Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Fantasy I Land

Fantasy football is an obsession of mine this time of year.  The playoffs have arrived and even though nothing but pride is often on the line I am gripped by anxiety.  Did I insert the right guy into my lineup or should I have stuck with the status quo?  Maybe you don't get the concept of all this, and that's fine with me.  How can I explain why grown men would spend time compiling imaginary teams of people playing a sport and then live vicariously through their successes and failures?  I could recommend watching a few episodes of the fantasy football-centered TV program "The League", although I haven't seen any of the show myself.   Maybe a citation of the money won in these artificial contests would interest some folks.  I rarely play for wagers, however, and I haven't had many victories when I have, but still the game obsesses me.  Instead I choose to relate a tale which took place last night as an example of the highs and lows, the kind of excitement and pain that can be found from few other sources outside of heavy drug abuse.
The Setup: My team, Dick Buttkiss, had squeaked into the playoffs and faced a first round matchup with Fatter Monkey, who I had lost to in a tight match-up two weeks previously when his RB scored a very late touchdown.  The Thursday and Sunday games had set things up well for Phatter Monkey.  Although he trailed by 20 points, he had the high-scoring Green Bay QB and WR duo of Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb going for him, while I had no one but the lowly Packers kicker left to generate me points.
The situation looked bleak after one half.  Green Bay's offense ran over Atlanta's defense, the feeble linebackers corpses smashing like pumpkins under the tires of a Monster truck.  I led by only three points in the 3rd quarter as the Packers again neared the end zone.  Because 3's come in 3's it was third down when Rodgers looped a picture to his running back in the front of the end zone.  As he gripped down on the ball the right hand of a defender lurched out like a zombie emerging from the earth and knocked the pass away.  Instead of a touchdown for my opponent, I escaped with a field goal and expanded my lead to 6, giving me a glimmer of hope.
Reality came crashing down on me during the next Green Bay possession.  In a hurry to reach the end zone because of tight scheduling or just impatience on his part, Rodgers threw a 60 yard TD pass.  Combined with a ten yard catch from Cobb I now trailed by a little over 2 points.  Bad went to worse moments later when my kicker failed to execute the extra point, a one point penalty that increased the Funky Monkey's lead to 3 and some change.
I had pretty much conceded defeat when the untrustworthy bastard called hope snuck up and bit me on the ass, but in a pleasant way.  A short Packers drive stalled at the Atlanta 35.  At this point in the game the Green Bay coach could have easily gone conservative and punted or aggressively chosen to go for the first down.  Either choice was reasonable, but he picked the third option, kicking a field goal.  I had trouble looking at the screen, knowing a make would give me a fighting chance with only 4 minutes to play left in the game.  The ball floated in the air for what seemed an eternity, almost as long as watching an episode of "American Idol" while being water-boarded.  When it arrived at its destination the refs pulled their arms into an upright position and I sighed in relief.  But the drama was far from over.
I led by 1.5 pts when the Packers recovered a Falcons onside kick.  The Atlanta foosballers had made an amazing second half comeback, catching up to a 43-37 score mainly based on the efforts of Julio "Down by the Schoolyard" Jones.  With just over 2 minutes left Green Bay would be mainly running, in order to eviscerate all evidence of time from the clock.  I should be good as long as Rodgers stuck to handing off.  Fate had no interest in such a simple finish.  On 2nd down Rodgers dropped back to pass.  Seeing no one open he ran into space devoid of Falcon tacklers, hurtling forward for what seemed an eternity.  He finally stopped 16 yards later, a single yard more than what Felonious Monk needed to beat me.  That's right, I trailed by one tenth of a point.
The Falcons had a couple of time outs left so all was not yet lost.  A couple of scenarios could save me.  The first would be a Packers running Td.  The extra point would put me back ahead.  James Starks looked like he might do it on the next play, flying downfield to the Atlanta 10 before being stopped.  The Packers gave him another chance.  Stopped. Then a second.  Halted.  Then a third.  No dice.  Time had now all but expired.  The play clock and game clock read almost exactly the same number.  Would Green Bay have to run another play?  Both clocks expired and I lay my head low, embracing the hopeless state of irrevocable doom.  The refs had other ideas, however - pointing out to the hastily departing Packers that they could not leave quite yet.  There was still one more second.  Aaron Rodgers quickly dispensed with the formality, backing up a few yards and downing the ball as the game clock reached zero.  The Packers had won - and so had I - his loss of three yards had cost Fitter Mook his slim lead.  I stared at the screen of my TV and then my computer in disbelief.  113.52 to 113.25.