If it’s September, it means, for the 9th year in a row, it’s time for my fantasy football league draft. Let the games begin!
THE RULES: the draft goes 14 rounds. By the end, everyone must be able to field a starting lineup (a QB, 2 RBs, 3 WR/TEs, a kicker and a defense/special teams.) It’s done auction-style, meaning everyone is given a hundred mythical dollars and allowed to bid on the players. (And I anticipate that for the 9th year in a row, I will have to explain to my buddy Lars that he does not get a refund if he doesn’t spend all of his mythical money.)
THE PLACE: an extra-large corner booth at The Tav, our traditional Cathedral Hill hangout.
THE PEOPLE: Me (the Commish), Mike (my best friend), Carol (representing feminism), Lars (representing the lunatic fringe), Chuck (Lars’ buddy, who used to co-own a team with Lars but we split them up a few years back after Lars engineered a terrible trade and Chuck challenged him to a duel), T.J. (enjoying the one night of the year his wife lets him out of the house), Stoner (our defending champion and a source of pure evil), Robbie (Stoner’s best friend; good for at least one fantasy-inspired fistfight per season, usually with Stoner), Jack (a guy who spends over 100 hours preparing for this, then refuses to draft any Packers players because he’s such a Vikings homer) and Hal (a St. Paul cop who became buddies with Robbie and Stoner after arresting them during their last fistfight.)
We managed to get everyone back this year. There was a close call when Stoner threatened to quit because, after his win last year, someone kept coming over to his house and breaking his porch light. The only suspect was Robbie, who combined motive (Stoner rarely goes four sentences without reminding Robbie who won the fantasy league), opportunity (he lives four doors down from Stoner) and means (he’s the only one who can reach the damn porch light.) I brokered a peace in which Robbie agreed to knock it off for the duration of the season if Stoner stopped bragging about winning the league. I’m sure as a peace agreement goes, it will be as binding as an Israeli-Palestinian cease-fire.
-We get this exchange, as I’m collecting team names from everyone.
ME: Robbie, I need your team name.
ROBBIE: You’re not going to let me go with Hugh Farted, are you?
ROBBIE: It’s a funny name!
STONER: And in your case, a lifestyle.
ROBBIE: F**k you, Stoner!
ME: Cool it, you guys. There are children over in the restaurant section.
CAROL: There are children right here at the table.
-Stoner makes his annual attempt to get Mike drunk before the draft, knowing it severely compromises Mike’s ability to distinguish his ass from a hole in the ground. Mike heroically resists Stoner’s attempts to buy him a shot, but fails to notice Stoner repeatedly refilling his beer glass from the pitcher. Probably because Stoner keeps distracting Mike by pointing out various comely women in the bar. I wouldn’t be surprised if Stoner hired these women. He’s the kind of guy who’d go to an AA meeting just to get laid. (Don’t look at me like that. He’s actually done it.)
-My main challenge at the draft was covertly texting my girlfriend, Toni. She wanted to come to the draft, even though she has no interest in football. But I had to tell her, delicately, that significant others are not allowed at the draft. We drew up this rule after the Great Glaring Incident involving Robbie and T.J.’s then-girlfriend-now-wife-and-hopefully-future-ex-wife-before-she-kills-him. Believe me, we’re doing it for ROBBIE’s safety.
HIGHLIGHTS OF ROUND ONE
-I land the first pick in the draft and throw out Cam Newton. The bidding on Cam quickly gets too rich for my blood and I let Robbie and Mike get into bidding war (with Stoner throwing in the occasional bid just to drive the price up.) Mike winds up landing Cam. Immediately, his face goes blank and he says, “I don’t even like Cam Newton.” Clearly, Stoner’s plan is working.
-Antonio Brown’s name comes up. I throw out a $30 bid and immediately realize that’s a good $10 higher than I wanted to go. I wait for someone to outbid me, but nobody does. There it is. Five minutes in and my fantasy season is already f**ked.
-Once again, the finer points of an auction draft escape Lars, as I have to spend five minutes explaining to him why we won’t allow bids in denominations of fifty cents.
-Stoner gets the first big laugh of the night by nicknaming Aaron Rodgers, “The Bachelor.”
-Chuck lands Matt Ryan in the first round by throwing out a bid of $15. Nobody else bids on Ryan because we’re not allowed to bid DOWN.
HIGHLIGHTS OF ROUNDS TWO THROUGH FOUR
-Chuck starts the second round by bidding for Julio Jones. Stoner runs the classic Stoner ploy: throw in a few extra bids to get another guy to pay more than he wanted to. Except Chuck backs off and Stoner winds up paying decent money for a player he doesn’t want. STONER’S BEEN HAD. The whole table goes quiet. It’s like watching someone knock out Mike Tyson: you knew it was theoretically possible, you just didn’t think it would ever happen.
-Drew Brees’ name comes up and Mike, who won the league several years back with Brees and has a fanatical attachment to him, gets into a bidding war. He spends $30 to land Brees and is immediately told he’s now spent $75 of his mythical $100 on two QBs. Mike responds by staring into the beer he should probably be having less of.
-T.J., enjoying his annual night out from his wife/overlord, starts eyeballing someone at the bar. Eventually, a dude the size of a strip mall comes over and confronts him.
STRIP MALL GUY: Hey buddy, you wanna quit staring at my wife?
T.J.: I’m not staring at your wife. Just her jugs.
The guy attempts to pick T.J. up by his gonads, but Robbie and Mike intervene and Hal flashes his badge as a way of calming the guy down.
T.J.: Hey man, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you. But for the record, those are nice jugs.
The guy makes another move for T.J., at which point Hal invites the guy outside to have a conversation about the legal consequences of continuing this behavior. T.J. weaves into his seat and refills his glass. Robbie glares at him.
ROBBIE: What the hell did you mean ‘for the record?’ Who’s keeping a record of this?
And then everybody stares at me.
-Before Mike can make another pick, Stoner cracks up the table by saying, “Hey Mike, which QB you gonna take?” Mike tries to reclaim his dignity by getting into a bidding war for Ezekiel Elliot, but since he’s essentially holding a “Will Draft For Food” sign, he doesn’t get far.
-For the umpteenth year in a row, I have to explain to Lars that he cannot trade DOWN in the draft and that it’s useless to stockpile draft picks.
-Chuck is confounding the table by refusing to spend money and picking oddball players. Normally, this is Stoner’s domain. We’re all coming to the horrible realization that Chuck might be the new Stoner. And we didn’t realize how attached we were to the old one. For his part, Stoner shrugs it off and says, “I had a good run. I’m just going to have to start losing like the rest of you guys.” So much for being attached…
HIGHLIGHTS OF ROUNDS FOUR THROUGH EIGHT
-Hal returns from talking down the guy who wanted to kill T.J. He also upholds T.J.’s assertion that the woman had excellent jugs. Glad we cleared that up.
-A streak of running backs highlights Round 6, leading Lars to take Eddie Lacy and Eddie Lacey’s lunchbox ((c) Hal on the last line.)
-Lars’ bid for Andrew Luck gets us this:
ME: Lars has the high bid. Going once…going twice…
(Suddenly, EVERYBODY at the table turns and looks at Mike. He finally catches on.)
MIKE: F**k you guys.
STONER: Mike’s holding out for Teddy Bridgewater.
(Immediately, half the table starts laughing and the other laugh looks they’re going to pull black shawls over their heads.)
-T.J. picks C.J. Spiller. It should be noted he also has C.J. Anderson and T.J. Yeldon. No word on whether or not he’s picking Y.A. Tittle or O.J. Anderson.
HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE REST OF THE DRAFT
-As we get down near the end, Mike drafts Danny Woodhead, giving us this exchange.
ME: Yeah, I was thinking the same thing.
-Carol drafts Eli Manning and I realize I can no longer refer to him as The Other White Meat. Gonna have to raise a glass in memory of that one.
-Jack takes Jaleen Strong, allowing me my annual joke, “Jack takes something called Jaleen Strong.” Nine years and counting with that gag. Take my wife. Please.
-Mike takes Blair Walsh, prompting Stoner to say, “Wasn’t he in The Exorcist?”
-Jack takes LaGarrette Blount. When I ask why…
JACK: Didn’t he used to play for the Gophers?
ROBBIE: No. You’re thinking Laurence Maroney.
JACK: Oh. Can I change the pi–
ME: No, you may not.
I’m tough, but arbitrary.
-The draft ends and I let everyone know I’ll have the rosters posted on our website. Robbie and Hal give T.J. an escort out of the place (I don’t think anyone’s going to volunteer to walk him to his door when he gets home.) Mike hits Carol up for a ride home and Carol hits me up to do it instead (she frequently has to replay their breakup when Mike’s been drinking.) Jack stares into his beer glass and keeps muttering, “Poor Teddy.” I call him a cab before he starts crying. Chuck and Lars make their way out as Chuck explains to Lars that the system is rigged. The wife of the Strip Mall Guy comes over and apologizes for her husband’s behavior…then slips Stoner her phone number.
And another season is off and running!
For your edification…
The Rat Pack (Me)
The Winter Soldiers (Mike)
Brian’s Song (Carol, because she has a crush on Brian Dozier from the Twins and doesn’t actually know what the movie Brian’s Song is about.)
Teddy’s ACL (Robbie)
War Machine (Jack)
The Electric Mayhem (Hal)
The Dropkick Murphys (Stoner)
The Flaming Envelopes (Lars)
The Jock Sniffers (T.J.)