It’s the All-Pepperoni team.

So the Bills just traded Marshawn Lynch to the Seahawks.  Nothing is surprising anymore. (Except maybe a win…a win would be very surprising.)  This season is ridiculous.  I can’t talk about it.

But I can talk about my fantasy team!  Because they’re also terrible.  I have named them The Underachievers because they are letting me down all over the place.  I finally collected my first win of the season this weekend, so my tagline is now “Just like the Bills, only with more wins.”

In honor of my victory I thought it time to post pictures of the “trophy” t-shirt I just received for winning the league last season.  Each year the shirt will be passed to the new winner with the team name added to the back.  Isn’t it awesome?!

Yes, you're seeing clearly - it's 2 slices of pizza playing football!

First ever league champion, THE BURKE CONSPIRACY! A born winner.

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The Burke Conspiracy strikes again!!!!! (evil laugh, thunder, bolt of lightning)

Signed, sealed, delivered, it’s MINE!  Yes, The Burke Conspiracy (my fantasy team) is 2 for 2 as I captured the first ever 2 Slice Special fantasy football championship!

So I join a fantasy football league, start out 3-0 and in 1st place, go to Africa and miss 4 weeks of the season, mistakenly entrust my team to a friend who fails to switch out players on their Bye weeks, return only to lose 4 of my last 6 games, and squeak into the playoffs when my final opponent accidentally forgets to start a kicker.  But true to the Burke Conspiracy name, I used the strategy that won me a fantasy hockey championship so many years ago (8-ish?) and stuck with my starters.  I made only one key pickup all season:  Green Bay’s defense.  Other than that I played a team that was identical to the one I drafted in August.

What does this mean?  It means that by way of experiential learning I have now seen firsthand the power of a good draft.  This is a truth that spans both fantasy AND the NFL.  It also means I am a very good drafter.  I’m pretty sure this would probably be true to the NFL as well, were I ever given the chance.

I’d like to thank Marion Barber for coming through with 15 pts. when I needed at least 8 to seal a victory.  I’d also like to thank Green Bay’s defense for being rock solid in taking down Seattle.  And finally, I’d like to thank Jim Caldwell for benching his entire team, allowing Thomas Jones to rack ’em up (16) while Manning (who my opponent started) stalled at 7.  Cheers Jim – couldn’t have pulled it off without ya.

Release the hounds!

And the 2 Slice Special commences.

Five things about Tuesday night’s fantasy draft:

1.  Speaker phone is the most awkward thing ever invented.
2.  Live drafts – and by live I mean over the phone – are pretty stressful for the first 5-7 rounds.
3.  In a panic moment, I almost drafted Roy Williams WAY too early considering he is currently injured.  Think Tami, think!
4.   Live drafts – and by “live” I mean hanging out on my porch listening to 6 people in New Hampshire think over the phone – are incredibly dull during rounds 10-16.
5.  There is no I in TEAM…

…and by that I mean I am not about the superstars.  Following my first pick (Maurice Jones-Drew) which is supposed to be your #1 point-getter, I almost didn’t care if I got the next 4 “best” players or not.  Like in Monopoly, sometimes your annoying second cousin with hotels on all the yellows beats you out even if you own Boardwalk and Park Place.  Marvin Gardens is always the sleeper.  If I can find a modicum of fun in fantasy football it’s in looking at week to week matchups and trying to see which player will fare best against the opponent’s defense and then making some relatively risky add/drops.  Everybody knows Adrian Peterson’s going to rock the points column, but when I picked up Joe Flacco mid-season last year and got solid points off him…well I felt pretty good.

Here’s hoping MJD has an unbelievable season (also because Masterplan has 2 clients on the Jaguars), but if not…I’ll do my best to purple hotel everyone to death.

I pulled a Favre.

I used to be hockey-crazed.  I say “used to be” more because I no longer have the time because of the focus I need to put on football, not for lack of desire.  

My freshman year of college I entered into a fantasy hockey league comprised of a freshman guy, 4 senior guys, and a junior guy.  My team was called The Burke Conspiracy.  I won this league.  It was quite a coup.

I promptly retired from fantasy sports.

Last year I un-retired and joined 2 leagues, one at work and one with my roommates.  Here I learned 3 valuable things: 
1. that working in football does not necessarily make you good at fantasy football, 2. that 16 people is too many for a fantasy league, and
3. that 20 clients, 1 real team, and 2 fantasy teams was too much for me.

After a strong season I floundered heading into playoffs and forgot to re-set my rosters one week.  I considered re-retiring. 

But then K.Stat and her 2-Slice Special came along and made me an offer.  I said no, but she persisted.  I said I needed off the entire month of October.  She said ‘done.’  I said I wanted to pick my own October sub.  She said ‘done.’  I said I didn’t want to attend training camp and I’d need a private jet to fly my family to all the games.  She said ‘are we still talking about fantasy football?’  I said I needed some time to think about it.  She said to take all the time I needed.

And, well, all that to say…I got cajoled into giving it another go.

Apparently so did Brett Favre.

Fantasy messes with your head.

FOREWARD:  Yes, I play fantasy football and yes, I am very conflicted about it and somewhat dislike it.  But if I may reference one of my favorite Whitman quotes, “Do I contradict myself?  Very well then, I contradict myself.  I am large; I contain multitudes.”

That said, I am not a huge fan of fantasy sports mostly because it unnaturally divides allegiance.  Say you are a Bears fan but you have Adrian Peterson (the RB) on your fantasy team. Now pretend it’s the last week of the season and the Bears are playing the Vikings for the wild card spot and you personally are also vying for the last playoff spot in your fantasy league.  You’re cheering for the Bears to win and Peterson to score a lot and amass a lot of yards, right?  WRONG!  So very wrong.  And I’m ashamed of you for even thinking it.

Fantasy sports take everything that is good and true and irrational about team allegiances and destroys them.  I would have fought to the death arguing Jim Kelly over Dan Marino in the ’90s, even if you could have statistically proven me wrong.  Yet to play fantasy football you are forced to do just that – to pick against your will, your better judgment, your very nature.  (Side note:  this is largely why I stocked my fantasy roster with a lot of Bills players last year, to avoid internally combusting.)

It’s always interesting having the job discussion when I meet new people and they ask what players we represent.  We have a very Defensive player-heavy client roster at the moment.  In fantasy football you select offensive players individually, but most leagues select ONE defense as a whole.  Someone asks me who we represent, I start naming players and positions, and more often than not I get the “oh – so no one I can pick up on fantasy” comment, and then they tune me out.  Football fan, eh?!  Way to not care about anyone that can’t better your fake-y team.  Fantasy Sports:  sucking the soul out of sportsfans since 1997.

Two-Slice Special!

This is the name of the fantasy football league I’m in, named for the now-FAMOUS 2-slice pizza special at K.STAT’s on Hampton Beach.  Also amazing are her chicken tenders and seafood. (Insert shameless plug HERE.)

Kristen owns a chicken and seafood business on Hampton Beach next door to her parents ice cream and candy shops.  Her brothers, cousins, sister, and future brother-in-law all work at these businesses.  I spent last Monday at K.STAT’s after a weekend in Boston – it was a 12 hour visit, start to finish, but my added presence meant that 7 of 8 members of our league were in the same place, so Kristen decided we would pick our draft order at midnight that night after her business closed.  I get there at 4pm and first-off meet her brother Nick, who’s first comment is “So you’re our eighth, huh…”

Then  I meet her cousin Adam who yells “Nice to meet you. DRAFT order tonight!!”

Then her brother Billy who says “Hi.  Are you ready to do draft order tonight?” 

The behind-the-counter area of the ice cream shop looks like Mel Gibson’s lair in “Conspiracy Theory” – there are fantasy players and articles plastered EVERYWHERE.

Her 15-year old cousin (the only one absent) phoned in at MIDNIGHT to be “present” to pick his spot.

I’m not sure I knew what I was getting myself into…

COMING SOON:  my strong to very strong opinions on fantasy sports.

Are you free to babysit my team?

My good friend Kristen comes from a family that is crazy about football and, more specifically, fantasy football.  She and her siblings all enter multiple leagues and pay sometimes price-y team fees in their uber-competitive enthusiasm to win it all in at least one of them.

This year, she invited me to be the 8th player in her family-only league: her, a sis, 2 bros & a future bro-in-law, and 2 cousins.  “Only $50 to join,” she said, “so that people will take it seriously but it won’t break the bank.”  “Love to,” I said, but I am going to Africa for the month of October, a whole quarter of football season, which will put me at a huge disadvantage.”  And here’s what she told me:  that I was being ridiculous and that there will be internet in Kenya and if I will have time to update my “little blog” then I will have time to change my fantasy roster.

Ya.  When I am in Kibera, largest slum in Africa, where people use “flying toilets” (ahem…in a plastic bag…and then they throw it as far away from them as possible) because they can’t afford to pay to use the public toilets, trying to build a home for AIDS orphans, I will insist upon using my free time to trade Owen Daniels for Jeremy Shockey because even halfway across the world, you can just “feel” that Shockey’s going to have a comeback week.

Veto.

But she emailed and texted and got pushy.  So I agreed on the condition that I be allowed to find a sub for myself to manage my team for the month of October.  She said my dad.  I said my dad hasn’t checked his email account in months.  Could have been my roommate…but she’s highly likely to do things like trade for players who have nice smiles, “a window into their kind hearts.”  So the hunt is on for the perfect substitute…any takers?