As many of you know, for most of our lives, Kevin and I have not really been fans of sports. Sure, Kevin likes to follow soccer, and I enjoy watching volleyball and gymnastics on occasion, and who doesn’t love the Olympics? But as far as day-to-day sports knowledge, we would be the worst picks for your trivia team.
Then I was hired by UF’s athletic association, and we gradually became more and more interested in UF sports. We’ve attended football, basketball, gymnastics, and volleyball games, and we lazily check scores for away games (when we remember).
So when our friend Chad invited us to play in his Yahoo fantasy football league, we scoffed. There was no way we could join a league. We knew nothing about pro football. Between the two of us, we could probably name three players and a handful of teams. I expressed my concerns to Chad, who told me that we could play as a power couple if we wanted, managing a team together (as if this option would warrant us any better off than playing alone!). Thankful to be included but knowing we were completely inept on the subject, we decided to take Chad’s offer (and only on the condition that it wasn’t a paid league).
Did we study before the draft? No. Did we know about waivers and free agents and trades? No. Anything we knew about fantasy football we learned from watching The League. We knew we were going to be the Tacos of our own league. Hell, I couldn’t stop calling it “Final Fantasy Football” in my head, thanks to years spent playing my most beloved PlayStation games of all time.
Kevin was in charge of the draft (I was shopping and could not be bothered to come home early to help), and we were last pick (but luckily the pick order lassoed so that we got two picks in a row). I arrived home midway through the draft to find a very frustrated Kevin trying desperately to research what remained of the mid-level players. His strategy was to go for players who professional fantasy football predictors (yes, that is a job…some people’s jobs require them to just sit around and think, write, and talk about fantasy football…not even real football) thought would be break-out players, ones that other people only picked as gambles. I didn’t know or care, so I didn’t interrupt his process. When the draft was over, our team was this:
Feeling in over my head, I turned to the only fantasy football participants I knew: my sister (who dominated last year) and my brother-in-law (the poor die-hard Oakland fan…and this is funny to me now because I know how terrible Oakland is). With their help, our Week 1 team ended up as this:
(Yes, I started two tight ends…and it was the only week that Zach Ertz did anything for me.)
So we went into Week 1 not expecting much. Yahoo scored our draft as B-, the lowest in our league. I had only heard of two people on our roster: Peyton Manning and Riley Cooper. We didn’t even know what exactly a running back, wide receiver, or tight end did. (And I’m still shaky on the tight end. Why is it called a tight end? I still think it has something to do with their butts.) Somehow, by the grace of Shiva (for those who don’t know, this is a reference to The League and the Final Fantasy Guardian Force of the same name), we dominated our Week 1 matchup:
Energized and suddenly bursting with curiosity, we headed into Week 2, which we won without too many changes to our lineup. Then, in Week 3, I decided to take a more active role.
Though I may not love pro football, I hate losing even more; I’m very competitive. After two wins, I was feeling the urge to be the best, and I decided I was going to do everything I could to steer our team toward a third victory. I started researching players, teams, defenses, etc. I scoured forums, websites, data, graphs, anything I could get my eyes on to learn more and rework my team. I put in multiple waivers, not caring about my waiver position, for anyone whom I thought could improve our team. I watched all the Yahoo prediction videos, and then re-watched them when I read something that proved them incorrect. I learned what a depth chart was and how to read one, and saved the link to the entire list of NFL depth charts as a bookmark in my Web browser. I was on fire and could not be stopped. I even made a color-coded, extremely detailed spreadsheet to give myself an overview of my own predictions and the actual outcomes each week.
But no, I did not, and still have not, watched a single game of pro football.
Enthused by my enthusiasm, Kevin told all of our friends that he didn’t know who I was anymore. Three weeks ago, we made fun of people who wasted their time on something so trivial. Now, we (or at least I) were those people. Unbeknownst to me, Kevin caught my dancing around the house, singing, “Khi-ry Robinson, Khi-ry Robinson” to the “Sing Sweet Nightingale” song from Cinderella. (I sincerely have no memory of doing this; that’s how automatic it was in my brain.) We spent our evenings chattering on and on about players, their injuries, whom to pick up off the waiver, and how we could possibly make it through another week with a win. (This sounds normal, but these are topics that have never broached our evening chats. Two months ago I would have laughed if someone would have told me this would be our future.)
Most importantly, my sister and I finally had a common interest in something. (She likes rap; I like indie. She likes comedies; I like artsy films. She likes sports; I like art. She has huge boobs and no butt; I have the opposite.)
After three weeks of riding the FF high, Week 4 found us biting our nails and preparing for the worst. I knew for sure this week would be our downfall. Four of our best players and our defense were on bye, one of our better players was injured until Week 7, our kicker was going to have a terrible week, and I was going to be forced to use my WR4/5 as a WR2. (This lingo, I learned, means I had to use my fourth/fifth-tier wide receiver as a second-tier wide receiver.) Drastic measures had to be taken. I put in three waivers, only one of which I received (we were in last position for waivers), leaving me to fill out my team with whatever remained of the free agents. I made a few more swaps and ended up with a team that was still slated to lose (by a lot) to our opponent. (Yahoo predicted we would score 90.75 points, with our opponent scoring 102.21.)
Again, by some miracle of epic proportions, we won. That’s right! Our opponent put in Kirk Cousins instead of Jay Cutler for QB (which I still don’t understand, though that change alone wouldn’t have saved him from losing) and his defense ended up scoring negative points. In the end, we won 97.18 to his 73.58.
Now we’re 4-0-0 heading into Week 5. We are the only undefeated team in our league, and Yahoo thinks we’re going to win the whole damn thing. Of course, a lot of tier-one players have been injured this season, and a lot can still change. I’m just happy that we’ve won anything at all, and I’m excited (yes, Carly is excited about sports) to see what happens in the coming weeks. Like others have said, Final Fantasy Football is 5% draft, 5% waivers, and 90% luck. But I think, for our specific case, it’s more like 5% draft, 50% waivers, 45% luck.
Does Chad regret inviting us to play fantasy football? Perhaps, but I’m sure he did not expect Team Pterodactyl to perform nearly as well as we have. My sole goal in this league is to prove him wrong (although I fully intend to lose to him in Week 6)!