Sean Beckwith: Living in fantasy football exile
Penance is an interesting thing. It makes sense. In order to lift your feeling of guilt, you punish yourself — say prayers, apologize, pay restitution, write a column to overturn your banishment from a fantasy football league. However, what if you feel you’ve done nothing wrong? What if your only sin was exposing your Roger Goodellian commissioner? The hardest stance to stick by is the unpopular one.
Did I undermine the league when I refused to pay the full entry fee due to a lack of communication vis-a-vis a backdoor roster reconfiguration? The league-wide vote ruled that I did not. Yet, during the latter half of the season, I was excommunicated from the Jim Cornelison league for alleged insubordination without any explanation other than I’m really good at running my mouth and threatening to burn an effigy of the league’s namesake.
I was ostracized for my opinion that a 50-yard field goal should not be worth 10 points, accused of premeditated league defraud and compared to Colin Kaepernick and the Joker. (OK, I was never compared to the Joker. However, I did respond to allegations of scheming with Heath Ledger’s monologue to Two Face from “The Dark Knight”: “Do I look like I have a plan? I’m like a dog chasing cars; I wouldn’t know what to do with one if I caught it.”)
I may sound like a martyr, but the upper hand is essential in the high-stakes pettiness of a fantasy football league with some of your closest friends. Winning a head-to-head matchup with a rival is nice, but there’s no feeling like conquering the group text or message board with a prime piece of trash talk. I don’t take personal jabs unless I think I can put someone on tilt. It’s almost immeasurable how happy I get when a guy attacks my personal affairs after a seemingly harmless jab about his creepy texting habits.
As much as the NFL likes to proclaim itself a year-round entity, the only football-related activity I participate in 365 days a year is the fantasy football group text. The topics often are about anything other than fantasy football — from the Nebraska Cornhuskers recruiting class to how unbelievable LeBron James is to the collection of uncollectible debts and every random topic in between. If I knew how to unsubscribe I’m not sure I would.
If you’re in a league with a dormant message board, then why are you playing? If it’s because you like getting up early to scour the waiver wire, constantly monitoring the injury status of your players and their backups, cursing the guy whose ninth-round pick is outperforming your first-round pick or hoping your defense can outscore a receiver and a running back during Monday Night Football, then you also may like ropes and hot candle wax.
Due to unforeseen circumstances, aka Sam Kroenke’s bottomless greed and smothering incompetence that forced the Rams to go back to Los Angeles’ indifferent arms, I no longer have an NFL team. My fall Sundays consist of hopefully continuing to bask in a Husker win and watching whatever game has the biggest impact on that week’s fantasy showdown.
If the Jim Cornelison league didn’t exist, I probably wouldn’t watch much NFL. Last year was the most fun I’ve had playing fantasy football, and my team was garbage. Being the villain is fantastic. I didn’t bask in the hate; I bathed in it. Rebutting and parrying the onslaught of attacks was my third job during the winter season. It may have been the most rewarding one, as well.
The best part about it is everyone involved in the JC league — due to years of friendship with a bunch of ball-busting, irreverent asses — has developed thick skin. I took unbridled shots at commissioner Nate G for six solid months and still received an invitation to his wedding.
The thought of being exiled and spending an entire season pretending to care about an inferior league is depressing. I don’t care that kickers can score more points than their actual team or that there is no flex position, but in the silly world that is my favorite and longest lasting league, you better believe even the most miniscule detail will be fervently debated.
So as NFL camps rapidly approach, take a moment to prepare. I’m not talking about poring over expert rankings or having a draft plan. I’m talking about keeping you mind sharp and your tongue even sharper. Holding the trophy doesn’t matter as much as the chatter.
Sean Beckwith is a copy editor at The Aspen Times. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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