I love football. It doesn’t matter whether it’s pro football or college football – I’ll watch it all. I run multiple fantasy football teams every year. There have to be monstrous extraneous factors for me to miss watching a Bears or Illini game. However, for all of this love for the pigskin, there’s one thing that doesn’t excite me at all: preseason football.
Even though my heart flutters a little bit when NFL training camps open, preseason football just doesn’t do it for me. Don’t get me wrong – I’ll most likely end up watching the Hall of Fame Game this weekend along with all of the Bears preseason games (not to mention that a number of professional gamblers believe that the preseason presents great betting opportunities). Yet, as opposed to whetting my appetite for the upcoming regular season, which is what spring training does for me with baseball, the NFL preseason is an excruciatingly long month that puts me on edge.
The reason is that the NFL preseason has absolutely no correlation with what occurs during the regular season. (Random Factoid for Use in a Bar Bet – Question: What was the Bears’ preseason record before their 15-1 Super Bowl season in 1985? Answer: 1 win, 3 losses.) While the third game of the preseason is usually when teams leave their starters in for the most amount of time, the ultimate goal for most head coaches is to make sure they don’t have too many injuries going into the season opener. That means the average preseason game might see the starting units on the field for the first quarter, at most (I doubt we’ll see Rex Grossman take snaps for more than a series or two per game). After that, it’s a cacophony of scrubs trying to grab a third-string spot or a place on the practice squad. That’s not real football. At least in spring training baseball games, there is a feeling that the game of baseball is actually being played with the players that are going to be out there everyday.
There is nothing better in sports than a football game where both teams are playing at the highest level. However, preseason football is a bastardized version of this great sport. That being said, I’ll still watch it, though. On to today’s links:
1) Best Sports Cities 2006: Welcome Back, Chicago (Sporting News) – It’s no contest.
2) Zook’s Latest Coup Gives Hope (Mark Tupper Weblog) – How many “risks” are going to be acceptable for Ron Zook to take in order to get the Illini football program back on the map? Illinois just enrolled Melvin Alaeze, who was the number one rated defensive end in the nation out of the high school Class of 2005 but had his scholarship to Maryland rescinded because he (a) failed to qualify academically (which concerns me since Illinois is considerably more difficult to get into than Maryland) and (b) has some problems with the reefer. Of course, something tells me that if he really is the faster and stronger version of Simeon Rice that the scouts claim and Illinois turns into a perennial bowl game participant that we believe it should be, we’re going to end up forgetting these details within the next couple years. It’s somewhat sad, but it’s true everywhere in big-time college athletics.
3) Wee, Wee, Wee – Half the Way Home (Siberia, Minnesota) - Some of my Illini brethren have been foiled again. It’s probably a good thing that Facebook didn’t exist when I was in college (and an extremely good thing for Minneapolis Red Sox).
4) Whoa, Wait – You Meant That? (Chicagoist) – This is what happens when the Chicago City Council fails high school economics.
5) Bears Need Offense to Help Defense (ESPN.com) – The Bears training camp report filed by John Clayton AKA Bill Gates’ Dorkier Little Brother. Interesting tidbit: only one Bears team over the past 10 seasons has averaged more than 21 points a game, which was the 2001 club that averaged a huge 21.1. Bleh!
6) Top Ten Will Farrell SNL Skits of All Time (TK) – For anyone that has ever wondered, I seriously have had the nickname of Frank the Tank since my tenure at Brookwood Junior High at the beginning of the 1990s, which was long before Will Farrell’s character of the same name ever appeared in Old School.
7) Write Your Very Own Sports Guy Column (The Chicago Sports Review) (from Deadspin) – Bill Simmons AKA The Sports Guy on ESPN’s Page 2 is one of my favorite columnists on any subject, whether it’s inside or outside of the sports arena. Over time, he has developed a distinct writing style which has influenced plenty of writers out there (including myself), where a column on a sports topic is heavily interspersed with reality TV show and ’80s pop culture references. In fact, Simmons’ writing style has become so pervasive that it was only a matter of time that someone put up a “Mad Libs”-style form to create your own Sports Guy column. You can take a look at my end product, which is on the next page, but you really need to try it out yourself first before reading anyone else’s versions in order to get the full effect.
(UPDATE: The real Sports Guy has new mailbag column today, where he provides an apt description of the cab line at the Las Vegas airport.)
FRANK THE TANK’S SPORTS GUY COLUMN
(Spoilers ahead! Do it yourself before reading this!)
So I’m sitting there the other day watching ESPN2 and I see that Jorge Posada had a great game. There is nobody, with the possible exception of John McNamara, that I dislike more than Jorge Posada. In the pantheon of people that ‘Make the Sports Guy Livid,’ these two are in a barn burner.
The phone rings. It’s my friend Bish. Kick-Ass! Bish is always willing to discuss our mutual distaste for Jorge Posada. Don’t get me wrong–we respect his abilities. But he’s the Olivia from the Cosby Show of sports. Totally annoying, yet on TV all the time. Bish mentions that it would be nice if Jorge Posada caught a case of herpes at the beginning of September, opening a Lorenzo Neal on greenies-sized hole for the Red Sox to cruise to the playoffs.
Bish points out that the chances that Jorge Posada will come down with herpes in September are minimal, but that if we expanded the possibilities, there would be a greater chance for debilitation of some sort. As usual, Bish is a crazy genius.
Here is what we came up with:
4. Jorge Posada receives a vicious Chokeslam from David Ortiz in front of 40,000 fans jammed into Fenway Park.
(On a side note, has there ever been a greater moment in sports than when Hulk Hogan taking on Andre the Giant? That and when Kevin Costner started playing catch with his dad in the cornfields are the winners of the ‘Most Kick-Ass Non-Real-Life Sports Moment Competition 2006.’)
3. Jorge Posada is informed by his wife that their child was not fathered by him but rather by either Heathcliff Slocumb or Matt Millen.
2. Jorge Posada hangs a homemade collage featuring scrabook-style clippings of Mr. Walsh and Mr. Miyagi in his locker. He is immediately placed on the DL with ‘flu-like symptoms.’
1. Jorge Posada meets Trishelle from The Real World: Las Vegas, falls in love, and leaves team to begin filming ‘My Fair Yankee.’
After we finish with the conversation about Jorge Posada we turn ourselves to the real topic of conversation, the upcoming draft of the Erin Andrews is Sexy Memorial Baseball Association, a new fantasy league that Bish and I will be joining this year.
Ordinarily, I’m never an advocate of partnering up to own a fantasy baseball team. That’s like getting picked up by Eva Longoria and going back to her place, only to find out that Shawn Kemp is already there. If the best you get is to share, sometimes it’s not worth it at all, right?
However, this league only had one slot open, so Bish and I agreed to partner up, in the hope that one of us could switch over and manage the next vacancy. After much debate, and eliminating the excellent possibilities of ‘Naked Taboo with Oragami’ and ‘Oliver Miller’s Shiny Blackjack Table’ as potential team names, we settle on ‘The Yaz Suite at the Palms.’
The thing that’s exciting about this league is that it is an auction format league, which is totally different than a draft league. I mean, it seems as though it would be the same as a draft league, but it’s not. It’s like the difference between NHL ’93 and NHL ’94-you take out fighting and add one-timers, you’ve got a whole different game, even if they are both hockey. Any good sports fan knows that Derek Jeter’s new cologne will give you AIDS, but not everyone knows how to conduct an auction.
Pre-Auction preparation is important. First, it is important to choose a date when the auction will take place. This is easy. Choose the date when the whipped guy in the league does not have to call home during a poker game, and that’s your date. Finding the whipped-guy-can-make-it date is a crucial part of auction success. (Speaking of which, what is with all these girlfriends who think that ‘fantasy draft’ is code for ‘I’m going to have my buddies over to watch Cecil Fielder perform Def Leppard while pulling the goalie?’ Don’t they realize we’d rather play fantasy baseball? Though that would be cool.)
Next, and more difficult, is the auction location selection. Many times people will choose to have auctions in demolition derbies. This is a bad idea. Nothing good can come of this; every person in the room is going to be pissed off and have an extremely sore pelvis after four hours. No, the auction must be held in someone’s house-best furnished basement wins. The coolness of the wife/significant other can be a deciding factor if two people have similar options-say, if owner A has a Mortal Kombat arcade game, but owner B has a case of Rhinelander. Nothing will kill a fun evening faster than the host’s wife emasculating him with a ‘Those dishes don’t clean themselves.’ We have selected next Tuesday night, at 8 pm, at a guy’s house where his wife will be watching chick flicks, and therefore unable to disrupt the festivities.
I will not be sharing with you my player ratings for this coming season-after all, Doyle Brunson doesn’t play poker with the hand face up-but I will give you some insight into my auction strategy. The thing is, an auction has so much more of an influence on your season than a draft does. In an auction, every player in the league is at your disposal. Everyone starts out equal. It’s the democratic principle of fantasy sports.
It’s also like a triathlon. It requires endurance, it requires stamina, it requires concentration and planning. Without further ado, here is my ‘Sports Guy Auction Strategy Guide’:
Round One-Who Wants It More?
Once the auction starts, timing and strategy are much more important than they are in a traditional draft. The first hour or so of the auction has to be spent feeling out your opponents. Are they particularly loyal to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays? Do they have a tendency toward mouth breathing? You are looking for weaknesses that you can exploit later on. Store these like newspaper clipping.
Here is a good place to test people by chucking out a few names of guys you’d never want on your team-aging, oft-injured players, like Rocco Baldelli, or over-hyped rookies that never panned out, like Todd Van Poppel.
Everyone is going to get some good players at this point, so make sure you don’t overpay and find yourself begging for money like Turtle asking for Vinny Chase’s AMEX Black.
Round Two-Have a Sense of Economics
In round two, there will be one moment that defines your draft. Things will be going along smoothly, and all of a sudden you’ll get involved in a bidding war on a player. It’s not unlike a big pot in a no-limit hold-em tournament-you’ll have your Emperor Palpatine-Luke Skywalker in Return of the Jedi moment, and you need to decide what to do.
Oftentimes, this will come down to a single dollar, here or there-if you bid $50 for Darryl Strawberry, you know you’ll get him, but you’re facing a bid with the clock ticking. Are you going to be a hero, carried off the field like Joe Carter? Or are you Mike Tice, skulking off the field into the jeering history of your team’s fans, with only your family still willing to speak with you. Now is your moment. Set the tone.
Round Three-Moving Day
Phase three of the draft is moving day, like day three of the Western Open. You need to shoot a 68. This is where you’ll fill out a lot of the players that, while less silky, make up the core of your team. Do not discount the importance of moving day. If you wait until the next phase to build the core of your team, you’ll find yourself as lonely as Christina Aguilera in a room full of Opus Dei.
Moving day is the time to make things happen for your team. This is where you are going to define the season that you have. If you end up moving day by taking an accurate mix of future stars, injury-risk players, and Mark Loretta, you’ll be okay.
Round Four-The Game of Trivial Pursuit
By the end of the fantasy auction, the endeavor has become exhausting. The only thing it can be compared to is a game of Trivial Pursuit, played among friends. Something that, at the beginning of the day, seemed like such fun, but by the end of it, is just a group of people banging their heads against the wall, adamantly trying to finish what they started, the joy of competing against your friends replaced with a desire to prove that you are The Duke of All Trivia and that is that.
In this phase of the auction, you must be careful. This is the ‘Fuck You Pay Me’ moment of the draft. People will be exploding like Mentos in a Diet Coke bottle, screaming incomprehensible things like George W. Bush and threatening to pull an O.J. if they do not get their way.
Just bite your lip, set your jaw, and try and endure. It’s a long season coming forward.
‘Do or do not – there is no try.’
(Image from Granny Gear)