Nice pick!”
Nobody ever said that to me after any of my picks. Ever. That’s usually not a good sign.
I tend to go overboard picking “sleepers”. Those are NFL players not very highly regarded. Most of my sleepers usually end up guarding the Gatorade bucket and rarely even get on the field.
Dumb drafting frequently dooms my teams, but bad luck comes into play also. I’ve taken Adrian Peterson in three different years and he sucked each season. Then when I don’t pick him, he leads the league in rushing.
I had a decent running back one year and needed to win one more game to make the playoffs. With two minutes left in a real game, my guy’s team got down to the one yard line. I make the playoffs if my guy scores. So of course they faked it to him and hit a third-string tight end for the TD and it was, See ya, Shoe.
I swear, the real NFL should definitely worry about my teams. It’s an absolute fact that out of every 10 guys I draft, and it doesn’t matter which position they play or what team they’re on, at least five will be injured before the first month is over. If the Patriots knew that I drafted Tom Brady, they would be very wise to go get another quarterback.
Case in point: last year. In one league, my first round pick was Adrian Peterson. He missed the whole damn season. In the other league, my first choice was Odell Beckham — who had a zillion yards the year before. So he sucked during the first month.
Then I got “Gronk” because you always need a stud tight end. Here’s a dude who’s built like Atlas, so of course he got hurt early. Then I claimed the NFL MVP Cam Newton. I couldn’t wait for all his one-yard touchdown runs which would be double points. So Atlanta and other teams roughed him up and he was basically useless. And on and on it went.
My Doug Baldwin had a lousy start cuz Wilson was terrible. My Allen Hurns had bad numbers thanks to Bortles throwing incompletions. My Starks never got on the field. My great placekicker on New England started missing field goals. Kevin White, Shane Vereen, Chris Ivory, Dion Lewis, and CJ Spiller all were hurt or cut.
It happens every year. When SportsCenter announces the latest big injury, it’ll be one of my guys. No doubt about it. Crazy stuff always happens.
I had Aaron Rodgers one year. He threw something like four touchdown passes in the first half. Finally the Shoe would put up some big points. He never threw one pass in the second half, and you don’t get anything for just handing off.
I had my great punt returner knocked out for the year by one of his own guys. Another one of my heroes dropped a 90-yard touchdown bomb. Another one of my players had a 70-yard touchdown run called back because the tight end lined up an inch offsides. My kickoff returners never ran the ball out. My running backs usually blocked. My wideouts would run into each other. My kickers would hit the upright when they DID try a field goal. And on and on it went.
Fantasy Football? By all means, it should be called “Frustration Football”.
And I can’t wait for another season to begin.