I’ve made no secret of my lack of knowledge of, and interest in American sports of any stripe, save for a marginal interest in seeing the Seattle Sounders do well. It may then come as a surprise to you to learn that for the past five years I have been a regular participant in an NFL fantasy league. I’ll let the deafening noise of jaws hitting the floor like a collapsing pile of encyclopedias subside before continuing. You see, when someone from school floated the suggestion I saw it as a way to have a bit of harmless fun and wind people up at the same time.
Not knowing the first thing about the relative merits of the players, I was performing the digital equivalent of picking a prize from the lucky dip bin whilst blindfolded. If I finished dead last without a win to my name, I’d be doing about as well as could be expected, so anything better than that would be a victory for me. As I’ve said in other posts, any A.M whiff of Napalm will do. My first two seasons were remarkably unspectacular, and I was out of the running for the playoffs by the half way point. Two seasons ago my team took such a comprehensive and brutal beating that last year the Glenbuck Violets (named in honour of the first team Bill Shankly ever played for) changed their name for the following season to The Rodney Kings. Tacky? Yes. Borderline offensive? Certainly. But since when has that ever stopped me?
Last season saw a reversal of fortune as I reached the final with a semi final win so overwhelming that it made a fight between the 1st SS Panzer Division and the Girl Scouts look like a fair contest. The game ended with yours truly achieving the biggest points total of the season as well as the largest winning margin of the year. This after another member posted a message to the website with the title “How the fuck did NWSingledad get into the playoffs?” Of course, I suffered a convincing defeat in the final with the same starting lineup that had performed so heroically only the game before. Ah, well, it’s a funny old game.
So of course, when the email regarding this season came around, I duly signed up and sent my $20 entry fee to the Commish. I won’t bore you with a game by game analysis, but there were some noteworthy moments: winning by 0.2 points was most certainly one of them. No, that wasn’t a typo. The league moved to a new platform which awards points for actions other than points scored. Of course, the day I picked the wrong QB – Joe Flacco for anyone who cares- I lost a game I would have won had I played my usual first choice – some guy called Ward? . Humph! In fact, despite a 7-6 season I had quite a good year, with several victories snatched from the jaws of defeat. This was enough to get me into the playoffs, and that was all that mattered.
Naturally, finishing fifth of six qualifiers meant I was in for a rough run. Despite this, I won my first game only to face the regular season champions in the semi final. At this point I thought my goose not only cooked, but eaten, carved up for sandwiches the day after and in the pot to be boiled down to make stock. Guns, Germs and Steel, for that was their name, had beaten me pretty convincingly during the season. You don’t end with a record of 11-2 by being crap. I’ve always picked my team purely by the numbers – the expected points score of each player, and despite my best efforts, I looked doomed.
Oh me of little faith, to quote Lewis Black. My reputation as the Comeback Kid paid dividends as I won by a decent margin. That meant that the final would be between my Craggy Island Feckers and the Glorious Goats, a team that finished sixth with the same overall season but a worse points differential. Again, despite doing all within my power to add better players and run out my strongest squad, the almighty algorithm had me down for a defeat just short of double digits. Ah well, even second place would mean getting back more than my original stake, so I was in no position to complain.
Christmas got in the way and managed to distract me from my impending defeat as we celebrated on the 24th with the kids. They always spend Christmas Day at their own home, so my sweetie and I celebrate a day early. After their departure we headed into the city for a night in a very nice hotel in lieu of going out of town. As we sat in the bar enjoying our drinks I glanced up at the T.V. to see a game in progress and through the powers of thought association I checked my phone to find out the worst. I knew I was behind as my opponent had had a player in action the previous day, so imagine my surprise and delight to see that before the days’ games were over I was already more than 50 points ahead. My lead increased during the afternoon and by the time we turned in I was assured of a championship win barring all but a disaster of a scale only associated with the extinction of the Dinosaurs.
My opponent did recover some ground the following day, but even so I ran out winner by nearly 60 points and only missed recording the biggest victory margin of the season by a hairs’ breadth. I’m sure my sweetie was delighted to see the season come to a close as I did rather lay it on a bit thick, checking the scores somewhat more often than required and letting my delight show a little too much. Still, the prize money was pretty decent and a very nice bonus Christmas present. There was one more element that sweetened the win – my opponent was the same as the year before, so it was justice repaid.
Don’t think that I’m being disingenuous in all this. I’m not lying when I say I don’t follow football. I don’t spend hours reading reports and obsessing over video clips. At most I spend 10 minutes a week selecting my starting lineup. I honestly do make my selections purely on the predicted scores for each player, although I do take into account their actual, as opposed to their predicted ranking. Even I know that an over performing player is worth having on the books.
Is there a moral in this? Is just a case of blind, dumb luck? I’m not sure. Maybe this was my Leicester City moment. Perhaps next year I will be beaten like a red headed stepchild on a rented mule. Who knows? I certainly don’t. All I know is that when next season hoves into view, I will be ready with stake in hand, hope in my heart and the knowledge that if I can piss off even a single person in the league who actually puts effort, thought and emotion into it, it will all be worth while. Yes, I’m looking at you, Krog the Sportinator.