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Week 10: Can Fantasy Addicts Enjoy A Regular NFL Game In Person?

Last Week’s Question: What do folks think of The League?

Readers whose remarks have found their way into this column know that I appreciate explanations more than answers. For instance, when I asked for opinions about head-to-head leagues vs. leagues that tally up total points at the end of a season, I was more interested in why people prefer one format to the other than in which format they preferred.

That didn’t stop folks from firing off emails to me that read simply “Head-to-head rules” or “Total points is the way to go.”

My question about The League, unfortunately, seemed primarily to prompt the kinds of responses that aren’t terribly useful to other readers. According to Corey, “It sucks.” According to David, “It’s kind of obscene, but pretty funny.”

I appreciate the fact that people took the time to write in—even if they only wrote a few words. But in the interest of giving readers the most bang for their skimming buck, I’ll focus on the short but nicely reasoned response of Matt. I’ll share his points one at a time with whatever support and/or commentary I can provide.

  • “It's really a fast-paced version of Friends with FF overtones, but that's about the right mix.”

The League shares similarities with a lot of sitcoms, including Friends. There are outrageous situations, awkward silences, and plenty of zingers (some more predictable than others). The limitation of the Friends analogy is that Friends seemed primarily to focus on the relationships of unmarried people (until the later seasons, when marriages and divorces and broken engagements became too tiresome for me to keep watching). The most important characters in The League appear to be the ones who are married. The second episode took a look at the ways in which wives police their husbands’ consumption of internet porn. One husband is permitted by his wife to watch porn on the television screen that is over his exercise station. Porn is his incentive to stay fit and trim. One of his friends, however, is so porn-restricted in his marriage that he gets into trouble with his wife for watching a video about sports bras. The interplay of the married men with each other and with their bachelor friends reminds me of shows such as How I Met Your Mother. That is a tricky demographic divide to straddle; shows that try to appeal to both married and unmarried audiences run the risk of losing the attention of both. So far, my take on The League is that it is really written for people who are married with no children or with children that are too young to be involved in adventures of their own. (It is therefore very unlike The Simpsons, All in the Family, and the million and one other family-based sitcoms you have seen.)

  • “It's destined to fail though because it only appeals to diehard fantasy football fans, but to make the FF action on the show interesting, the writers need to make the moves so unbelievable that it will probably turn off most fantasy players. For instance, strong arming the [Peyton] Manning for Fred Taylor and Holt trade last week was funny, but die-hard fantasy players would have spittle down their chins if that really went down. Then again, the show was probably written before Taylor got hurt, so they can't stay current.”

I suspect Matt is correct in this assessment. The FF component of the show should make it appeal to the FF community, but that is hard to pull off with a production rhythm that has nothing to do with the NFL schedule. In the first episode, two members of the league who were on opposite sides of a criminal case ended up swapping first-round picks. The real issue was who would get to draft Adrian Peterson; the prison sentence that a criminal would serve according to his plea bargain took a back seat to the desirability of Peterson. It was exactly the kind of joke that the FF community is in a position to get, but it was one of too few fantasy football moments in the show. It might be funny that a guy could be blackmailed into trading Manning for Taylor and Holt in order to keep his *ahem* interaction with a sports bra video quiet, but the reality is that most leagues have mechanisms in place that would prevent such a trade from going through.

As I read Matt’s point about how the audience that is best poised to laugh is also the audience that is most likely to see the flaw in the joke, I could not help thinking of the Sprint advertisements that claim X number of fantasy owners have waited until “now” to inform their opponents that their star players are on a bye. That ad drove me nuts in Weeks 1, 2, and 3. The advertising execs took the time to schedule the ads during football games in order to make the bogus claim ring true, but most NFL fans knew that there were no byes in the first 3 weeks of the season. When the only people who can appreciate your joke are the ones who know it’s broken, you need to reconsider your audience or your subject matter.

  • “I like it even though it's a caricature of real FF. [It has to be a caricature since] that is the only way to make a show like this possible, but I think that will turn off the [fantasy buffs] who are making a point to watch it.”

I like the show too, Matt—and I agree with you that it is a caricature that seems destined to fail. My favorite moment in the show was in the first episode. The host of the draft party is clearly very successful in the business world and also clearly a lonely guy who rubs his so-called friends the wrong way by trying to impress them. He hires a sexy waitress to serve drinks at the draft, but even that gesture isn’t enough to buy him 10 seconds of silence in which to deliver a toast that he has prepared. I have attended more than one draft party that had me feeling exactly the kind of pity that scene made me feel. I also laughed out loud as one of the wives on the show boasted of her confidence in her vagina in order to keep her marriage together—and at the phony music video that the stoner in the league posted on the website to make fun of her vaginal hubris. The show is definitely going to handle all sorts of pop culture elements in compelling ways. The writers and cast members have keen insight into the lives of the men aged 25 to 45 who work in corporate America and rely on fantasy football in order to have something in common with each other, but plenty of shows with keen insight get canceled.

I would like to see the show succeed so that I can keep watching it. I have no problem with the way that it uses a fantasy football league as a flimsy excuse for examining an interesting assortment of characters. If the writers can figure out how to make the audience understand that fantasy football is a relatively inconsequential component of a show called The League, then perhaps they can get people to tune in for the humor, which definitely has its moments.

This Week’s Question: Can Fantasy Addicts Enjoy A Regular NFL Game In Person?

Part of my fantasy addiction is an NFL Ticket addiction. I love staying home on Sundays and watching as much of as many games as possible. There are multiple television screens, multiple remote controls, lots of pauses and tons of fast forwarding. When the challenges and injuries and commercials are properly aligned, there is enough of a lull for me to check my scores on the computer.

But I am a native Texan, and it would be an offense to God (as well as the man He answers to—Jerry Jones) if I did not go see the Cowboys play in their new stadium, so in a few weeks I will be watching a game in person for the first time since I got the NFL Ticket.

I am excited about seeing the new stadium. I am excited about watching a game that looks as if it will have playoff implications. I am even excited about being able to say “I told you so” to my wife when Tony Romo shows us once again that the NFL season is 4 weeks too long for him.

But I keep asking myself, “Just one game?” Getting to and from the Cowboy game will consume my day. I might catch the second half of the Sunday night game, but even that is doubtful. I can’t help thinking that real football is going to send me into fantasy withdrawal, and I will be happy to take any advice from those of you who successfully manage your fantasy addiction when you are attending real games. Please don’t let me be the guy who is missing the game right in front of him because he can’t stop checking his cell phone for stats around the league.

Wk 10 - Last Man Standing - (Courtesy of Marc Mondry)

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, and I might just start babbling as incoherently as certain former presidents.

How is it that I pick the Packers for two out of their four total losses? The answer is threefold. The first part of the explanation is the Packers’ inconsistency; the second stems from my underestimation of the impact of traveling all the way to Tampa Bay; and the third (much clearer in retrospect) is the power of a team rallying around its young quarterback for his first career win.

Reader’s Week 9 Picks

As more and more folks are eliminated from their LMS pools, fewer and fewer readers are sending their picks in each week. We even lost Matthew Schiff for Week 10, so I will be putting the leader board on hiatus until participation picks up. People can still send picks in, but there is no point in posting a top 5 when there are only 5 total submissions.

I ended up going with a couple of adventurous picks this week. We have reached the point of the season at which it becomes difficult to find 3 locks each week (though we get a reprieve next week due to the end of byes). That is especially true if you are keeping your three ‘entries’ separate, like I am. Along those lines, I would have loved to select New Orleans this week, but couldn’t because they are only available to me in my #1 entry, as were the Vikings. I went with Minnesota because I think it will be easier to find a good contest for the Saints later in the season,

Trap Game: Philadelphia over San Diego

San Diego is playing great ball right now, coming off a big win against the Giants in East Rutherford, and the Eagles are probably the most inconsistent team in football.

That said, it is far too easy to envision DeSean Jackson taking one to the house from 70+ yards away. The San Diego defense is not what it used to be, and the secondary is porous at best; if the Eagles can keep the pass rush off Donovan McNabb, he should have no problem finding his receivers and upstart TE Brent Celek.

There is, however, a reason why Philadelphia is a 2.5 point dog. Philly’s defense, like that of the Chargers, also is not what it used to be, and may have a very tough time containing Phillip Rivers and his weapons. The Eagles need to get pressure on him because athletic TE Antonio Gates and dynamic WR Vincent Jackson are just too difficult to cover if given more than a few seconds to run their routes. I’m not convinced the Eagles get pressure, but if they do, they’ve got a good shot at containing the San Diego offense and winning this game.

3. Arizona over Seattle

Arizona is another one of those teams that I don’t really enjoy picking in LMS competitions (like Green Bay). I get that same sick feeling in my stomach that if the offense doesn’t bring it’s A-game, I could be in trouble. Unfortunately, I do not love the other options this week, so here we are.

What this game really comes down to is that the Seahawks are just bad and are traveling to face a division rival that has beaten up on them over the past several years. A loss here to the 3-5 Seahawks would be very costly to Arizona, bringing the Seahawks and potentially San Francisco within a game of the division lead. I think the Cards will bring their A-game.

The corollary to that is that I honestly think Arizona’s B-game, if you will, would beat Seattle. Seattle beat Detroit 32-20 last week, and those of you that watched the game know it was a lot closer than the score would indicate. It’s not a question of whether Detroit is bad, but Seattle appears to be only marginally better.

2. Miami over Tampa Bay

Tampa Bay is not a good team. They did happen to upset Green Bay last week, under ideal circumstances (at home vs. a team that traveled from far away and that was likely to look past them to this week’s opponent, Dallas). The Bucs are still terrible. This week they travel to Miami, a local rival, coming off a tough divisional loss last week, that desperately needs a win and some confidence. What better than a visit from the Bucs to satisfy those needs?

The one caveat about this game is that I still do not trust Chad Henne at all. Fortunately for us, neither does the Dolphins’ brass. They know they must win behind the offensive line and the Ronnie Brown/Ricky Williams duo in the backfield. I sincerely doubt that the Bucs will be able to stop both RBs for the entire game, and I even more seriously doubt Tampa Bay’s ability to get into the end zone against the tough Miami defense. This one may be low scoring (and thus low differential), but it should be a secure Miami win the whole way.

1. Minnesota over Detroit

Minnesota playing at home against the Lions is one of my favorite picks. Just about every year you have to plug this one into your LMS plans somewhere. This year, it’s a better pick than ever, with the absolute dominance of the Minnestoa front seven and Favre’s remarkable consistency on offense, not throwing too many costly interceptions, which has been his Achilles heel for the past several years.

I still maintain that the Lions are not as bad as their record suggests. They did play Seattle tough last week, and were down only by 5 with possession and only a couple of minutes to play. They just always find a way to lose. Generally speaking, that makes for a perfect LMS opponent. This week it certainly does.

For responses to this week's fantasy question please email me no later than 10 a.m. EST on Wednesdays during the football season.