Nate, not on this date.
I’ll open with this thesis: Fantasy Football is an exercise in stupidity.
I hadn’t played Fantasy Football in over 10 years, since back when Tom Brady first filled in for Drew Bledsoe and I picked him up. In the few years I dabbled in Fantasy Football, after much success playing Fantasy Baseball, I was never successful. I’m the guy who had the number 1 pick in the draft the year after Barry Sanders’ huge season – and guess what? The Lions switched their style from run-and-shoot to a pro style set with a fullback! So Sanders was due for an even bigger year!
And it didn’t happen. He had a subpar season, in fact. Emmitt Smith tour it up that year, however. Didn’t pick him.
Also during that stretch, I once lost a game by a single point, partly because my kicker, Martin Grammatica, left the game when injured himself while celebrating after a play. The Bucs, a Super Bowl caliber team back then, proceeded to go for two-point conversions the rest of the game, in which they were blowing out their opponent. That was pre Directv NFL Ticket, so I didn’t know why the live Gamecast was telling me they were going for two when they were up by over 30 points. Yeesh.
There was another week when I went in on it with a friend, and we decided to start Doug Flutie in Week 1, playing for San Diego in Dallas, over Trent Green, making his Kansas City debut at home against the Giants. Then I heard it was raining in Dallas. I figured Flutie and the Chargers wouldn’t be passing much, so at about 9:50, I called the league commissioner (back then you had to call someone to make a roster change; there were no Internet Fantasy sites/apps like today) to swap out Flutie and swap in Green. I didn’t even have time to consult with partner; I needed to make the call before 10 AM.
You can imagine the rest: Flutie went on to have a huge game; Green was God awful. My friend called me that evening and said, “Hey, Flutie did great; I’m glad we started him.”
“Um, I’ve got some bad news for you….”
That’s how it’s always been for me with Fantasy Football. As a Raiders fan, I could no longer enjoy Raiders games because I may have had a player on their team or the opponent. It literally changes how you root for the game. Your players come first; that’s really YOUR team. That’s the team you handpicked and you want your decisions validated.
Flash forward to 2013. I had no intention of doing Fantasy Football, but about three hours before my office’s draft, I was told a spot had opened up. Even then, I hesitated. Since I’d been only a Raiders fan the last decade, I followed no other games. I didn’t follow the offseason player movement – e.g., I didn’t even know Tony Gonzalez had unretired. I didn’t know Steven Jackson went to Atlanta. I didn’t watch any preseason games other than those of the Raiders.
But I said, “What the heck; it’s only $20. I’m in.”
I was amazed by the technological advances; the Yahoo draft site was very slick . If I couldn’t figure out who to pick when my one minute was up, Yahoo would auto pick for me. That actually happened once; but I was so mad about it that I dropped the guy they picked for me immediately following the draft; I didn’t even know how to set my roster, so I ended up with a dreaded EMPTY spot in my starting lineup in Week 1. Great start!
On Thursday night, Week 1, I had Denver kicker Matt Prater. He proceeded to kick 7 extra points with no field goals. That’s how prolific the Broncos’ offense was. It struck me not only that I somehow missed out on drafting any Bronco players other than their kicker – e.g., I took Drew Brees when I could’ve had Manning – but also I remember saying to myself, “I don’t think Prater is going to kick a field goal all year.”
Then came Week 6. My team had started 0-3 but bounced back with a couple wins in Weeks 4 and 5. I try to gather as much information as possible so I can make the most educated decisions on whom to start. This was the week I discovered the Fantasy pregame shows on Sunday morning. I had Carolina’s defense starting against Minnesota in Minnesota. The experts told me this would be a high-scoring game. They pointed to the Detroit-Cleveland game as a game which would be low-scoring, and advised to pick up either team’s defense. So I listened; Cleveland was at home. I dropped Carolina and picked up Cleveland.
The result: Cleveland got 2 points; Carolina 11. A 9-point swing against me.
You guessed it. By Monday Night I learned that my team had lost by 8.74 points. You can’t make that up. It’s destiny!
Then there’s an entire litany of “guys I dropped who went on to have huge seasons”. Number one with a bullet on that list is Knowshon Moreno. I dropped him after the “rock-paper-scissors” episode versus Oakland. It didn’t appear as though there’d be any clear number one running back in Denver, and their passing game was so prolific it didn’t seem to matter. Moreno went on to be gigantic. The list also includes Fred Jackson, Riley Cooper (picked him up and dropped him before ever playing a game) and most recently, Phillip Rivers and Danny Woodhead – who were nice waiver pickups in the first place.
Finally, with that build up, fast forward to today. I had put myself in the torturous position of having so many Wide Receivers, and none of them particularly elite (because of not having time to study the point system and understand you need to draft receivers early). So each week from Week 12 forward would be an exercise in futility in determining which three receivers to start. So, coming off a strong comeback week from injury, I stuck with Nate Burleson. I looked like a genius for picking him up and starting him the week before, just as I’d done with the Giants’ Andre Brown.
Alas, here’s the problem. We don’t know the game plan. We have other intelligence like recent past performance, the matchup and the weather. But what neither we nor any of the Fantasy experts posses is the coach’s game plan.
Hence, I had no way of knowing that Burleson, coming off a 6 catch, 77-yard week with a touchdown, was simply not a part of this week’s game plan. Nor did I know that kick returner Jeremy Ross was a part of the plan. So last week, for example, it was Burleson who ran a reverse play. This week, they had Ross do that.
But then, I pumped my fist as I thought I saw Burleson make the same slot TD catch he’d made the week before against Tampa. Then I saw the number on the slot receiver’s back and it was Ross, number 12, not Burleson, number 13.
What the…? I mean, why Ross? Burleson could’ve run the same route and made the same catch. You know how I know? Because he did it last week!
But that’s the bait and switch of Fantasy Football. You’ve been suckered; you’ve been had. The roped you in with Burleson last week and switched it to Ross this week. (On the bright side, at least I started Burleson last week when he got his 13.7 Standard, non-PPR points.)
It’s just like a couple weeks ago when Andre Brown ran it from about the 4-yard line to just short of the goal line, and then the Giants brought in Brandon Jacobs to score the TD on the subsequent play.
FANTASY BAIT AND SWITCH, personified!
See, because the Giants coaches don’t care who scores the touchdown; neither do the Giants fans. The only people who care are the foolish and helpless Fantasy Football participants.
That’s when I did what I so often do, which is turn the game off because it is no longer watchable. I’ve actually had some luck with that stratagem in recent weeks. I turned off the Dallas-New Orleans game when my receiver, Terrance Williams, caught a TD and salvaged what had been a dreadful, zero catch game. Last week, I could no longer watch the Green Bay-Minnesota game because Jarret Boykin was putting up a donut for 3 quarters. He went on to catch 5 balls for 60 yards and a touchdown in the 4th quarter and overtime.
No such luck today as I write this. I stopped watching late in the 2nd quarter; since then I see Detroit has scored two more touchdowns after the thought-it-was-Burleson-but-it-was-Ross TD. Bush got one, Johnson the other.
Burleson, well into the third quarter, still has a donut.
Oh, and did I mention that if I lose this week, I’m eliminated from the playoffs? But you probably knew that already.
That’s fantasy football. We don’t have the intelligence – i.e., we don’t have the coach’s game plan week in and week out. Hence, you can’t win.
Note: I realize that some people do win in Fantasy Football, so I will rephrase that to, “I can’t win.”
Fantasy Football, for me, actually succeeds to do only one thing: to HATE FOOTBALL. Because the only reason I now watch is to see my players – and when you’re seeing your guy on the field and the quarterback has not once even looked in his direction on a single play, the game becomes unwatchable.
To think, for the last 10 years I could simply relax and watch a football game unfold, not caring whether this guy or that guy gets the ball. It’s too unpredictable. Life is unpredictable enough; I see no reason to wager on things equally unpredictable: like Bobby Ross scoring on the same play on which Nate Burleson scored the week before.
So count me out; I’d rather enjoy football and enjoy my life. The only winning move is not to play.
Oh, now that I’m done writing this… Burleson: still no points! DESTINY! Oh, and the best part is yet to come, because you know one of my guys I chose not to start is going to BLOW UP with a huge game this weekend. And, the difference in points will likely be within the margin by which I lose this week and am eliminated from contention.
The worst is yet to come!
UPDATE: It’s almost-official. Burleson will be shutout. For good measure, they brought him in and put him in the slot on a goal-line play, to tease me one last time, before handing off to Joique Bell for the score. With a 23-point 4th quarter lead, they have no reason to throw another pass. It’s over.
But I’m glad this happened. It validates my decision to never play Fantasy Football again. I’ve never felt more scorned in my life than I feel today, on Thanksgiving 2013, by the Detroit Lions’ game plan.
SECOND UPDATE: Allow myself to correct myself. The Lions, up 23 points and running the ball effectively, did find the need to throw one more pass – and it was a touchdown pass, to Kevin Ogletree. He bobbled it, didn’t get two feet down, but they ruled it a catch anyway. So 40 points for the Lions and Nate Burleson did not touch the football a single time. Wow. Is there anything else that can be said to convince you that Fantasy Football is stupid?
I mean, I actually got to needle my co-worker last week because Burleson, just back from his pizza car accident injury, actually out-pointed the great Calvin Johnson. What a shrewd move I made!
And then there was this week.
It’s like a scene in a movie, where they provide the backstory on how the person turned evil. Like in Toy Story 3:
“Something changed in Lotso that day.”
That day was today. The date there was no Nate.
FINAL UPDATE: Now, the one thing I was looking forward to all second half was the Yahoo postgame notes on Burleson. So here’s how that went. Note that they too mentioned the game plan on not having knowledge of it. Told ya!
Nate Burleson was held without a catch in Detroit’s Week 13 win over the Packers, drawing only one target.
Advice: One week after playing 72-of-80 snaps and drawing 10 targets, Burleson was an afterthought in the game plan, taking a backseat to Kris Durham and Jeremy Ross. It was likely by design after Burleson had such a heavy workload in his Week 12 return, but the Lions made no mention of a possible snap count during the week. It’s unclear how many snaps Burleson played. Burleson’s WR3 status is obviously a little murky going forward, but he has an excellent Week 14 matchup in an Eagles’ pass defense that’s struggled in the middle of the field. Burleson’s status will be updated before next week’s game.
In other words: THIS IS WHY YOU SHOULD NEVER PARTAKE OF FANTASY FOOTBALL!!!
Hindsight is 20/20, and the Yahoo Fantasy experts seem to feel as duped as I do. However, they did hit on something about which I’m kicking myself, which is that, following a long layoff, Burleson got a heavy workload last Sunday which was followed by a short week, so they probably figured they should lighten his load three days after his return. I did not factor that in, but I can’t feel too badly because neither did the experts.
But it’s a simple approach really, no game plan = insufficient knowledge. Hence, it’s a game you shouldn’t play unless you enjoy feeling burned in this manner.