Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The draft

Fantasy football by all accounts has become a very popular byproduct of the NFL season. I've never participated and, on the contrary, have found it peculiar to see people with computers in sports bars each Sunday cheering not for the Cowboys or Patriots in a game, but for both Tony Romo--a quarterback for the Cowboys, and Aaron Hernandez a tight end for the Patriots. 

Romo might throw a beautiful pass and the receiver goes out of bounds on the one yard line. Certainly the Cowboys will score. This will, nevertheless, disappoint a fan who appears to be rooting for the Cowboys because the fan does not "have the Cowboys" but "has Romo." When a running back takes the ball in for a touchdown on a subsequent play, the fantasy football fan loses credit for the score because Romo did not pass the ball into the end zone.

I still don't get either the enthusiasm or the nuances of the day game rules, but last night I attended a fantasy football league draft which was an interesting event. 

I'm not sure how universal this scene is, but I suspect that there are commonalities.  On the far side of a Cheers-like tavern, a group of players sit around with long sheets of paper on clipboards awaiting the start of the draft.  The sheets contain lists of quarterbacks, running backs, tight ends, wide receivers, and kickers.  These guide the team "owners" when it is their turn to select a player for their team. 

The commissioner of this league was a big fellow with a more sad than comical case of plumber's pants apparent to every person in the joint except, you'd like to think, him.  He sat in front of a large sheet of paper that was taped down to a table.  There were about twenty men and women ready to make their picks. When the commissioner announced that the draft began, Aaron Rodgers, and Tom Brady were picked nearly instantly.  The commissioner wrote down the draft picks on the huge sheet.  Then announced that "Bill and Shirley" were up. 

My pal who I accompanied as an assistant of sorts, did not pick until 7th.  When it came his/our turn both Drew Brees and Cam Newton were still available. We huddled and he took Newton.  There were some "good pick"s murmered by the others around the table. In the second round my friend had a chance to take the Bills running back Fred Jackson and he scooped him up. When we did so, a woman with a Bills shirt on wailed since she intended to take Jackson with the very next pick.  We were able to get Aaron Hernendez in the third round. 

After six rounds I had had it.  Perhaps if I played fantasy football on a regular basis I could get into this more, but the draft was to go 16 rounds and I knew I was cooked.  What I did enjoy watching was the enthusiasm of the players. They were very much into this draft--happy when they got the player they wanted and disappointed when someone else landed the player before their turn.  The commissioner ordered a slew of bar food appetizers for the players--nachos, sliders, chili dogs, pizza--real heartburn specials--and these platters were strewn along the long table where the drafters perused their lists.

As I wrote in the Madness of March, I think that it is a good thing for people to invest their emotional energy in some thing.  That fantasy football has taken off as it has would only be a negative if it had a detrimental effect on the game itself.  I'm not sure it does. I think fantasy football players can root both for their teams, and the players they have selected for the fantasy pool.  The gambling issue is not that significant. Players kick in 50 dollars at the start of the season, and the winner at the end wins the pot (minus the cost, I assume, for the chili dogs and pizza). 

Still, I think I will stick to my allegiance to the New England Patriots and not worry about how, say, Fred Jackson is doing for the Bills.  Patriots have their last pre season game tonight.  The NFL season opens in a week.

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