Fantasy football greater than hobby

Nick Esposito

As the haze of summer fades, so does the desperation of everyone’s fantasy baseball season. My baseball team, the Skippers, is hovering just above .500, and its championship chances are looking bleaker every day. A summer full of muted bats and pathetic pitching can leave any fantasy player itching for the fall. The fall marks the end of a losing season and a chance to start over.

In order to have a successful run on your road to redemption, you need to have thick skin. Do not let the fact that your friend is rolling his eyes at you as you pour over the minutiae of your Fantasy Football Preview Magazine squash your passion. With that said, never be the fantasy player that knows when Donald Driver’s bye week is but can’t seem to recall the night of your anniversary. That will surely mark the end of your season and, most likely, life in general. If you are armed with thick skin and a balance of your priorities, then you are ready to get started.

Your journey begins on Draft Day. Every year millions of beer-bellied, unshaven fantasy players flock to rec rooms and basements all over the country, hoping that this is the year they put together the most feared team in the league. Draft day is undoubtedly the most important day of the season. First and foremost, a premier fantasy draft has to be loaded with top-notch food. I am not talking about hors d’evours and cucumber sandwiches but artery clogging dishes such as pizza, hot wings and Dallas-video-board sized hoagies.

The next step in a successful draft party is the unveiling of the team names. A catchy moniker is not always the easiest thing to do. You can name your team after your high school (Pirates, Wildcats, Spartans), your favorite NFL team (Steel Curtain, Dog Pound, Gang Green) or, if you are daring enough, you can dig a little deeper into your creativity basket and come up with something new and unique. This year in my league there are team names like “Westbrook’s Health” and “Six-burgh,” but nothing can match the creativity of “Rashard Mendeldoug”, which is Rashard Mendenhall (Steelers HB) plus Villanova’s Mendel Doug. Keep in mind that this is the name that is going to stick with you all season and, hopefully, will be the name that is etched into that championship trophy, so choose wisely.

With that out of the way, leave the T-shirt designs and lunchboxes to your marketing department because it is time for you to hit the books and prepare for the draft. The weeks leading up to the draft are just as important as the playoff stretch late in November. Thorough preparation is essential to become a fantasy champion. The night before the draft, players should sit themselves down and ask the tough questions. How will Tom Brady rebound after knee reconstruction? Is Adrian Peterson the rightful No. 1 pick? Will the relocated veterans Torry Holt and Terrell Owens have an impact in their respective new cities? And you have to decide if you are going to be the guy that takes Brett Favre in the fifth round. Once you are mentally prepared, it is time to select the future 2009 champions.

Finally, it is time for the draft to begin. You have to keep in mind that even though you came prepared to the draft you need to have an open mind when selecting your players. The draft may not turn out the way you predicted, which means that you need to be flexible and able to think on the fly. Maurice Jones-Drew of Jacksonville might not fall to you as far down as he did a year ago which leaves you without your fantasy stud. Fantasy players may be forced to look at lesser-known players Pierre Thomas or Ryan Grant to anchor their running attack. No matter how much the Steelers defense is screaming at you to take them in the sixth round you have to keep your composure because defenses and kickers are typically not taken until the end of the draft. Keep an eye out for a player who is backing up an aging veteran (example: Larry Johnson for Priest Holmes) because they have the potential to put up huge fantasy numbers. If you really want to steal bragging rights from your friends you have to check your NFL allegiances at the door. If you are an Eagles fan, don’t pass on Brandon Jacobs just because he is a Giant. If you are a Steelers fan, don’t snag Big Ben too early just because he wears black and gold. There are a lot of things to consider this year at your fantasy drafts, but the stress of the war room is what makes fantasy football fun.

For those of us who need to be removed even further from reality, fantasy football allows us to compete right alongside the pros. Sure, we are not the ones taking bone-crushing hits, but we are the ones that are continually getting sacked by spam and bombarded by trash-talking Tweets. It is the level of true solidarity that makes fantasy football worth playing. So strap on your helmets, open your chips and work out your clicker finger because with the fall comes hope. In the first week, everyone has a chance. Except, of course, if you’re a Lions fan.

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Nick Esposito is a junior communication major from Skillman, N.J. He can be reached at [email protected]