Friday, August 31, 2012

Fantasy Football is Family Football Here

This column originally appeared in the Sun Chronicle on August 31, 2012.

by Bill Gouveia

As we enter the Labor Day weekend, people across the area and the country are gearing up for the upcoming months of stress, pressure and enjoyment.  No, I’m not talking about kids heading off to college or back to school.  I’m also not referring to the upcoming election, the World Series, or the winter holidays.

Hold on boys and girls, it’s about to get rough out there.  This is no time for the timid or weak.  Warm up your laptops, print out your cheatsheets, and grab a cold one.  It’s fantasy football time.

Once the domain of geeks and nerds, fantasy football has crossed over into the mainstream.  It is now played not only by true sports fans, but by everyone from motivated moms to disinterested dads.  The family and friends that play together, stay together.  And although there are many extremely competitive fantasy leagues where “experts” battle for big bucks, bragging rights are often the most treasured prize fought for each Sunday (and Monday – and a few Thursdays).

There are many different variations of this computer-based hobby.  Some involve simply picking the winners of each game.  But most require the fantasy “owners” to choose players who earn points for their “team” based upon their individual performance.  That requires participation in what is often the best part of the fantasy process – the live fantasy draft.

My two sons are in their 30’s (sorry boys, I know you hate it when I say that) and they have some great friends.  They have had a fantasy football league for many years now, and over the last several have kindly allowed me to participate.  The name of my team – Old Guys Rule – is largely indicative of the fact I am the league’s oldest member (by a lot). 

That is never more evident than the night of the annual draft.  We gather at the home of one of the members.  There is a lot of beer, pizza and busting of you-know-what.  Every pick is scrutinized by the group as a whole, and appropriate praise or ridicule is heaped upon the person making the selection.  Watching the process is almost more fun than the season itself.

Some of the individuals make a nominal effort to be informed on the personnel available.  They might have the latest fantasy football magazine, or print out a list from one of the many helpful websites.  Others resort to far more extreme measures such as color-coded charts and fancy excel spreadsheets with an incredible amount of statistical information.  My own draft style is much more the former than the latter.

My draft preparation consists primarily of scouring a few web sites and using a canned drafting program to keep track of the selections.  That’s in addition to utilizing my tremendous personal knowledge of the sport and decades of experience as a football fan, of course.  This has led to mixed results over the years.

But last season it all paid off.  After being consistently told how horrible my draft was and that my team would be lucky to even make the playoffs, I had an incredible late season rush.  I defeated the top two regular-season finishers and won the championship.  That may not seem like a tremendous accomplishment, but neither of my sons has ever managed to pull it off.  Not that I ever remind them.

This year’s draft was last weekend.  I was unhappy I wound up with absolutely no Patriots on my fantasy squad, but otherwise reasonably satisfied with the results.  I did raise a few eyebrows when I took a certain Bengal’s wide receiver with the 10th overall pick, and endured quite a bit of harassment for that and several other selections.  But we’ll see who’s laughing when the season draws to a close.

There is a monetary reward for the champion at the end of the year, but frankly the bragging rights are worth a whole lot more – particularly in my case.  And if I start getting a bit too confident, I have only to remember that both my wife and daughter-in-law beat me in our family league where we pick winners only.  Gee, I guess that’s how my sons must feel. 

Let the battle begin…

Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and can be emailed at and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.

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