I know that President Barack Obama is speaking at the Democratic National Convention. And, I know that the DNC is pretty good fodder for many topics, both serious and comical. And, I know that likewise the Republican National Convention was equally good if not better fodder. And, while a person of high intellect can sit and quote those who have come before us and tweet their pithy and inspirational phrases, I choose not to. I choose not to write about the great political and philosophical issues of the day.
Rather, I choose to write about something that gives men and women alike stress, anxiety, bleary eyes, and hours of second-guessing. Something that has become an iconic pursuit spawning new industries, jobs, directed marketing techniques, and "experts." Something that has created revenue streams in the American economy, both underground and legitimate.
I speak of the newest of the American pastimes: Fantasy Football. You know it, you might have played it, you might have a team in a league right now, and you might be planning your lineup for the upcoming first weekend of the 2012 NFL season. According to the experts at Wikipedia, fantasy football is now the single most important marketing tool for the NFL and it is estimated that over 19 million people compete in public and private leagues online nationally.
If you are one of the 19 million, hopefully you do not reduce yourself to the pathetic, depraved, overstimulated Fantasy Football boss that I had become. Because, sadly, my successes were my downfall; triumph begat callousness; and profit produced insanity.
During my last season as an owner in a Fantasy Football League, I had a partner and we participated in a league with other owners who we had gone to school with or played intramural and rec league sports with over the years. The actual identity of the other owners isn't relevant at all. We were the two-time defending champs and everyone was gunning for us.
As the season began, my partner and I embarked on what we didn't know would be our final go-round. In a sixteen-game season, our league played twelve regular season games and reserved the last four weeks of the NFL's regular season for Fanatasy playoffs. The technicalities aside - our season's success would primarily rise and fall on a combination of lucky breaks and hard work.
As the season moved forward, we found ourselves back in first place and comfortably thrashing each team that tried to knock us off. Of course, to succeed in Fantasy Football you need a little luck, some injuries to go your way (meaning other teams' guys getting hurt), and, most importantly, solid research that informs you on draft night. If you don't draft well, all the trades or free agent possibilities will be of no use to you. If you can't draft, you'll be in last place and no one will want to trade with you.
Fantasy Football owners tend to have varying philosophies on who to draft and in what round that player should be selected. For our successful team, we selected the right mix of quarterbacks, running backs and receivers; we established a core of starters, and drafted quality back-ups, and planned well for the bye weeks when our best players were not playing at all.
Fortunately, my partner and I were co-workers at the time and could plan and strategize on our now-defunct company's dime rather than taking up too much time on the phone when I was at home with the then-wife and kids. Most of the discussions took place on Thursdays (this was prior to the now semi-regular Thursday night NFL games) as we collaborated on the perfect roster for submission by our league's Friday at 5 p.m. deadline.
As we entered the first playoff week of our last season, we had a couple of injuries to deal with and had two quarterbacks who were having fairly decent seasons. But, the primary discussion point between us was who we should start at wide receiver. We had three and could play two. The conversations centered on former Tampa Bay Buccaneer (and others) wide receiver Joey Galloway. At this, point, I can't even remember who the other two receivers were who we were debating, but Joey Galloway was the issue.
The great Joey Galloway (widereceiver.com)
During that same week of planning, as luck would have it, my then-, soon to become ex-, wife was nine months pregnant and ready to deliver a child at any moment. Of course, on the crucial Friday of the penultimate Fantasy Football weekend, I found myself in the hospital, in the labor and delivery ward, as a baby was about to be born. Decisions had been left unmade - Joey Galloway or not Joey Galloway. This was crucial and I did not want the wrong decision to cost us the victory, another league title and, most importantly, cash.
Yes, I haven't mentioned the winnings involved in Fantasy Football. Our league required a $350 team entry fee and payouts were based on most points in the first half, best overall record, and the majority of the money went to the team that won the playoffs. $350 x 12 teams = decent money. Hence, my concern as my then-wife was howling in pain as our son began moving toward daylight.
Then, it happened. A nurse came into the labor room and said, "Mr. Chatz, there's a call for you." As my then-wife shot the death stare at me and I wondered who could possibly have tracked me down since no one other than relatives knew where we were, I said, "Who is it?" "I don't know, but I can put the call through to the phone in here."
You get to a point in your life where you know what you should do, but you really have to push yourself to that point or you just don't care enough to go that far. I said, "Ok, put the call through."
"Hey man, we've got to decide on Galloway." My partner.
"How did you find me here?" I questioned him, but his tone and audible nerves seemed crazed. He responded, "I called your house and your in-laws told me where you were."
"Who is it?" I heard from the bed next to where I was standing.
"I don't know man, just decide what you want to do," I said ignoring the patient and dealing with the phone call.
"Who is on the phone?" Louder this time.
"I think Tampa is going to get beat this week and I don't like their qb ..." My partner was saying as I tried to interrupt.
"Just go with Galloway," I said a little louder this time and hung up.
"Was that Ken? Were you talking about Fantasy Football while I am lying here in labor?"
I didn't respond. But of course the answers were yes and yes.
The baby was born about an hour later. We went with Galloway. We lost. I got divorced. I never played Fantasy Football again. I got remarried and we had a baby this past February.
So to all of you FFL players gearing up for a run at the title this week - Good Luck. My unsolicited advice: Don't answer the phone in the labor/delivery room, and stay away from Tampa Bay Buccaneer receivers.