Now that the NBA playoffs are over and we are still a few months away from significant baseball games, many a sports fan decides to turn his or her attention to the upcoming NFL season and its conjoined twin, fantasy football! Chances are if you’ve glanced at a magazine rack at the grocery store or browsed a bit on ESPN.com then you’ve already seen some fantasy football coverage. It’s really not surprising, considering there are estimates that the fantasy sports industry has a three to four billion dollar impact with American football being one of the biggest contributors. If you’re a fantasy football season veteran or an eager first timer, there are certain things every fantasy football player should know. Whether or not these guidelines were passed down from the heavens is up for debate, but nonetheless here are…
The 10 Commandments of Fantasy Football
1: Thou shall know league rules
It’s seems like an obvious thing to know and understand, but each year it seems like someone will go half the season before asking, incredulously, “Since when have we gotten one point per three receptions?” Take fifteen minutes before you prepare for your draft and glance over the rules. If you are starting a league with some friends, discuss what type of league and what kind of scoring system you want to use. Give people time to provide input (which you can ignore and look down upon from your high pulpit as league commissioner) and make sure everything is settled before the draft begins.
2: Thou shall use a creative team name
If you’re team name isn’t a hilarious reference to the plight of a current player or team, a dig at another manager in the league, or a name that you wouldn’t tell your mother about, it’s not good enough. Using your former high school town and mascot as a name is unacceptable and should result in a four game suspension, at minimum. I expect there to be a heavy dose of Ben Roethlisberger related team names and probably a good batch of Vince Young references as well. Both are great options, as they are current and controversial. Offensive is good when you are in a leauge with buddies who will know you are joking and find it funny, but I’d avoid going with “Dixin Cider” in an office league with people you hardly know. Play it smart, people.
3: Thou shall play every week, all season
One thing that will get on most anyones nerves is when somebody in the league decides to stop playing and adjusting rosters halfway through the season. This typically happens when a manager has a bad team or a string of bad games and folds for the rest of the year. Nothing is worse than losing a playoff spot to someone because that person played the quitter twice in the last four weeks and won easily because quitter has left in his injured QB since week 5. It takes five minutes to glance at your roster and make some changes, do it.
4: Thou shall not ask if Martin Gramatica* is still in the league
*substitute any player who is not playing
If you don’t know whether or not a guy is even still in the NFL, chances are he’s not so save yourself the embarrassment and don’t ask. If you are thinking of a guy and you really need to know, use google. Google won’t laugh and ridicule you for hours when you try to find out what team Kordell “Slash” Stewart is playing for these days anyway. Your friends will, so avoid this mistake. If you search up a player and find out he is actually a baseball player and hasn’t touched a football since Pop Warner, give me a call because I have a high stakes league you might be interested in.
5: Thou shall not make shady, lopsided trades
There’s a fine line between making a savvy trade with some Madame Cleo type foresight and stacking a team because you are in cahoots with another manager in the league. Typically leagues have a rule in place that allows other managers to veto a trade which helps prevent these types of transactions from going through, but any fantasy league commissioner worth his weight in salt will cancel an Adrian Peterson for Kevin Faulk trade immediately and warn the managers not to try it again.
6: Thou shall prepare for the draft
You don’t need to put hours upon hours into it, but a little preparation never killed anyone. Have a strategy in place and jot down some players you’d like to get if you can. Having your computer up and running or a fantasy magazine open during the draft allows you to quickly look up some lesser known players which comes in handy in the late rounds. A lot of people get fixated on the first round picks, but fantasy leagues are won and lost in the later rounds. Do your homework and your draft experience will be much better. If for some reason you can’t make the draft yourself and it’s an online draft, don’t let the computer aut0-draft for you. Find a buddy who knows a few things about fantasy football and have him draft for you and avoid harassing him if he makes a few questionable picks.
7: Thou shall not complain about points you left on the bench
Nobody likes having a player they put on the bench rack up a ton of points that week, but it happens. Complaining about it, however, should not happen. Telling an opponent that you would have beat them had you started so and so at RB is essentially saying that if you didn’t blow the lineup that week you would have won. You either made a bad decision or had bad luck and you should leave it at that. There is a reason that there is no stat column for “bench points”. It’s because they don’t matter and no one cares.
8: Thou shall talk trash
Talking trash is an oft unappreciated art form that dates back to the beginning of spoken word. Fantasy football is a great venue to hone your trash talking abilities and take your game to the next level. If your friend drops a player who goes on to score a lot of points, let him know what you think of that decision. Compare another friends fantasy skills to his skills on the real football field, or lack thereof. Just be prepared to take what you dish out, as the most vocal in the group will usually take the most heat when the time is right. As long as you remember that it’s all in good fun, trash talking is a great way to increase anticipation for the upcoming games and gets you in the competitive spirit.
9: Thou shall understand that one can not play defense in fantasy football
You could walk into any given football weekend with a superior line-up to your opponent and have calculated the absolute best roster for the given week…and still receive an ass kicking from the guy who hasn’t won a game all year. No matter what you do, you can’t play defense in fantasy football. There is no way for you to look at your opponents line-up and decide that you are going to shut down any player. It seems like every year in every league I’ve been in, there is always one guy who gets the shaft week in and week out. He’ll be the guy who, at season’s end, will have the third most points scored in the league but won’t make the playoffs. It’s unfortunate, but it happens. This idea of not being able to play defense extends to any sort of rituals or superstitions you perform. No matter how hard you yell at your flat screen TV you can’t impact the outcome. Wearing your lucky jersey, not shaving for the entire football season, and refusing to brag about a player on your team for fear of a horrible jinx will do nothing. Deal with it.
10: Thou shall remember it is just fantasy football
Unless you owe money to the mob and your life depends on you winning your office league, fantasy football is far from life and death. You wouldn’t think that the way some people act come fantasy football season. Fake press conferences talking about draft picks, team jerseys, disowning a family member who beats you; all of these cross the line. Sure, you might be steamed when your opponent’s running back breaks off for an eighty yard garbage touchdown in a game that was already a blowout, but chances are all will even out at the end of the year. As long as you don’t take it too seriously, fantasy football is one of the greatest games you’ll ever play.