If you’ve ever read this column you know I’m a huge football fan, and more specifically, a huge Indianapolis Colts and Peyton Manning fan. My love for Peyton has naturally spilled over to the Denver Broncos this season, and I always root for the New York Giants since Peyton’s little bro is their quarterback.
I cried when Peyton left the Colts and came to Colorado, and I’ve worn my No. 18 Colts jersey every Sunday this season as part of my grieving/mourning process. I didn’t watch the first two Broncos games because I couldn’t bear to see Peyton wearing their jersey, although I slowly got used to his new blue and orange costume as the weeks went by.
In an attempt to divert my attention from the end of the NFL world as I knew it, I decided to jump on the fantasy football bandwagon this year. I’d never done it before, but a lot of my friends did and they all seemed to like it, so I thought I’d give it a try.
I asked my friend Gene in Indiana to help me set up an ESPN.com account over the phone. He explained the ins and outs of the draft, we joined a league together and waited for the specified draft time. I made a list of all the players I wanted for each position assuming I would get them. I clearly hadn’t thought that strategy through very well.
Draft day came and I was ready at the appropriate time with my computer and draft list. Of course Peyton was at the top of my list, but I knew my opponents would be wary of his neck issues so I played a waiting game and took him in the fourth round.
That part of my strategy worked well. My list included questionable (at that time) players like Reggie Wayne (too old, rookie QB) and Pierre Garcon (new team, rookie QB), so I was able to hold out and get them in later rounds. But I became increasingly frustrated — okay, furious — as the key players I planned to get in the first few rounds were grabbed up right before my turn came. There goes Ray Rice in round one ... buh-bye Megatron in round two ... and Jimmy Graham was snatched right out from under my nose in round three.
When it was over, I was happy to have Peyton as my QB, Wayne, Garcon and Victor Cruz for wideouts, and Matt Prater as my kicker. But my running back squad consisted of Chris Johnson, Ryan Matthews, Reggie Bush and David Wilson. I was incensed because that RB lineup was totally unacceptable, and I cursed my opponents for stealing what were predestined by God to be my players. How am I supposed to win a pretend Superbowl with this team? I finally knew how it feels to be Norv Turner.
I had to win, so my next move was obvious: Join another league and draft again. Surely it would work the second time. So I found a random league and signed up for the draft, went through the whole process again, and ended up with a worse team than the first. My best RB was Donald Brown. Drafting the perfect team was harder than I expected.
Being the competitive, hard-headed, obsessive person that I am, I went through the entire drafting process again ... and again ... and again. Three weeks later, as the first week of the season began, I had 32 fantasy football teams, the same number of teams that comprise the NFL. For the record, none of them included the “perfect team” from my list. The closest I got was about 50 percent.
It was a lot of work, but by the first game I figured my work was done and I planned to sit back and watch my teams dominate our opponents as we marched toward 32 certain e-football championships. Then I got a call from Gene.
Gene: “Don’t forget to set your team this week.”
Me: “What do you mean ‘set’ my team?”
Gene: “You have to check your players each week and make sure they’re not hurt.”
Me: “I have to check ALL 32 TEAMS EVERY SINGLE WEEK?!”
Gene: “You have 32 fantasy football teams?”
Me: “Yeah, I kinda got addicted to drafting after you showed me how.”
Gene: “You dumbass.”
It hadn’t occurred to me there was any significant weekly maintenance involved. I hadn’t considered bye weeks and broken arms and sore feet, or the punishments imposed by coaches on players for infractions like fumbles or dropped passes or missed opportunities. I was in way over my head.
Never one to quit, and driven by my super-sized competitive nature, I committed to seeing each of my 32 teams to victory by the new year. Every Thursday, Sunday and Monday, I religiously checked my rosters, benched my injured players and filled in holes for bye weeks. I analyzed stats, poured over every fantasy football blog and scoffed at “expert” projections. I was all in.
I ended up with a very respectable rookie season. I won six out of nine fake Superbowls. All but five of my teams (84.3 percent) finished in the top half of their leagues, and nine (28.1 percent) played for their respective championships. Only five teams (15.6 percent) finished in the bottom half of their leagues, and none came in last.
Friends call me crazy to have so many teams, and I probably am, but it was a lot of fun and I learned more about fantasy football than I ever hoped to know. I learned that you should always ignore the advice of the supposed NFL “experts,” that no amount of research can predict what will happen on any given Sunday, and that Roger Goodell’s job isn’t as hard as he pretends. Everyone else learned to never underestimate Peyton Manning, but of course I already knew that.
I beat my teacher in that first league; Gene finished eighth and I finished fifth. Awkward. But that’s OK, I’m sure he’ll beat me next year. (No he won’t, I’m just saying that to be nice.) It’ll be an easier year for me, as I’ve decided not draft 32 teams again. I’ve promised myself I’m going to cap it next year at 20. Unless I don’t get the players I want.
Doug Allen will have a nervous breakdown if the Colts have to face the Broncos in the playoffs and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.