I feel like I've been writing more about me than I have China lately. I wrote about my basketball life this past week. And now fantasy football? Oddly enough, fantasy football consumed a big chunk of my life for about twenty-five years. I'm in a fantasy league again this year. It's been a good way for me to connect with the other staff members.
I love and respect the NFL. There are many aspects to it that fascinate me. The head coaches, the short career length, the history of the league and owners, the communist television business model, and of course fantasy football.
In the early nineties I had a friend in the same math program at Western Washington University, Eric Hanson. He and his brother started a fantasy football league and needed members for the league. My buddy Brian joined as well. I remember the year well because I was so excited to take Dan Marino in the first round of our draft. He made it through four games before blowing out his achilles' tendon. It took me just a few weeks and I was hooked. Watching "my" players score me points immediately gave me a reason to watch games I would have never watched before.
After one season we started our own league and brought in several friends from different aspects of our lives. Softball players. Work colleagues. Family. This was was happening right at the birth of the Internet. I remember digging through box scores in the newspaper to tally scores, but that didn't last long. I was able to get a dial up internet connection through the Educational Service District (ESD) in Mount Vernon. There were no graphic browsers yet. Everything was text based, but I could access live box scores during games. That was super cool, until someone tried to call us and we would get bumped offline.
My connection through the ESD hooked me up with USENET, the first online newsgroups. Large chat rooms for different interests. There were all sorts of categories.
And then I found the RSFF
Honey, I'm home. A bunch of tech geek fantasy football junkies. People that lived fantasy football that had early access to the internet. This was before graphic user interface existed. No Netscape, Mosaic, or Opera. It's was all text on the screen. I met future giants in the fantasy football industry. Guys who went on to start fantasy football businesses. Joe Bryant. Greg Kellogg. Emil Kadlec. A few years later Joe asked me if I would like to write for him on his new venture with David Dodds. Why me? Who else takes their own time sharing graphs of data looking for correlations between draft position and fantasy production. I was in. I wrote articles. I did game recap analysis. I moderated the message boards.
A few years into the hobby I had the dream season. In 1996 I had lucked into the perfect roster in a home league with a friend and crushed an ESPN nationwide competition. The ESPN thing had hundreds of thousands of participants and I got 5th. The prize was something like a sweatshirt, but I loved it and the pride I felt was through the roof. My roster in the home league had the top QB (Testeverde), top two RBs (C Martin and R Watters), and top two WRs (E Martin and M Jackson). I destroyed that year. I won a lot of leagues through the years, but nothing compared to that one.
One of my favorite things about the hobby was coming up with a different team name and logo each season. My best ones were based on a series of Nike commmercials starring Dennis Hopper (Stanley the ref). If you were a fan of the NFL in the nineties...
Bad Things Man
Like a freight train
Horseshoes and Hand gernades
Junior Seau's footprint
Merry Xmas to me
I hear the footsteps
Each season at our draft I would unveil the team name and play the old commercial for everyone. I'm pretty sure only I was entertained.
I started to lose my passion for the hobby when it turned into work. I was getting paid to write articles instead of investigating what I was personally interested in. And then two things happened that killed it for me. The first was that another writer stole one of my ideas and didn't want to give me any credit. I wrote an article about using average seasonal statistics to create future projections. He called it average value theory (AVT) a few months later and didn't want to give me the slightest nod. After that one of the crazies from the Free For All message board called my boss at school. I had blocked his IP address and he had a tantrum. That got real way too fast. I was done.
I still ran my home league for a long time. I addicted my buddy Steve to it. He paid me back by addicting me to golf. To his credit, Steve has consistently been the best player of fantasy football I've ever seen. He took over my No Mercy team for me and has dominated winning more than any other player in the history of that league. It's tiered leagues composed of fantasy football insiders. It's quite an accomplishment.
It's been quite a ride. I've met quite a few industry titans. Emil Kadlec the publisher of Fantasy Football Index. Doug Drinen the creator of pro football reference. I even got to do weekly radio shows with several former NFL stars on sports talk radio in various markets. Tom Waddle and OJ McDuffie stand out in my mind, but just doing the local radio program in Bellingham was my favorite.
I have a team again this year in Hangzhou. Staying up late Sunday nights or waking up early Monday to watch games has been rough, but still it's been fun. That said, I would rather be on the golf course instead of watching football on a Sunday afternoon. My season is going well. I nailed all three of my targeted players in my draft. Travis Kelce the top TE, and two players that could be the best players from a fantasy perspective that most see as clear number two guys on their teams; Tyler Lockett and Tony Pollard. Work the waiver wire hard to improve your team and it's hard to fail. Good times.