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Mike Davis | Archive | Email |
Staff Writer

Special protections for youngsters in family leagues

Last Week's Question: Has the anthem controversy impacted your fantasy league in any meaningful way?

The question from Week 7 generated far more feedback than will fit into a single column. You can get a pretty good sense of what readers had to say by following the various conversational threads and sub-threads in the comments section of last week's column. The remark that stood out most for me came from Backtoprison:

The kneeling has had zero impact on our league, and zero impact on me. I watched the Raiders-Chiefs last night. Happily. And was NOT disappointed. And thankfully I put in Amari [Cooper] for John Brown about 30 minutes before the game.

This one grabbed my attention primarily because I expected to see so many more like it. Why? Because in the two decades I've been playing fantasy football, I've never let my interest in the NFL (which goes up and down—because the NFL is a pretty fickle organization) impact my interest in fantasy football (which stays high all the time—because it's always fun, whether I feel like watching the actual games or not). There have been seasons when I was too busy to watch much football on Sundays—but never when I was too busy to submit my lineup(s) by Thursday afternoon.

For me, fantasy football is so thoroughly divorced from the NFL itself that the idea of giving up a hobby I enjoy as a consequence of what happens before the actual games even start is unthinkable. And I'll confess that I kinda-sorta expected to hear similar sentiments from most readers. That was the tenor of a handful of responses—but not many.

From here, I'll focus on the responses I received via email in the interest of sharing as much additional information as possible with those who have already reviewed the comments. This note from Vince started out sounding like the one from Backtoprison, but quickly veered in a different direction:

It’s a shame we are taking the time to comment on this topic. After all, this should be about football, not politics. Ever since [Kapernick] decided to take a knee during the anthem the game of football has been spoiled for thousands, including me.

To your question, the only impact I can tell (so far) in our league is that I’m in 5th place instead of my usual 1st, 2nd or 3rd. You see, three weeks ago I called my local cable company and cancelled the NFL Network, my sports package and Red Zone. In addition, I’m not watching the games or even highlights. So, I am not doing any research before I set my line up, just going with instinct.

I promised the commissioner of the league I would fulfill my obligation until the season is over, but if they are still not standing for the anthem by the end of the season, he would need to find a replacement for me for the 2018 season. I closed my DraftKings and FanDuel accounts as well. I didn’t have to exit my survivor league as the Jaguars did that for me when they beat the Texans at home in week 1.

Also, this is not my protest against the players. This is my protest against the league, Roger Goodell and the many cowardly owners throughout the NFL. If Goodell or the owners decide to force the players to stand (or be benched) I might come back to full participation. I’m not sure at this point. I used to love Sunday afternoons and the NFL. Not anymore. Quite frankly, I’m sick and tired of all of it.

My new football day is Saturday. So far, I’m surprised at how much I’m actually enjoying the change of pace. No politics. No spoiled millionaires. Just a bunch of men playing the game because they love to play and they bring that enthusiasm on every down.
My father is a retired college football coach, so I know that college football can be a lot of fun to watch. If fantasy enthusiasts like Vince really do end up focusing exclusively on college ball, I hope they can form fantasy leagues built around college contests. In any case, Vince wasn't alone.
In fact, the single most common answer to my question boiled down to some version of this statement, "No one has quit our league over the anthem controversy . . . yet." Here's Burch's version of that response by way of example:

[No impact] this year other than a couple of owners [in] my league of 27 years have stopped watching the NFL but are still turning in their lineups just to be fair to the other owners. They have stated they are done playing after this year and can't support the NFL which I guess means fantasy football as well.
Rich's note was typical of the second-most common type of response: "I haven’t heard of anyone—never mind commissioners—quitting FF over the national anthem." Considering how many leagues are office-based networks of working adults who would rather do anything in the world than explore each other's ideas about patriotism and police brutality, it's easy for me to understand why so many readers echoed Rich's sentiments.

The most detailed response of all came from Dan, whose saga of fantasy-spoiled-by-politics began with the 2016 election:
I'm commissioner in 3 leagues, and prior to the draft I proposed a "no politics in fantasy rule" in every league [because another of my leagues fell apart in 2016 over the presidential election], and everyone agreed to it without issue. Then comes the anthem controversy. One of my friends from the disbanded league, let's call him Kyle, had joined my family league. Kyle is [a loudmouth], but I've always respected him and his opinion despite disagreeing with him. The same goes for my 5 family members, who are fairly split on political opinions, so we understood why the rule was needed. Well, at least most of us.

When the anthem controversy came around, Kyle could not stay quiet. He started lighting up our trash talk boards, and changed his team name to disparage the kneelers. I privately messaged Kyle to please change his name by the end of the week and to respect the rules he agreed to at the outset of the year. I also told him I considered him one of my best friends, and that my family was dealing with some difficult stuff that I would prefer not to text. He didn't respond, but instead went to Facebook to post about fantasy leagues that censor free speech. If Kyle had bothered to ask what I wanted to tell him, it was that my mom had been diagnosed with terminal cancer prior to week 2, and while we struggled through surgery and hospital visits, fantasy was our refuge. We were watching his behavior unfold from a hospital waiting room most of the time. Kyle refused to stop his behavior, and after a week or so of it, we put the issue to a vote and replaced him with another family member prior to the start of week 5. Things have been going swimmingly since.

I'd been friends with Kyle for 10 years and I'm not sure there's any way for us to come back from that. My lesson to everyone is don't put politics above your relationships. Life is shorter than you realize and it can be taken from you in an instant. Do your best to find joy wherever you can, and try to use that to bring people together rather than divide them. And from a guy who had Amari Cooper on the bench after his 40-point performance against the Chiefs, always start your studs.

I wanted to end with Dan's note—particularly his conciliatory final paragraph—because some of the exchanges in the comments section last week were fairly heated.

It's fair to say that the technology of the 21st century allows most of us to live inside the echo chambers of our preference—without having to worry about other people who might not share our perspective. So it's oddly unsurprising to discover just how surprised we can all be by the positions that other people take on issues that seem clear-cut to us.

Dan's remarks gave me a lot to think about because my father-in-law, an Air Force veteran, passed away four years ago. I'm not sure what he would have had to say about the anthem controversy. Maybe he would say (as some veterans do) that if the flag stands for anything, it stands for the right of adult Americans to react to the anthem however they choose. Or maybe he would have called the kneelers disrespectful and unpatriotic (as other veterans do). But if we had him back for just one Sunday afternoon, I'm pretty sure we wouldn't spend our time arguing about that stuff. I figure we would probably do whatever he wanted—which would almost certainly involve watching the Dallas Cowboys (even if it meant waiting until after the anthem to turn on the television).

This Week's Question: Should family leagues have special rules to protect youngsters?

Over the years, I've heard from lots of readers in family leagues who enjoy playing fantasy football with their own children—as well as nieces and nephews. Some leagues don't let the kids join until they're old enough to evaluate trade offers on their own (which I would guess is sometime in high school), but a lot of family leagues seem willing to let kids join quite young. Earlier this week, a friend called to ask, "What do you think of this trade I offered my 10-year-old nephew?"

To my ear, his phrasing suggested that he was going to describe a lopsided trade that only a child would accept. Before he got into the details, I had already cast him as a villain:

"Hey Timmy, I have a great deal for you. I'll give you Greg Zuerlein, the top fantasy kicker, for Michael Thomas, the twentieth-ranked receiver. Clearly you would win the trade, but I really enjoy watching the Saints, so I'm willing to lose a little value. What do you say? Did I mention that Zuerlein is #1 at his position and Thomas is only #20 at his? You can look it up. This is a no-brainer."

I was being unfair to him. His offer wasn't lopsided; it turned out to be a mostly pointless exchange of benchwarmers designed primarily to get the youngster more involved in the league.
That made a lot more sense than the villainous scenario I had imagined. I've never belonged to a family league, but I suspect there are some pretty serious social repercussions if anyone tries to take advantage of children in such leagues.

So presumably no special rules are needed to protect children from predatory trade offers in family leagues. Do I have that right? If I'm wrong, please let me know what special provisions your family league has in place for trading with kids. If I'm right, please let me know how young the youngest members of your family league are and how long your league has been running smoothly without having an official policy to protect them. If your league has no official policy, but a tacit understanding between the adults, please do your best to articulate that understanding by commenting below or emailing me.

Survivor Pool Picks - Week 8 (Courtesy of Matthew Schiff)

Even a blind squirrel stumbles across a nut from time to time. This blind squirrel not only nailed all three picks last week, but also predicted the Tennessee win by a field goal. Will wonders never cease? That said, let’s see how we fare this week.

Trap Game: Seattle over Houston

This game should be fun to watch. Deshaun Watson and his third-ranked offense get a chance to play against the NFL's top defense (and the 12th man) in Seattle. But even though the odds are in the Seahawks' favor, nothing has gone easy for them. A running game that used to balance out Russell Wilson’s creativity is less than what was anticipated. Three running backs: Chris Carson, Eddie Lacy, and Thomas Rawls, have TWO touchdowns between them. Meanwhile, Lamar Miller has scored only one touchdown because DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller are monopolizing the end zone. The Seahawks will have to be at their best to win this one. Better matchups are available, so avoid this matchup if possible.

#3: Minnesota at Cleveland: (3-4, BUF, TB, CLE, NE, NYG, ATL, PHL)

Teddy Bridgewater might be healthy enough to play in London, but the Vikings are unlikely to activate him for a game on a slippery soccer field. We'll probably see Bridgewater under center in Week 10 (after Minnesota's bye next week). Case Keenum, who has been filling admirably for the oft-injured Sam Bradford, should perform well against a Browns team that definitely plays better at home. The overseas match may count as a home game for Cleveland on paper, but London ain't no Dawg Pound. DeShone Kizer is likely to learn yet another harsh lesson as he faces the NFL's fifth-ranked defense, so if you want your survivor pick completed before finishing your Sunday morning coffee, take the Vikings as the “road” favorite.

#2: Cincinnati over Indianapolis: (4-3, NE, SEA, PIT, ATL, PHI, HOU, TEN)

The Bengals are a disappointing 2-4 this season. Why? Look no further than their anemic offense. Once considered the strength of the team, the Cincinnati offense averages just 16.3 points a game and is ranked 29th overall. Meanwhile, their 6th-ranked defense has surprisingly kept them close by limiting opponents to an average of 18.7 points per game. In Week 8, they host a Colts team that is 28th in offense and 31st in defense. Based upon these numbers alone we should lean towards the Bengals. But be cautious! This offense is really lost—so lost that it abandoned the run in the second half of last week's game against the Steelers, even though Joe Mixon was averaging over 6 yards a carry in the first half. The numbers point to a BIG Bengals win, but Jacoby Brissett and the Colts may be able to steal this one in spite of the odds against them. Resort to this pick only if the Eagles are unavailable to you.

#1: Philadelphia over San Francisco: (5-2 ATL, OAK, NE, SEA, PIT, DEN, DAL)

Ladies and gentlemen, your NFC-leading Philadelphia EAGLES are home this week against the 49ers (the only team in the league that has a tighter grip on the #1 pick in the 2018 draft than the NY Giants). The Eagles showed the nation on Monday night that they can do it all on any given night. It would take a herculean effort, and a total catastrophe, for the Eagles to lose this one. THIS is what a LOCK looks like. Listing the statistics of these teams only rubs salt in the open wounds of San Francisco fans. I'm not cruel enough to do it.

Mike Davis has been writing about fantasy football since 1999--and playing video games even longer than that. His latest novel (concerning a gamer who gets trapped inside Nethack after eating too many shrooms) can be found here.