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Week 7: Themes for Naming Teams?

Last Week’s Questions:

1) Do Many Leagues Have a Theme When It Comes to Naming Teams?
2) How Do Leagues Spice Things Up (So As Not to Feel Like Generic FF Leagues)?

I broadened the question posed by Tim in last week’s column because I thought that asking if any leagues used themes for naming teams might result in a deafening silence in my inbox.

I was wrong, as I heard from two readers on the subject of theme-based names. I’ll start with Don’s response because it is irresistibly quirky:

While only three of us still have team names relating to our original league theme, we do have a long and glorious past. Our league was founded in 1979 in Redlands, CA and the theme—don’t ask me how it started—was manmade disasters or tragedies. You have to remember, we are talking circa 1979, so some names may be a bit obscure. My favorite team names are: the Jones Town Juicers, Three Mile Island Macrocephali (big heads), San Ysidro Big Mac Attack, Bell Tower Snipers, and the Bhopal Gassers. We have one O.G. (Original Geek) and his team name is the Falkland Island Penguins named for the Falkland Island war. We do have a team named the Cleveland Polka Kings, [which is] relevant if you consider polka a manmade disaster. Lastly, I have been in the league since 1984, and my team name is the Rancho Santa Fe Cybercide, named after the Heaven’s Gate web designers who killed themselves to go ride a comet that happened to be passing by at the time. Your question made me think that I have to get the new guys back on board with the original team naming theme.

The fact that I am just the right age to remember almost all the “tragedies” to which Don alludes reminds me that we FFers do fit overwhelmingly into a particular demographic niche.

The second reader to respond to the question about a theme for team names was Paulie, though the part of his answer in which Tim is likely to be most interested is decidedly cryptic:

I am the commissioner of a keeper league that has been together since 2001. Of the 12 owners, 9 are originals. The league is made up of only family and very close friends. Our theme is 'The Family', (as in "The" Family). We named our divisions after a certain city's geographic [points of interest], and our team names all reflect the theme as well.

Paulie’s use of single and double quotation marks in conjunction with the idea of family is ominous. His refusal to identify the city that is reflected in the team names is downright menacing, and it makes me think he is in the witness protection program. I was too scared of Paulie to ask him for examples, but I suspect there are plenty of leagues with teams named for the neighborhoods of LA, New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, etc. Paulie went on to address my broadened question in the more detailed section of his response:

One of the things we do to spice things up is the “Commissioner's Challenges.” On indicated weeks during the season, certain player positions will be the "challenge" for that week. (For example: Week 2 is the 'QB Challenge'; Week 5 is the 'WR Challenge', etc.) Whichever owner starts the highest scoring player in that position on that week picks up a small cash prize. It adds a little 'zing', and it takes a bit of the sting out of an "off" season.

Love the “Commissioner’s Challenge” idea. These are exactly the kinds of wrinkles that give leagues a distinctive feel and keep owners interested year after year.

Lincoln’s league doesn’t have a theme for naming teams, though winners have the privilege of renaming the teams of losers:

To help "spice things up" a little each week, most of our matchups have a friendly wager on the side. The winner gets to choose the loser's Team Name and Logo for the following week. It has added a lot of fun to the matchups, and even more fun as the new names and logos are unveiled after the MNF game. We do have guidelines in place that the names and logos are to be somewhere within the realm of "family friendly," so things don't have a chance to snowball and get out of control. It has been a good feature of the league.

On top of that, we also award "trophies" (electronic awards created using the league software) for things such as High Point Title, Best Team Name, Best Team Logo, Lowest Score, Big Bench Blunders (for leaving players scoring huge points on the bench) and Guts & Glory (for making risky roster decisions that pay off with big points).

As a result, we have active participation each week from all the team owners. It's not for everybody, but it's been fun for us, and it makes it more fun for me as the League Manager.

This Week’s Question:

Do You Have Tips for Writing a League Newsletter (Or Perhaps a *BRIEF* Sample Newsletter You Are Willing to Share)?

I used league newsletters as a springboard to the discussion of methods for spicing things up in a league, but Tiffany was more interested in my launch pad than in where I landed:

I have been co-managing a team with my husband for two years now. I am having plenty of fun, but he says it used to be a lot better before they lost the guy who wrote the weekly newsletter. I would like to surprise him by starting up the newsletter again, but he doesn’t have any from the old days, so I am not sure what made it so special. Do you have any sample newsletters that I could take a look at?

Tiffany will benefit more from what Michael has to say I suspect, than from the two undeleted newsletter specimens I was able to dredge up for her:

In my league, I send out a newsletter each week. It [focuses on] specific categories each week (highest score, lowest score, lowest winning score, closest game, best waiver/FA move, worst roster decision).

What I do in an attempt to give the league life is twofold:

1. Titles for the categories.

For example, instead of using "lowest winning score" we are currently using "2 for 17, and the win." The titles change with the current events of the NFL and are hopefully mildly humorous.

2. Plenty of riling up the teams for smack talk.

For instance, in the "worst roster move" category (known as 'You Just Dropped Deangelo Williams and his 20TDs'), I will casually mention that not only did owner A drop a player who had a great week, but owner B picked him up and they are playing the next week. By ensuring such inside storylines are well known, the smack talk tends to be more plentiful and more humorous.

I appreciate the way that Michael illustrates specific points about writing the newsletters with examples lifted from the newsletters, and I suspect that more than a few newsletter writers out there might like to see what their peers are up to. I am therefore soliciting tips for FF newsletter writing from the readers of this column.

Readers who are willing to respond should *not* simply paste the text of a newsletter into an email. Please select one of the strongest newsletters that you can find in your league archives (preferably from the 2009 or 2008 season), and write at least a paragraph of explanation about what makes your newsletter a hit with your league.

Wk 7 - Last Man Standing - (Courtesy of Marc Mondry)

Quick Recap From Last Week

“There’ll be days like this my mama said.” – The Shirelles

That refrain played over and over in my head all day long while I was watching football.

This past Sunday marked the first football Sunday in the past three years that I left the sports bar before the first set of games was over. I just couldn’t stand to watch my Giants get absolutely embarrassed by the Saints.

And it only went downhill from there. The Jets lost to the Bills; by some random act of ungodly cruelty the Raiders beat the Eagles; and we are left holding our heads in a strange mixture of confusion, frustration, and bewilderment.

“At least I got my trap game right,” wrote Matthew Schiff (the LMS Guru formerly featured in this column) to me after selecting both the Jets and the Eagles this week. He correctly picked the Chiefs to upset the Redskins.

Perhaps I should take solace in that as well, as I raised my upset picks to 4 out of 6 this week, correctly prognosticating the Denver win over San Diego—in San Diego no less. Thankfully, nobody fell into that particular trap this week, though almost all of us got stuck somewhere.

Reader’s Week 6 Picks

Well, we still have two unblemished participants, though one did not submit picks last week:

 Top Prognosticators - Week 6
Player Last Week's Picks Overall Win % Point Differential
Mark Adel JAX, PIT, NE 18/18 100 362
Scott Goldschmidt n/a 15/15 100 242
Keith Bielory n/a 14/15 93 259
Justin Leone n/a 11/12 92 160
Dave Zucker PIT, PHI, NE 16/18 89 278
Marc Mondry JAX, PHI, PIT 16/18 89 259
Supernewper JAX, WAS, PIT 16/18 89 183
Paul Moore PIT, PHI, GB 15/18 83 288
Joshua Shields n/a 10/12 83 144
Martha Lorenz GB, PIT, NYJ 5/6 83 111

Remember to email your picks to me by noon on Sunday! Lots of people forgot last week because I did not send a reminder. Get those picks in…if you miss 3 weeks in a row you will be dropped off the board!

Trap Game: San Francisco over Houston

Quick thought – I identified four other teams (aside from Denver) that could have been upset winner selections last week (Arizona, Baltimore, Kansas City, and Detroit). Detroit got blown out (and I would have retracted that pick with the news that Calvin Johnson and Matthew Stafford were not playing). However, consider the other games: Arizona and Kansas City both won, and Baltimore missed a last-second field goal to win the game.

If you read nothing else in this article – read the trap game selection.

Unfortunately, last week the NFL was kind of turned on its head, so I am feeling a bit bewildered at the moment.

The 49ers have a good shot at defeating the Texans this week. Houston’s offense is wildly inconsistent; on any given day the Texans could put up 3 or 33 points. The Texan defense, however, is reliably porous. You can count on Houston to give up about 30 points per game.

The Niners should be up to the challenge this week. First, they are one of the a stronger teams Houston has faced (with varying success), such as Oakland (W), Jacksonville (L), Arizona (L), Tennessee (W), and Cincinnati (W). They also had a full week off to prepare for the Texans, who are coming off an emotionally and physically draining victory over the Bengals.

Houston doesn’t strike me as the type of team with a defense that cannot be steamrolled if you have two weeks to analyze it.

The other factor I like is Frank Gore will finally be back this week, mostly healed and more than fully rested.

In the end, both teams will score a whole bunch of points, and the winner will probably be the last team to score. This isn’t the kind of trap selection that inspires confidence, but it is certainly a game to avoid as one of your LMS picks this week.

3. New York Jets over Oakland

I have no idea how Oakland beat Philadelphia last week. I didn’t see the game (who would watch it?); nothing jumps off the stat sheet; and nobody I have spoken to can explain it. The best I’ve gotten was “Donovan McNabb thought he was playing basketball, throwing bounce pass after bounce pass.” Obviously, Oakland’s underrated front seven was able to shut down the Eagles’ running game as well.

There are a couple of points worth taking away from this surprising game. First, Oakland’s run defense is serviceable. But we knew that already, as we’ve watched Richard Seymour tear it up. More importantly, Brian Westbrook has fallen off the 31-year-old cliff. Even last year, not even good defenses could contain Westbrook; this year, bad defenses can.

This game shows that the Eagles cannot be trusted this year because they depend on Donovan McNabb to be effective, and we cannot expect that to happen 16 times each season.

The one thing the Raiders-Eagles game does not tell us is that Oakland is now a good team. The Raiders beat a good team . . . once. That’s all.

The Jets should rebound this week after a very disappointing loss to Buffalo. The urgency is there. They can’t lose this game and compete in the AFC East. And if by some reason the urgency isn’t there, you had better believe Rex Ryan is going to instill it in his players—the hard way if necessary. If nothing else, the man is an intense competitor.

2. New England over Tampa Bay

I’m going to lead off with some analysis emailed to me this morning by top prognosticator Mark Den Adel. He writes that game features “A team with a huge offense vs. a team with no offense, and Bill Belichick vs. a first-year coach.” Tampa’s Raheem Morris, I might add, is a head coach who can’t keep his coaching staff together, is starting a rookie QB with a terrible arm, and has chosen Cadillac Williams to be the lead back over Derrick Ward and Earnest Graham.

Those actions and decisions do little to make Bucs fans trust Morris. They certainly undercut the Bucs’ ability to compete with a team like New England, who scored 59 points in the snow last week.

This game is a no-brainer, and I expect it to be picked by many this week. Let me finish this concise analysis with a bombshell.

Tampa Bay lost to Washington.

That is all.

1. Indianapolis over Saint Louis

The Rams definitely gave me a scare last week, leading the Jaguars for most of the contest. In the end, the incompetence of the Rams shone through, and they remembered who they were in time to blow the game in the 4th quarter. St. Louis has shown improvement over the last couple of weeks, certainly, but not enough to make me think of looking elsewhere for my top patsy this week.

Without question, the Rams have not improved nearly enough to compete with a very strong Indianapolis team coming off a bye week. I have a minor fear that Steven Jackson will rush for 125+ yards, but that is subject to two caveats: 1) Jackson has an unbelievably difficult time getting into the end zone (I can’t tell you how many times he rushes for 100+ without a TD) and 2) St. Louis should fall behind early by multiple touchdowns, limiting Jackson’s touches.

Honestly, that’s the best I can offer. Citing the numbers for these last two games really is not particularly persuasive and is wholly unnecessary. If I blow one of these top two picks, I’ll do a full write-up next week, but until then, I hope you’ll that these two games are almost as safe as you get.

Feel free to send me congratulations along with your picks. I just got a job offer for next summer and am itching to celebrate. Readers can email me throughout the week, as always, with any questions. And get those picks in!

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