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
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
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
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.
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”
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.