Some readers may recall that I was unable to write one of my columns
last year because I was supervising 40 college freshmen on a field
trip to Washington, D.C. I hated not being able to write my column
that week, but I was correct in thinking that I simply wouldn’t
have the time for it. It horrifies me to think that Mike Krueger
and the rest of the folks at FFToday were able to get along without
me, but in truth I doubt many people even noticed. (Editor's
Note: I missed you, Mike.)
This year, I have a field trip that is putting me in a far worse
bind. It will force me to miss the draft in the one league I care
the most about.
I seethed with frustration as we scheduled that field trip. One
professor had a scholarly conference to attend on the weekend I
wanted for the trip. Another had a family reunion to attend on an
alternate date that would have worked for me. The limited availability
of the campus bus conspired with various other factors such as these
to back me into a scheduling corner. Have you ever tried to say
to a room full of professors that the date they have settled on
won’t work for you because you have a fantasy football draft?
You might think that all it takes is a little backbone to say so,
but backbone isn’t what it takes at all. What it takes is
tenure—something everybody else in the room already had, and
something I’m sure never to get if I become known as the professor
who can’t meet his professional responsibilities because of
a pretend football game. So I agreed to their date.
The only date that worked for all of the other faculty members was
Saturday, September 8th. Now I know some people object to having
a draft after the first Thursday night game has been played, but
that’s an argument for another time.
The simple fact of the matter is that when you have your draft on
the Saturday before the first slate of Sunday games, there’s
a massive amount of instant gratification to be had. Never mind
that you get far more up-to-date information about players. Never
mind that you get to study how other late drafts played out and
strategize accordingly. Never mind that a season-ending injury to
a star player on Thursday night could dramatically impact the draft.
These considerations are all terribly minor as compared to the key
consideration, which is that you start drinking on Saturday morning,
have your team selected and your starting lineup submitted by Saturday
night, and recover from your hangover on Sunday afternoon to find
out how your team is doing. Now if that isn’t fun, I don’t
know what is.
I’ve had to miss drafts with this league before. It is headquartered
in Dallas, and for years I lived in Philadelphia. My wife is a very
generous woman—but not generous enough to approve my purchasing
plane tickets to participate in a fantasy football draft for a purse
that would barely cover the cost of the tickets even if I happened
to win it.
But when I’ve had to miss the draft in the past, I have been
able to make my picks over the phone or via computer. It isn’t
any fun to be the only person participating in a draft who isn’t
in the same room as all the other drafters, but remote drafting
presents a solution to a problem faced by lots of people in leagues
all over the country.
this year’s draft, however, I won’t even be as connected
to the draft as someone who is listening in on a phone connection
or submitting picks online. I’ll be on a bus making my way
across Oklahoma. I’ll have my cell phone with me, and I’ll
stay in contact with someone at the draft as much as possible. But
there will be long stretches of highway during which my phone will
be as useless as Michael Vick in a keeper league. And there will
also be students and faculty and a bus driver who might need my
The other guys in my conference are willing to work with me—to
a point. It helps that I have the bookend picks (last in the first
round and first in the second round, etc.), so I will only need
to make seven phone calls in order to communicate my 14 picks. But
we don’t know how well my phone will work. And we don’t
know whether something will come up on the trip that will require
me to ignore the draft. And the eleven other guys might be willing
to cut me a little slack and enjoy their beers if I hold up a round
of picks for a few minutes, but they won’t find it at all
cute or funny if the bus breaks down in the middle of nowhere with
no way for me to let them know that it will be two hours before
I can get back in touch with them.
So what are we to do?
One option is to let the website that handles our draft make the
picks for me, but that’s a terrible option because those programs
are always in a hurry to round out needs by position rather than
focus on the talent available on the board at the time of the pick.
It doesn’t bother me a bit to wait until the tenth round (or
later) to pick up my QB, but those programs are always in a hurry
to make sure that you have at least one player at every position
before double-dipping. Computers are apparently very nervous. They
fret that 32 starting quarterbacks somehow won’t be enough
to go around in a 12-team conference.
I don’t want a computer to pick my team any more than I want
a computer to submit my weekly lineups. Making my own choices isn’t
part of the fun. It’s all of the fun, so I don’t want
to go that route.
The second option that presents itself is for me to submit a list
to our commissioner on the day of the draft and ask him to draft
my players in the order in which they appear on the list. But the
obvious problem with this approach is that it is rigid, whereas
a draft is a dynamic affair. A preconceived list can’t account
for all of the variables in a draft (even a traditional serpentine
draft). And depending upon how I rank my players and how others
make their selections, it would be possible for me to end up with
14 tight ends as my entire roster. (I’m not saying that’s
likely, but it’s theoretically possible with a list that simply
ranks 200 players from 1 through 200.)
Another option is to submit a list with tiers—tiers of running
backs, tiers of wide receivers, tiers of quarterbacks—and
an elaborate set of explanations about how choices should be made
based on how my team looks in round x and which players are available
from tier y at positions z, a, and b. I actually started doing some
preliminary work along these lines before I realized that all of
my competitors will be drinking heavily. Even with the best intentions,
there’s no way they’ll be able to make head or tail
out of such a complicated set of instructions.
And so I dump this problem on the doorstep of the fantasy community.
I expect to be able to make my own picks via cell phone without
much trouble. But my competitors would like for us to have a backup
plan in place. The guy who is driving up to Dallas from Houston
will not be happy if his trip ends up being wasted because something
went wrong on my end. Do I have to bite the bullet on this one and
tell them that if the time for my pick expires without their having
heard from me, I have to accept whatever idiotic choice the computer
makes on my behalf, or is
there a better way?
For responses to this fantasy question please email
Mike Davis. Readers who want to have their fantasy questions
answered live, on the air, by Mike Davis are invited to tune into
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