Back in college, I spent a few months dating a girl named Kelly, who was a theatre major. Part of our courtship, such as it was, involved me coming to see one of her plays. They were doing Othello, which doesn’t rank near the top of my favorite Shakespeare plays. But Kelly was playing Emilia and she really wanted me to be there. I’m not the world’s greatest boyfriend, but even I know how to step around a bear trap. I went to the show.
The show was so-so (even then I knew not to expect much out of a group of barely-former teenagers doing Shakespearean tragedy). But the guy who played Iago was incredible. Every time he hit the stage, my eye–along with every other eye in the place– was glued to him. When I greeted Kelly backstage after the show, she said, “Wasn’t Steve incredible?” I agreed, but she said, “I mean, even for Steve, tonight he was just on fire. I’ve never seen him like that.” I happened to glance into the green room and see this Steve person sitting in a corner, staring at the floor. Kelly was giving him such an admiring look, I was starting to feel uncomfortable. Some instinct told me I should get out in front of this situation and make friends with Steve. After he barely acknowledged my greeting, I told him how good he was. He looked up at me, like he just noticed I was there, and said, “I know. I was brilliant tonight. And I don’t know how I did it.”
I’ve thought about that moment from time to time when dealing with fantasy football (partly because it eliminates the memory of Kelly leaving me for Steve three days later.) While you can sometimes look down a roster and say, “Whoa. No wonder so-and-so is dominating the league,” you can just as easily look down a roster and say, “This lineup is dominating the league? You must be so humiliated.” It’s even worse when YOU are the owner of said team.
My team this year is the perfect example. After losing the first game to Stoner, I rattled off six straight wins and had the best record in the league. I was pretty open about my mystification at this run. Not only did the line up not look particularly imposing, they were running up a decent amount of points. I wasn’t winning strictly through luck. At 6-1, I figured I only needed one more win to guarantee a playoff spot (7-6 being the mark that traditionally gets you into our post-season.) My faith was test the last few weeks when I lost back-to-back games. But Robbie’s season-long suckage saved the day for me. I’m now sitting at 7-3, having clinched a playoff spot with a team I’m convinced isn’t all that good. And I’m going to be joined by at least Chuck and T.J., who also have teams I’m convinced aren’t all that good.
Fantasy Football: it’s all about the Peter Principle.
On that typically upbeat note:
AWARDS FROM THE COMMISH
FANTASY OWNER OF THE WEEK: Me
Up yours. I get to toot my own horn every now and again. This week, my hit-with-bye-week-buckshot lineup required me to pick up Robert Woods, who provided 19 of the points I needed to beat Robbie and Detroit’s D, who added 14 points to the mix. I deserve your love and admiration, dammit! (Jeez, does EVERY leader eventually go mad with power?) By the way…
FANTASY PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Kirk Cousins
The unifying principle of Kirk Cousins’ career is that nobody wants him on their team. I’m not sure if the Michigan State Spartans felt this way, but it’s certainly true of Washington Redskins’ fans. And me. If I had my druthers, Aaron Rodgers would still be my starting QB. But Anthony Barr pretty much ruined that. So I’m stuck with Cousins. He rewarded my “faith” by running for two TDs and throwing for another. It’s great to have Kirk Cousins in my starting lineup! (And I’d still rather have Rodgers.)
DUMBASS OWNER OF THE WEEK: Stoner
Yeah, it was a weird week. Anytime I’m giving Stoner this award, it feels like the Earth has spun off its axis (or whatever the hell it is that keeps us spinning around.) But I calls them like I sees them. It’s not any one particular move that Stoner made this week. It was the number of moves he had to make because his team was nearly obliterated by the bye-week. For a guy who thinks eight steps ahead of nearly every human being he’s ever met, Stoner’s inability to plan for this bye-week is inexcusable. We expect better, sir.
ASSCLOWN OF THE WEEK: Vontaze Burfict
I’m thinking we should probably change the name of this to the Cincinnati Bengals Assclown of the Week Award, since they seem to have cornered this particular market. This past week, Burfict was tossed from the Bengals’ game against the Titans when he bumped into an official in a manner even Roy Moore would tell you is intentional. Burfict, class act that he is, left the field with the Johnny Manziel “money” salute. Because that’s EXACTLY who you want to emulate, right, Vontaze?
NFL COACHING GENIUS OF THE WEEK: John Fox
Between Marc Trestman as a head coach, Mike Martz as a coordinator and Mike Tice as a position coach, Chicago now seems to be the place where coaches with good reputations go to die. It’s like an Elephant’s Graveyard. At this rate, we will soon be able to add John Fox’s name to that list. Fox took two different teams to the Super Bowl and had a reputation as a top flight coach. Until he got the Windy City. The latest boot to Fox’s gravitas occurred this past Sunday. Bears RB Bennie Cunningham broke loose on a 23 yard run and was stopped a half-yard shy of the goal line. Rather than take the first-and-goal, Fox challenged the ruling on the field, claiming Cunningham had gotten in. And, indeed, the call was overturned. No, Cunningham hadn’t scored a TD, but he HAD fumbled on the play, reaching out for the pylon. Fox had challenged his way into a Green Bay touchback. The Bears ultimately lost the game. I look forward to Fox telling the story about the time he won that bar fight by repeatedly hitting the guy’s fists with his face.
LINE OF THE WEEK: Ben Geracie
Again, it’s a Tweet this week, but a good line is a good line. The Bay Area columnist wrote this after the 49ers picked up their first win of the season with a win over the New York Giants and head coach, Ben McAdoo:
“The 49ers should carry Ben McAdoo off the field.”
And finally, in honor of Jon Stewart (we still need you, brother) I give you…
YOUR MOMENT OF ZEN: The Farce of the Concussion Protocol
One of the bigger drawbacks to the various soap operas around the league (the anthem controversy, the Goodell-vs-Jones battle, Papa John talking off script) it’s that they’re providing a smokescreen for what will probably be the undoing of the league: the issue with concussions.
I’m not going to spend time recapping all of the ways in which concussions are undermining the league, even as it’s determined to ignore the problem. There have been a few half-gestures (banning helmet-to-helmet hits, developing a concussion protocol, researching technological advances with helmets) but the commissioner’s constant pooh-poohing of the severity of the issue has been setting a bad precedent. And now there’s increasing evidence that the teams aren’t taking the concussion protocol seriously.
Two QBs, Indy’s Jacoby Brissett and Seattle’s Russell Wilson, potentially suffered concussions this past week. And both were allowed to return to the field. In Wilson’s case, he was sent to the sidelines by the referee and missed exactly one play, most of which he spent ducking the Unaffiliated Neurological Consultant. At the end of the series, Wilson was given a more thorough examination. That is NOT how this is supposed to work. A potentially concussed player should not be returning to the field on what amounts to his own say-so. Wilson insisted he was fine, but he was in absolutely no position to make that call. In Brissett’s case, the league claims Brissett’s symptoms didn’t show up until after the game. Ultimately, both incidents exposed the inherent weakness in the concussion protocol. And the NFL’s use of it.
With Wilson, it’s clear that the player and the team exercised far too much discretion. And it begs the question: how do you get the players and teams to listen to an independent medical expert? Players want to play. They’re competitors who have been bred to have this warrior mentality, to the good and the bad. Coaches are in the same boat. They want to win and they need to have the right weapons to do that. And both are very well compensated to win games and perform at a certain level. Does that sound like the kind of situation in which a doctor coming in on the weekends is going to exert a lot of influence?
Since I’m not a doctor, I’m not going to argue with the diagnosis of Brissett. But looking at the helmet-to-helmet hit he took…well, you take a look…
The argument that the protocols were followed simply doesn’t cut it. Dr. Nowinski is right. Brissett should have been pulled from the game and not allowed to return. If the NFL were truly concerned about player safety, they would err on the side of caution every time. But that’s clearly not the case.
Once upon a time, when facing a crisis, Senator Henry Cabot Lodge asked President Theodore Roosevelt the quintessential political question: “Is there anything we can appear to be doing?” I think of that quote frequently when looking at the NFL’s concussion protocol. Make no mistake: the NFL has done NOTHING meaningful regarding concussions. Because it knows that at the heart of the issue is a Catch 22: the bodies playing the game have gotten bigger and faster, meaning the collisions are that much more terrifying. But there’s no way to make the brain tissue more resilient to that kind of collision. And the only thing the NFL has chosen to do is take a few measures to make it seem as if they’re dealing with the issue, all the while hoping it goes away on it’s own. Or that the public will simply forget about it.
Much like the league’s former players have forgotten most everything.
-yThe Rat Pack (Me) 7-3
-yChuck (Chuck) 7-3
The Dropkick Murphys (Stoner) 6-4
The Defenders (Mike) 3-7
Brian’s Song (Carol) 2-8
-yThe Jock Sniffers (T.J.) 8-2
The People in the Band (Lars) 5-5
The Electric Mayhem (Hal) 5-5
Rodgers Blows (Robbie) 3-7
Lethal Injection (Jack) 3-7
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.