Well, we’ve crowned a Fantasy Bowl Champion. Carol gave it her best effort and Stoner’s team seemed willing to accommodate by collectively smoking in the boys room over the weekend. But even the Artist Formerly Known as Carol’s Fantasy Team didn’t have enough fire power (?) to overcome Stoner, despite its own personal Vortex of Suck. If you can’t tell, I wasn’t exactly riveted by the results of the Fantasy Bowl, despite it’s rather close 48-44 final score. These were, without doubt, the two best teams in the league all season, so it was only right that they were still standing at the finish. And in a week when everything in the NFL seemed to go pear-shaped, I guess I should have expected the results we got. Still, I can’t help thinking I’d have kicked both of their asses if only the Fantasy Gods hadn’t taken a dump in my car. (Not that I am bitter.)
Let’s just look at the whole season, shall we?
AWARDS FROM THE COMMISH (YEAR END EDITION)
FANTASY OWNER OF THE YEAR: Stoner
Robbie hates it (on multiple levels) when I do this, but Stoner is our league’s Bill Belichick. Every year, he manages to parlay one or two good players and a line up full of fantasy-in-name-only dudes into a killer team. This season, he drafted out of the 10th position and refused to bid on any big name players (hell, Stoner would trade draft picks if I let him.) And all he did was cobble together the right line-up most every week. As I often say, never get into a poker game with Stoner. You’ll wind up going home with only a barrel to your name.
(By the way, the final count was 15. That was the number of times I threw up in my mouth while writing that last paragraph.)
FANTASY PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Cam Newton
Speaking of throw-up-in-your-mouth moments. I’ve never liked Cam Newton. I don’t like his constant showboating. I don’t like his big fake smile. Come to that, I don’t like his big fake personality. I would have rather watch Kim Jong-un, Vladimir Putin and Jay Cutler break a chair over Santa Claus’ head than watch Newton be successful in the NFL. But after five seasons, there’s no getting around it: Cam Newton is a great NFL quarterback. He made an instant impact in the league. He overcame a sophomore slump and some up-and-down moments. He’s developed into the dynamic leader his team needs and he deserves to be this season’s league MVP. Closer to home, he’s great with his arm and his feet and that translates into fantasy gold. If Stoner was our league’s Belichick, Newton was the Tom Brady; the one superstar needed to drive the team. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m getting a little dehydrated…
FANTASY BUST OF THE YEAR: Peyton Manning
I still remember the moment. I had a large playoff gathering over at my place this past January. Stoner and Robbie joined Mike, Carol, Lars and myself. Even T.J. was able to sneak out of the house for a little while. And we all stared, dumbfounded, at the TV while the Colts systematically dismantled the Broncos. Peyton Manning, so much the face of the NFL over the last decade and a half, played–how to put this politely–like Christian Ponder had just suffered a massive head wound at the end of a raging bender. When Carol, our resident Manning fanatic, left the room, Robbie said, in a surprisingly gentle voice, “Is Peyton Manning washed up?” None of us–not even Mike, who’s made a hobby out of taunting Manning to Carol–wanted to believe it was true. This season, most stories in the early weeks revolved around how awful the Broncos were playing, despite their being undefeated. No one wanted to face a thing that has been inconceivable since the fall of 1998: a team was actually winning IN SPITE of having Peyton Manning as their QB. While Manning showed signs of life around mid-season, he was eventually pulled when a bum foot contributed to him throwing roughly 17 picks against the Chiefs in mid-November. He hasn’t been seen since and may not be seen again. If Manning wants to play another season, with another team, he’ll certainly be given the opportunity (it’s not as if the NFL is bursting at the seams with great QBs.) The question is whether or not Manning will take it. Given the way his body gave out on him and his team gave up on him this season, maybe it’s time to call it a day. Whatever the choice, there’s no way out of this that isn’t a little sad. (I mean, what’s Mike going to do when Peyton hangs it up?)
(NOTE: Peyton’s heir apparent is one Brock Osweiler. Bill Simmons has a theory on a QB needing a great name in order to succeed. Tony Romo, for example, succeeded because he has a great QB name. Joey Harrington, on the other hand, never had a shot. Because I love b.s. theories, I’m all in on this one. With Brock Osweiler, the name sounds like someone crossbred a vicious dog with a poodle. If I could recommend one off-season move for Broncos GM John Elway, it would be to get the QB to change his name. Brock Jones. Now, there’s an NFL QB. Done and done.)
ASSCLOWN OF THE YEAR: Jerry Jones
I’ve talked about Jones’ various acts of assclownery, most specifically his tone-deaf and borderline immoral handling of the Greg Hardy situation, at length and have no desire to rehash it here. So I’ll just say this: if ever given the opportunity to stand in front of Jerry Jones, I would probably go full-on Dr. Sidney Friedman. “I could tell you everything you’re doing wrong. But you’re such an unbelievable example of walking fertilizer, I find it hard to care.”
(NOTE: Here’s another entry in the Why I Never Could Have Become a Sports Reporter file. Jones once said that he wanted head coach Jason Garrett to be his Tom Landry. If I had been in on that press conference, I couldn’t have helped saying, “So you’re going to heartlessly fire him after he’s given most of his life to the Cowboys’ organization? If that’s the case, I think a lot of guys would qualify as your Tom Landry. Including Tom Landry.”)
THE BOMB THAT DIDN’T GO OFF AWARD: The Outside The Lines Report on Spygate.
As Deflategate, the NFL’s off-season sideshow, was winding down, it looked as if an entirely new scandal was going to blow the lid off the NFL, Roger Goodell and the New England Patriots. ESPN’s Outside The Lines (aka the network’s last link to viable journalism) aired a report stating that the Patriots’ cheating went deeper than anyone realized and that Roger Goodell had colluded in covering up Spygate. Clearly, this was a bombshell of nuclear proportions; one that could take down a commissioner, an ownership, a certain-to-be Hall of Fame coach, maybe even rewrite the NFL history books. Potentially, a watershed moment. And the result was…
Seriously, how fast did this report drop from the public consciousness? It wasn’t even considered news by the END OF THE DAY it aired. The Patriots issued their perfunctory denial, the NFL said nothing and…that was that. Even Deflategate, currently in remission, has been mentioned more often than this report. Suddenly, I’m Mike LaFontaine, “Wha’ happened?” It’s like you’re sitting at Christmas dinner and you tell your father, “By the way, Grandma didn’t die of a heart attack. I smothered her with a pillow.” And your father says, “Got it. Pass the Siracha, would you?” Suddenly, the mystery of Spygate has been replaced by an even bigger mystery: what happened to the report about Spygate? Maybe Outside The Lines can look into…oh wait…
DUMBASS OWNER OF THE YEAR: Jed York
Just about this time last year, York canned 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh on the grounds that Harbaugh reminded him of that one guy at boarding school who gave him a swirlie (Note: that might be more an approximation than York’s actual reasoning.) After an intensive search that involved passing over all of the qualified candidates, York promoted defensive line coach/towel boy Jim Tomsula to the head coaching job. Tomsula, who seemed just as surprised as you were by his hiring, has engineered a miraculous turnaround, from 8-8 to (currently) 4-11. He’s also completely lost potential franchise QB Colin Kaepernick and failed to develop a single promising player. Worse, with each passing week, Tomsula looks more and more like a guy who will open a press conference by saying, “Kill me. Please. Somebody just take me out back and shoot my ass.” However, York, in the manner of all great leaders, stubbornly refuses to admit he made a colossal mistake. So Niners’ fans will get to enjoy another year of the Jim Tomsula Error, um, Era. Actually, I had it right the first time.
And finally, in honor of Jon Stewart, (soon to be ONCE AGAIN, the funniest man on TV) I give you…
YOUR MOMENT OF ZEN: Lessons I’ve Learned
As always, the final moment of zen covers lessons I’ve learned over the course of the season. To whit:
No matter how much legal precedent you cite, no matter how little evidence is presented, no matter how many times proper procedure and simple fair play are clearly violated, the “I hate Tom Brady and want him to be guilty” argument is all some people need. (People who may wind up serving on a jury, I might add. Sleep well.)
Vikings’ fandom runs so deep, I have friends willing to COMPLETELY OVERLOOK the fact the team still employs an assistant coach who wished death on all gay people and did not apologize for his actions. When I bring it up, these same friends (who have co-workers and friends who are gay) simply shrug and say something along the lines of, “Yeah, I know.” And NONE of them have given me a decent explanation of how they reconcile these things. My only conclusion is that they simply aren’t trying.
At some point, every football fan is going to have to come face-to-face with the reality of what the game is doing to the people who play it. For the moment, the NFL is doing a decent job of throwing money around and sweeping the concussion problem under the rug. Eventually, though, I like to believe that it’s tame media partners will no longer be able to ignore the increasing number of former players suffering dementia from their time in the NFL. I wish I could tell you that the NFL will face a moment of reckoning, that there will be a price to pay for its short-sightedness and general lack of caring. But I’m not that optimistic. Football is a Sunday ritual and its fans (myself included) are nothing if not rabid and loyal. You can tell people what’s going on, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be roused to do anything about it. The Romans had their bread and circuses and I don’t believe we’re any different. Or better.
Also, every team in the NFL has lost a key player to injury this season. And there’s still talk of expanding the regular season. (Note: most of that talk comes from fat old men who aren’t putting their bodies on the line.)
Nearly all the people excited about the NFL returning to Los Angeles don’t actually live in Los Angeles.
Finally, I’ve learned that Fantasy Football is a vicious game that systematically rips your heart from your chest, tosses it on a dirty floor and pees all over it. Only a fool would put himself through that year after year.
But I knew that before the year started. And I’ll be back again next year.
YOUR FANTASY BOWL CHAMPION:
The Dropkick Murphys (Stoner)