“Your team,” Carol texted me (and I could easily imagine her gritting her teeth as she did so), “Is not that good.”
And the funny part is: I agree with her. Yes, I understand Carol was bitter because I managed to beat her with a lineup that had more zeroes than my uncle Gordie’s circle of friends and now our records are exactly inverted (6-1 to 1-6). But again, that doesn’t mean her assessment of this team is wrong. Every fantasy league in the world, during every fantasy season ever played, has that one team that manages to win nearly every game and despite the rest of the league examining this team’s lineup more closely than the da Vinci Code, nobody can figure out how the hell they’re doing it. I’m no exception. And while I’ve managed to pull out garbage victories the last two weeks, the team was actually pretty damn good the previous four weeks. It was consistently one of the highest scoring teams in the league. And while the team had Aaron Rodgers until last week, it still doesn’t explain how a lineup that involves Melvin Gordon, Frank Gore, Larry Fitzgerald, Doug Baldwin and a Pu-Pu Platter at 3rd WR could produce this many points and this many wins. You’d think the team was doomed with Kirk Cousins coming in for Rodgers, but hell, Cousins is the reason the team won this week. I’m used to seeing the Inexplicable Winner in every league. But it’s never been MY team.
And if you think I wrote all that in the hope the Fantasy Gods will not cruelly drop the hammer on my team, well, let’s just drop the whole subject. It’s giving me the willies.
AWARDS FROM THE COMMISH
FANTASY PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Ezekiel Elliott
As covered in some detail here, the Cowboys RB’s legal team pulled that ol’ Houdini, keeping Elliott on the field until his absence can fully destroy the Cowboys’ season. This week, Elliott and his team had the NFL equivalent of a spa treatment when they went up against the San Francisco 49ers (it’s what NFL teams do when they need to get healthy.) Elliott responded by scoring three TDs, getting over 200 yards total offense, punching out a cop, breaking out of Alcatraz, standing on a mountaintop, chopping it down with his hand, kicking a grizzly bear in the nuts, giving the entire WWE locker room a viral infection, impregnating half the countryside, winning the Chicago marathon and wiping his ass with the American flag…none of which he’ll be suspended for.
FANTASY OWNER OF THE WEEK: Stoner
Long time readers (or really even short time readers) will realize that I frequently break my own rules for some of these awards. Fantasy Owner of the Week, for example, is supposed to go to the owner who makes a canny move (or moves) that bring them a victory they almost-certainly would not have had otherwise. Stoner didn’t do much other than leave in Ezekiel Elliott and Amari Cooper (and actually, he could have left both of them out and STILL beaten Chuck) but his total of 76 points meant he outscored two entire GAMES this week. You’ve got to tip your hat to that in some way.
DUMBASS OWNER OF THE WEEK: None
On the flip side, I’m actually going to follow the rules in this category. Are there a lot of incompetent lineups clogging the standings like a turd in the league water pipe? Absolutely. Are there an abundance of teams that are “fantasy” lineups in name only? You betcha. Is this, by far, the worst season in this league’s history, the 70-degree-day-in-February-climate-change-denying-winter-of-discontent? Oh, completely. But nobody was really a dumbass. (I’m sure they’ll be grateful to know that.)
ASSCLOWN OF THE WEEK: Marshawn Lynch
Beast Mode made his mark in Oakland this past week, when he left the bench to participate in a brawl between the Raiders and the Kansas City Chiefs. During this altercation, Lynch put his hands on an official, getting him immediately thrown out of the game. What’s more fun, Lynch was defending his cousin, Marcus Peters…who happens to play for the Chiefs. So he left the bench, got thrown out and suspended for one game…in the effort to beat up his own teammates. As awkward moments go, it’s on the level of George Costanza knocking over children and elderly ladies to avoid a fire. It’s a little hard to pretend THAT didn’t happen. Nothing like coming out of retirement, joining a new team and giving them the absolute, unqualified impression that “Marshawn will…beat the s**t out of us under the right circumstances.” Good luck with that, Jack Del Rio.
Dishonorable Mention: Ike Taylor
The NFL Network talking head defended Lynch’s actions and said, “Even though he got suspended, it showed me growth. He’s trying to be the mediator.” When asked how leaving the bench to attack his teammates and an official represented growth, Taylor said, “When you’re in the heat of the moment, you’re not thinking” and then “You get paid a lot of money to play football. You don’t get paid a lot of money to think.” The idiocy in those statements doesn’t need comment from me, but the whole exchange is symptomatic of how we argue these days. When you say something stupid, you don’t walk it back or admit that you chose your words poorly. You double-down on the original argument and dare someone to outlast you in the ensuing debate. It’s a rhetorical “I’ll see you in Hell!” One thing that seems fairly clear: Ike Taylor isn’t paid to think, either.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: Sam Farmer
Okay, it’s actually tweet, but I liked it so much, I couldn’t resist. From the L.A. Times reporter: “LA’s NFL attendance issues will be solved once there’s a new stadium = My wife and I will stop bickering once we have kids.”
And finally, in honor of Jon Stewart (we still need you, brother) I give you…
YOUR MOMENT OF ZEN: The NFL in London
While the U.S. and the U.K. frequently tout their Special Relationship (not that there’s anything wrong with that), it’s a bit lopsided. While the U.S. did the Brits the favor of taking us off their hands and later bailing them out of two different world wars, the Brits have repaid this by burning down the White House and providing pictures of Winston Churchill’s dong.
(Yes, I know the Brits have provided The Beatles, Harry Potter and everyone playing an American in a Christopher Nolan film, but…you’re still fixated on Churchill’s dong, aren’t you? Okay, I’m moving on.)
At any rate, the NFL has been sending games over to London for the last several years and they’ve generally drawn large crowds due to the novelty of American football and blissful ignorance of the fact that most of the teams they’re watching absolutely suck. And since the NFL has never met a crappy idea that it won’t completely embrace, the notion of putting a whole NFL franchise in London is high on the league’s “to-do” list (right behind an 18 game schedule and shock collars that force players to stand for the national anthem.) This is one of those ideas that looks like complete idiocy on paper, but is nearly unworkable in practice. Why don’t we count the ways?
Let’s start with interest level. Anyone remember NFL Europa? Of NFL Europe? Or the World League of American Football? Put your hands down, monkeys, they’re all the same thing and you don’t remember any of them, really. The league existed in one form or another for the better part of 15 years. Games were typically played in 80,000 seat stadiums in front of about 9 semi-interested fans. By the end, the league consisted of 7 teams, 6 of them located in Germany. London’s team shut down operations 10 years before the league ended. The Scottish team wandered off into the fog one night and was never heard from again (but they say when the moon is full, you can still hear them calling audibles across the loch.) Yes, you can argue that European fans knew they were not getting top of the line players, making NFL Europe the equivalent of Major League Soccer over here. But MLS has not only survived, it’s thrived for 10 years longer than NFL Europe. And when the NFL, the sporting equivalent of the U.S. Mint, decides they’re not going to throw money at something, you know it’s a bust. So while 70, 000 to 80,000 fans showing up to watch the Cleveland Browns might look impressive, there’s still not enough evidence of a groundswell for this sort of thing.
And what would London get out of it, anyway? It’s not as if they NEED an NFL team over there. Whenever there’s a risk that the Vikings will move, we’re reminded what a Podunk hillbilly hell this place would be without an NFL franchise. It’s not as if London has the same worry. They’ve hosted the Olympics. The country as a whole hosts the most prosperous, most prestigious futbol league in the world. To be clear, the NFL feels it needs London. London does not need the NFL. I don’t think hosting 8 NFL games a year is going to make a big economic impact on London. And I’m sure they’re THRILLED with the idea of 20,000 Pittsburgh Steelers fans descending on Piccadilly Circus. It’s like getting an ugly sweater from your aunt Marge for Christmas and she’s there to watch you open the damn thing. “Oh, that’s….great. Thanks.”
And there’s the issue of how the players would feel about this (although the owners generally treat the players like an afterthought when deciding league matters.) This past Sunday, for example, the Arizona Cardinals and Los Angeles Rams flew to London. Rams RB Todd Gurley summed it up thusly: “It just doesn’t make sense. We play Arizona. It’s a 45-minute flight [from Los Angeles to Phoenix]. But instead we’ve got Arizona and us [in London]. If we were to travel all the way from LA it’s 13 hours. But hey, whatever floats their boat.” Now, most teams will only have to fly to England every four years or so. But London’s team will have to be in SOME division, meaning at least three teams will get the privilege of making that trip ANNUALLY. And what about the guys who will be stuck playing for the London Silly Nannies? (By the way, I’m prepared to take back EVERYTHING I’m writing here if that’s the actual name of the team.) Not only do they get the pleasure of being displaced to another country, but they have to fly over here at least 8 times a year. Stanford performed psychological experiments that were less cruel than that. So I’m sure this whole idea will REALLY smooth out relations between the owners and the players.
And there’s the small matter of which team’s actually going to play in London. I would like to think it’s universally agreed that at 32 teams, the league is operating at max capacity. The schedule is nice and balanced. The last reshuffling of divisions kept traditional rivalries intact while still making geographical sense. And the talent pool is so watered down that Super Bowl winners tend to be the team that reaches farthest above mediocrity. A truly outstanding team hasn’t won the Super Bowl since grunge was on its way out. And since leagues don’t like odd numbers, an expansion of one franchise would likely mean a total expansion of two. The NFL does NOT need 34 teams and I think even the NFL is vaguely aware of this. So if a team’s going to London, it’s likely going to be an existing team that relocates.
This again, is a case of NFL over-reach. When Los Angeles was sitting out there, it was the whuppin’ stick the league would use to bully mayors, city councils, governors, state legislatures, His Holiness, what have you, into playing ball on a new stadium. Now that L.A.’s cup runneth over, the league will probably not have the same success using London in this manner. “What’s that? If we don’t give you a stadium, you’re going to move to London? With the weather and the over-crowding and the haggis and the bad teeth and the fanbase that could not give two s**ts about you? Hey, good luck with ALL that!” Teams angling for a new stadium might be lucky to still have a parking lot after employing that strategy.
But hey, unless you’re holding up signs about the national anthem, the NFL isn’t likely to listen to you. So assuming the league doesn’t fold in the next five years, you can expect to find an NFL team playing in London. Because the Brits have given us so much, we must repay them with the gift of concussions and early onset dementia.
The Rat Pack (Me) 6-1
The Dropkick Murphys (Stoner) 5-2
Chuck (Chuck) 4-3
The Defenders (Mike) 2-5
Brian’s Song (Carol) 1-6
The Jock Sniffers (T.J.) 5-2
The People in the Band (Lars) 3-4
Rodgers Blows (Robbie) 3-4
Lethal Injection (Jack) 3-4
The Electric Mayhem (Hal) 2-5
JOE DAVIS is the main character in a series of mystery novels by Randall J. Funk. Mr. Davis and Mr. Funk are delighted by the shocking similarities in their opinions and writing styles.