Fantasy football’s pull is felt throughout the United States of America, where estimations have the number of citizens competing each year in various leagues around 34,000,000. Here at OES, we have leagues of our own – including one profiled here.
I spent a day embedded with Charlie Buker, and chronicled an average NFL Sunday in this pulsating fantasy football league.
7:58 AM – Owen Prendergast is ready to go. A football newbie, Prendergast’s outstanding debut fantasy season has led to PED allegations from multiple opponents. One other member of the league suggested Prendergast used mob ties to get Scott DiBenedetto to agree to trade him Marshawn Lynch, though that theory is just as unfounded as another tale I heard which had Prednergast trading his soul for Lynch.
8:12 AM – Matthew is up too – Buker could neither confirm nor deny that Sipowicz wakes up each morning wondering how to pronounce his last name.
8:18 AM – Today’s matchups: Buker v. Heinonen, Sipowicz v. Rocsh, Leon v. Crislip, Dugoni v. MacMillan, Collins v. DiBenedetto, Prendergast v. Morissette.
8:30 AM – Buker is wearing a Marcus Mariota QB #8 sweatshirt. I don’t need to ask him whether college football is more exciting, interesting, and thrilling than the NFL, because anyone of Buker’s sports IQ would know that it is.
8:47 AM – Patrick Leon needs a win today to have a hope of finishing above 500. Leon has been considered unlucky over his fantasy career, and likes to take a quarterback in the first round of the draft. Maybe this explains why he has Byron Leftwich starting at running back.
9:10 AM – Buker tells me that a no-homework weekend means everyone in the league gets a free invite over to his house to watch football all day. It’s a hard-knocks life, no?
9:41 AM – Ted Morissette sits down with a bowl of Wheaties. “It’s the breakfast of champions”, he says.
9:56 AM – Until the deadline to submit rosters at 10:00 AM, multiple players try frantically to get the right combination. DiBenedetto is searching for answers to turn his season around – reports in Sweden say that he will sign Steve Yzerman and Nik Lidstrom to try to turn things around.
9:23 AM – Sipowicz is reclining with an ice tea and a copy of The Guardian. His once sterling reputation has recently come into disrepute with the ByeGate saga. According to league sources, Sipowicz and Prendergast (whose reputation couldn’t get much worse) tried to swap players on bye weeks and then get them back the next week.
9:34 AM – Dugoni has lived up to his reputation as a trash-talker by texting all 11 other teams in the league that he will beat them today despite the fact that he’s only playing one team.
9:41 AM – Calvin Collins is hoping his Cowboys can get a win over the Giants in, you know… real life today. Buker told me that Collins is always “in the mix for something,” but judging by recent results, he wasn’t referring to the championship.
10:15 AM – It’s only taken a few minutes of the early games for Crislip to realize this will be another loss for him. The Dig tried to reach Crislip MULTIPLE times to ask him how it feels being the fantasy equivalent of the Cleveland Browns, but our interview requests were denied.
10:30 AM – Will Rosch is confident of success today. Buker calls him “one of the founding fathers” of the league, although Buker appears to have as much trouble nailing down exactly who the founding fathers are as Sarah Palin does.
10:42 AM – Dugoni is down early in his matchup. He too was described as a founding father, though so were about 34 other people.
11:00 AM – The commish has other problems to worry about. His team is losing to the team marshaled by Greg Henionen, who Buker described to me as, “a little reserved”, then “sneaky”, then “a little suspicious”, and then finally “scary”. If the conversation had gone any further, he might have told me Heinonen is running a meth lab out of his basement.
11:34 AM – I ask Buker why he loves fantasy football so much. He tells me, “it gives me a stake in NFL games I wouldn’t care about otherwise”. I tell him he should try gambling.
11:56 AM – Sipowicz seems at ease with his role in ByeGate. He says, “I wouldn’t call it cheating. I would call it a competitive advantage. These things just come naturally to Bill Belichick and I”.
12:05 PM – Prendergast clearly operates with a chip on his shoulder – “I started from the bottom, now I’m here”, he huffs at me.
12:23 PM – Meanwhile, DiBenedetto is eating the granola bar Prendergast traded him for Lynch.
1:01 PM – Crislip’s relentlessly upbeat attitude is starting to remind of Jon Gruden.
1:34 PM – Leon is off to a decent start in his matchup – Buker described Leon as “a good trader, not a great trader, no me in trading, but a decent trader”. After the second trader I had a pretty good mental image of Buker and Leon in full Old McDonald garb on a farm in a small town in Ireland bartering over sheep.
2:21 PM – MacMillan has had himself a good season, but as Buker would later say, his team “wasn’t built for the playoffs”. Kansas City knows what he’s talking about.
3:05 PM – Buker is now giddy as his team ties the score at 73. He tells me he learned multiplication through calculating fantasy football points. When I raised my eyebrows at that, he snapped at me, “some people live with their cats, I live with my statsheets!”
3:07 PM – “By the way”, Buker says: “I did my LJP on fantasy football.”
3:10 PM – Here’s another gem: “My life is fantasy football… In the fall, at least”. I like this kid more and more with each passing comment.
3:30 PM – When DiBenedetto ends up as the worst team in the league because of Ravens kicker Justin Tucker, legendary NFL kicker Mike Vanderjagt texts me that “it’s a victory for kickers everywhere”. I asked him in turn if he’s alarmed that the first Google suggestion when searching his name is “Mike Vanderjagt drunk”, and “the most hated Indianapolis Colts of all-time”
4:12 PM – Crislip is now down by 231 points in his matchup. When I asked Buker to say something positive about Crislip, all he could stammer was “He’s uh, got a………………… good attitude!”
4:38 PM – Late in the day, it appears Rosch is headed for a rare defeat. “Hey”, he says to me, “You never know. I have a feeling this could be a re-run of Gore v. Bush in Florida”.
5:12 PM – Sipowicz hangs up the phone when I ask him to express his feelings on Frank Lampard’s no-goal against Germany in the 2010 World Cup. Dugoni says this “competitive spirit” makes him a champion.
5:30 PM – “You know”, Morissette says after taking a look at the scoreboard, “I’m just happy I’m still in the league”.
5:55 PM – Buker expresses pride in the way the league has taken shape. It’s clear that he’s rooting as much for the success of the league as he is his own team. If only the intentions of everyone else were so noble.
6:09 PM – Dugoni begins to regret all the trash-talking. “Too much bad karma. It’s weighing me down.” I suggest he picks up Tim Tebow.
6:23 PM – Collins has no players left who haven’t played, and he’s down by double digits. “If only my team’s budget equaled Jerry Jones’ plastic surgery budget”, he says wistfully.
6:23 PM – Even though his game is still in the balance, Heinonen is done with football for the day. “The CIA only lets me take so much time off work”, he explains.
7:47 PM – With two more touchdown passes by Brady, Bukers’ team is headed towards defeat. Buker then describes Morrisette’s move to bench Eric Decker in a week when he had 54 points as “the perfect decision”. I’m a little worried.
7:54 PM – Morissette also described his Decker choice as “fundamentally sound”. The level of denial only rivals that of Alex Rodriguez.
8:32 PM – I’ve spent almost an entire day following the league, and Liam Wogan’s role is still unclear to me. Apparently he doesn’t have much of a role.
8:46 PM – Prendergast is pleased with his victory: “Buker better give me some love in his weekend update. And I have a feeling the 49ers defense will win the title for me.”
9:04 PM – As the evening comes to a close, Buker reiterates to me the community building experience Fantasy Football is. “It sounds cheesy, but we really came together as friends this season. We want to continue this league on into college and beyond.” It seems that they have something really special going on.