Monday, August 27, 2007

I'm Blogging This

Over the course of the next four months, I will be rooting for Derrick Mason to score points, the Ravens Defense to limit points, Matt Stover to add extra points and, gulp, Carson Palmer to compile as many points as possible. Such is the life of a fantasy football General Manager where team loyalties, sports knowledge and sometimes even friendships are put to the test.

Over the last few years, fantasy football has outgrown its niche status as a hobby for only the most die-hard fans (women may have classified this male-dominated social class as “losers”) to become as common a companion to the game day experience as pizza and wings. Men and women of all ages now participate in the reported $1 to $2 billion-a-year industry and the trend has spawned side businesses for evaluating players and enhancing the draft day experience. What follows is my attempt to offer opinions on both as I recently returned from my 5th annual trip to Atlantic City, NJ as a founding member of Retired Orangemen Fantasy Football.

I wont bore you with the historical details of the ROFF (which is named as such because the majority of the owners attended Syracuse University together) as only the 14 current members of the league and the seven men on the waiting list - yes, we have a waiting list to get in - would care. However, to understand the path that led us back to AC this year, one would only have to look at the trophy awarded to the winner of the league each season, which has the team and owner’s name etched into history a la Lord Stanley’s Cup. I wanted to avoid putting the second annual award of the ROFF in the same sentence as The Stanley Cup, but another yearly piece of hardware handed out at the draft goes to the team that finished last and it is not only appropriately titled, “The Toilet Bowl” but we physically give the “winner” a toilet seat with the logos of each recipient pasted around the rim. (Yes, we have logos too)

Fast forward to this past weekend and the 2007 draft. It was another memorable weekend for all those in attendance. We laughed (at each others picks). We cursed (at each others picks). We ate a lot of nachos (in between each others picks). And after more than 8 hours in room 2008 at the FantaSea Resorts (seriously, its called FantaSea – coincidence?) 14 supposed friends had selected the 15 men to follow for the next four months.

I’d be happy to reprint the draft order for you to compare your own league’s results, however, our board might not look quite like yours for two reasons. First off, and this is a necessity to any league considering taking their virtual vice into reality, we actually have a draft board with color coated stickers of all the potential draftees. The resulting rainbow is among the most beautiful sights of the weekend when full, partially because Atlantic City’s shoreline hasn’t aged so well. The second reason is that our league features a keeper component, which allows owners to keep two players for up to three years. This is where you might find some notes interesting:

My keepers were Reggie Bush and Laurence Maroney. Okay, you might not find that interesting, but you’ll probably hear a lot about them during the next 20 installments of Coffee on the 50. By the way, my team name for this year is BushMaroney’07, so my keeper choices were not a surprise. Some of the more surprising players kept this year include Antonio Gates – the only tight end held over – and a Lee Evans/Reggie Wayne pairing – who were kept over Edgerrin James and Chester Taylor, bucking the conventional wisdom that says running backs are gold.

You might not think that a draft board and keepers make the ROFF unique. Fantasy football has more than 17 million players and some are bound to expand upon our efforts, but there are few additional items of note that make our league special, and I encourage all to copy our methods:

1. Draft books: Designate a commissioner who will compile bios and historical team data for each owner, collate this information, graphically design, print, hole-punch, place in binders and mail to all members of the league. Our commissioner, Marc Epstein, deserves credit he will probably never receive for wasting so much time on us. Why does he do it, “It’s something 14 of my closest friends can do together,” said Epstein. “It’s a way for us to stay connected even though we’re miles apart. Its not about football.” Tear.

2. Draft shirts: Create a new shirt each year to commemorate draft weekend. You will find these very useful at the gym or when gardening. (Or when stranded by a Hurricane – more on that in a moment.)

3. Build your own website: Yahoo! just isn’t enough sometimes, especially when many league members write columns each week that need their own place in cyberspace to live. Hence,

4. Pictures: Take a ton; they can be used for future iMovie’s set to music. (This year’s received a standing ovation.)

5. Go to the movies: Each year a new made-for-quoting movie comes out in the summer and dominates the conversation around the nacho dip. This year, SuperBad served as the film of choice and most references to the outstanding performances from Michael Cera and Jonah Hill cannot be repeated here. Although one league member, Parker Deay, who is literally a cartoon character on American Dad, mocked the myriad quotes with a quick quip, “I’m McLove…” as I think we all agree McLovin has already jumped the shark.

As the actual selection rounds began, the first Raven off the board was Willis McGahee. Willis has always been a formidable pick, but the move to Baltimore has re-ignited hopes that McGahee will rise to the status of an elite running back in the fantasy world, or to quote ESPN’s Merril Hodge, a “Factor Back”. Number 23 was taken by Rich Kiss, who commented on the choice, “As long as he doesn’t get hurt, it’s a safe pick.” Genius Rich. Fortunately for all Coffee on the 50 fans, another league member, Chris Brockman, who is actually a part of the sports media and knows what the readers want, added some actual analysis on behalf of Kiss, “We’re very happy to see him out of Buffalo, right Rich?”

Kiss is also a founding member of the ROFF, but more importantly, travels in from New Orleans each August to take part. As fate would have it, this meant that Rich was also attending the draft when Hurricane Katrina moved in on the Gulf Coast two years ago. Unfortunately, in an attempt to get back home before the hurricane hit, Rich only made it as far as Atlanta when his connecting flight was cancelled. He spent the next few weeks in Florida and Mississippi with only the clothes he had at the draft, which of course included a Donovan McNabb Syracuse jersey and a newly minted draft day t-shirt.

The 2007 draft continued for another 7 hours and 13 rounds with some surprises and sour grapes along the way. Here are a few selections to note (remember, with 14 teams there were 28 player kept before the real action began):

First Available Player Taken – Steven Jackson, St. Louis Rams (29th overall pick)
First Rookie – Marshawn Lynch, Buffalo Bills, RB (50th overall pick)
First Rookie Wide Receiver – Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions, WR (57th overall pick)
First Defense – Baltimore Ravens (73rd overall pick)
Biggest Rise up the Board (according to me) – Brian Leonard, St. Louis Rams, RB (116th overall pick)
Biggest Fall down the Board (according to me) – Jon Kitna, Detroit Lions, QB (109th overall pick)

4 – Number of Indianapolis Colts kept (Manning, Harrison, Addai, Wayne)

– Number of games Chris Henry of the Cincinnati Bengals is suspended this year; yet, he was still drafted ahead of Amani Toomer, Marty Booker, and Ashley Lelie

– Number of kickers taken in the last two rounds (note that one team did not even select a kicker on draft day which means only 3 kickers were taken before the final two rounds)

– Number of minutes it took me to decide to take Carson Palmer over Drew Brees and Marc Bulger. I’m still reviewing the choice in my head as I could have taken Javon Walker and waited for Brees on the way back. Brees wont have to play the Ravens twice this year and Bulger added Drew Bennett to his arsenal, but I still went with Palmer. If I had 25 days to think about this I still wouldn’t know for sure what to do. Seriously, what Ravens fan wants to root for Carson Palmer? At least its not Peyton Manning.

– As in 2:30AM. As in the local time in South Korea when the draft started, which is where one league member happened to be this past weekend as he is beginning a year of teaching ESL in the Far East. Nick Serrano stayed up to date on the draft via text messaging and a few long distance calls to the hotel, and stayed up the entire night as the sun rose over Seoul. Said Serrano of what being part of the draft meant, “It’s 2:30 in the morning here and it already feels like it’s going to end too soon.” We miss you Nick.

Adrian Peterson – Last year’s winner, Jason Cantor, GM of Five Second Stare, selected two players with the same name (running backs from Minnesota and Chicago), presumably a first in fantasy history. Of course Steve Smith and Steve Smith had the chance to repeat the feat, but two different owners drafted them.

B.J Surhoff – Let me explain. Although Serrano wins the honor of furthest from the FantaSea, another GM had to make his picks via BlackBerry as Gregg Moore, GM of the Maryland Fighting Blue Crabs, had to stay back in the Charm City this weekend. Moore works for the Baltimore Orioles and as luck would have it, the career of BJ Surhoff was to be honored about the same time we made the turn on round 8. Moore pressed on admirably and filled out his team nicely, although I think his final pick of Musa Smith may have been a little hasty.

As the draft finally came to an end there was one last list to check. Another league member, Jason Sherman, GM of the Shermtanks, had invested in a program that actually will take your draft and project the points of the league. Big surprise when the results came out as Sherman announced “First in active roster? Me. Sweet.”

BushMaroney’07 was projected 4th but even in the virtual world, the best team on paper does not always produce, well, the best team on paper. Talk to me in December to see how Bush, Maroney and Carson Palmer performed. If Palmer earns me a spot on the trophy, it certainly will be sweet. Bittersweet.


Jarrett said...

Not sure on the Mason pick given D. Williams' improvement, but much luck with the D.

SMH at Carson Palmer, but he should put up mega points this season.

Davecat said...

Belechick wants you to fail - did you see how many goal line carries he gave to backs not named Maroney.