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I'm still not Jerry Kramer

By Michael R. Shannon
web posted August 2, 2010

My age and marital status have combined to place severe limits on what are acceptable topics for my formerly rich fantasy life. I'm pretty much down to dreaming about food and fantasy football.

I've found that if you talk too much about food fantasies, people will begin slowly sidestepping away at parties. Until, after a very short while, the only people listening are really skinny adolescent girls who ask you if the carrot stick they just ate makes them look fat.

Fantasy football is a much more serviceable topic for the socially inept. The women clear out pretty fast, usually at the first mention of your draft strategy, while the men stick around.

What's more, talking about the digital fantasy game is an improvement over talking about real analog sport, because you don't have to listen to Cowboy fans boasting about what Arlington's Team is going to do this season.

Each fantasy team is unique and composed of players from many different NFL squads, therefore eliminating a concentration of Texas egomaniacs. From time to time an unsuspecting owner may be burdened with an individual Cowboy player, but one always has the option to bench him.

For those readers who have never played, fantasy football is the perfect pastime for opinionated NFL fans. If you've ever complained about some bone–headed decision the coach of your favorite team made, fantasy is a chance for you to make your own bone–headed decisions.

In the beginning fantasy leagues involved face–to–face meetings, index cards, arguing, booze and calculator abuse. Now fantasy leagues are hosted on computer websites, so just like Facebook you can be "best friends" with league members without ever being forced to actually encounter one in person.

Computers have streamlined and removed all the complicated parts of the game, leaving you free to concentrate on the booze.

Leagues consist of eight to twelve players. Before the NFL season begins a league registers with a host, I like ESPN — it's free, rarely crashes and you can customize your league — and you schedule your draft date.

Each draft consists of 15 rounds. A team fields one QB, two RBs, two WRs, a TE, a "flex" player (can be a WR or RB) a kicker and a defense and as many backups at those positions as you want until all 15 slots are filled. ESPN even suggests who you should draft if you're feeling insecure.

Scoring is based on yards gained for RB, WR, TE and QBs; along with touchdowns scored. Points from the kicker are based on the distance the field goal traveled and how much of a girly–man he is when avoiding the tackle on the subsequent kickoff.

Defensive point scoring is incredibly arcane that even employees of the Congressional Budget Office simply rely on the website.

On game day the starters you pick are matched against your opponent's, the individual scores are calculated the highest total wins. Leagues that charge for their services even have online grief counselors to help you deal with defeat.

You build your powerhouse team on draft day and express your inner Lombardi. You could draft a team composed exclusively of felons. Or you could mix and match, say sex harassers with parolees. You could even base your draft selections on how "creative" a player's touchdown "celebration" is. (If you do this, I want you in my league. Please.)

I'm the commissioner of the leagues at my church where, as you can imagine, we don't concentrate on the booze. And even though we are narrow, intolerant Baptists, women are allowed to join a league.

The only rule is froo–froo team names are forbidden. No man wants to endanger his ego with a defeat by the Cuddly Bears or the Hot Flashes.

We even have a Champions League composed solely of owners who have won a division title or championship the previous season. Unfortunately, I won't be part of this league due to an unfortunate run of steroid suspensions last season.

Finally, I want to give you the opportunity to benefit from my vast insight, so I've formulated Five Fantasy Football principles:

  1. Drafting the best available Cowboy is not the foundation of a successful team. It's not even a winner for Jerry Jones.
  2. 'Bye' is not the toughest team in the league. Your players don't score when they face 'Bye' because they aren't playing.
  3. Sometimes players take an extra, surprise 'Bye' week. See above.
  4. The same people who produce the five–day weather forecast also produce the predicted weekly point totals for fantasy players.
  5. Resting your starters for the playoffs is not a winning strategy.
  6. BONUS: When real players are suspended, reality intrudes on fantasy.

Michael R. Shannon is a public relations and advertising consultant with corporate, government and political experience around the globe. He's a dynamic and entertaining keynote speaker and can be reached at michael–shannon@comcast.net.

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