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Firings are a certainty in the NFL. Coaches and players get weeded out of the league all the time. For coaches, the hatchet usually falls near the end of the season, but for players, the exit ordinarily occurs before the season begins. Talented 22-year-olds are cut or placed on a practice squad because they fail to grasp the fundamentals of an unfamiliar offense. Cagey veterans fall just one more fraction of a step behind - and are exposed as having managed to outlast their own extremely limited career-spans by relying on guts and savvy and increasingly rare bursts of speed. An aging quarterback who makes better decisions and reads defenses more accurately than ever before in his career finds that this knowledge only goes so far to compensate for the fact that pass rushers are becoming far more difficult to evade than they used to be - too difficult, in fact, for the coach to recommend that the QB's contract be extended.

We mourn for college stars who fail to shine in the NFL. We probably mourn even more for veterans who resist saying, "It's time for me to hang up my shoulderpads" until it becomes utterly impossible for them to say anything else. We regret the fact that truly exceptional athletes can and do get cut from the NFL every year, but we accept that practice as being right and proper in the context of the NFL.

So why should fantasy football be any different?

If immensely talented athletes can be cut from the NFL every year, why is it that fantasy football participants, regardless of their competitive shortcomings, are all but guaranteed a spot in fantasy football leagues? Why is it that the guy who blew it for your league last year by jumping at the front runner's offer to trade him 3 kickers for Marvin Harrison - why is it that this character will be invited back? The Cowboys couldn't justify keeping Emmitt Smith on the payroll, but the nimrod from your league will return next year after saying, with a straight face, "He was giving me three players for one, and besides, I've always hated the Colts, so how could I say no?"

Of course, the only reason you put up with this kind of nonsense is because you secretly expect to be the one who parts the fool from his money this year.

But please! I beg of you! Consider well this evil path before you walk it. Ponder the moral and ethical ramifications of your behavior. And most importantly, know that for every one of these fools you suffer so gladly in your fantasy leagues, the life of a fantasy football columnist somewhere has been made more burdensome, more loathsome than ever.

Who do you think your clueless dupes pester once they realize that your trade advice has failed them fourteen seasons in a row? I'll tell you who they turn to: anyone with an email address who has ever published anything online or in-print in any way remotely associated with fantasy football, that's who.

You think it's funny that Jim is trying to pretend to follow the NFL because he wants to have something in common with the rest of the guys in the office. You think it's funny because you aren't the one who has to figure out from Jim's email correspondence that he has never in his life noticed the difference between the words quarterback and cornerback. You aren't the one who has to explain to Jim that he absolutely positively does not need to phone the members of the Pittsburgh defense in order to "start" them on his fantasy squad. You aren't the one who has to explain that the commissioner was probably just pulling Jim's leg. And you certainly aren't the one who has to delete 131 different emails from Jim as he offers 131 different theories about why his commissioner might want to play a joke on him.

No, ladies and gentlemen, you do not demean yourselves with the cleanup, for that job falls to your friendly neighborhood fantasy football columnist. Please read on, and consider the sort of cyber-epistolary torture that you, in your heartlessness, routinely put us through.

09/04/02 12:02 p.m. Sender:


I love your column. I read it every day. Thanks for all the really great advice. Anyway, who should I start, Fred Taylor or Corey Dillon?

Thanks in advance,

09/05/02 08:32 a.m. Sender

Dear Lionsfan,

Thank you for your kind words concerning my column, but I don't think you benefit very much from reading it daily, as it comes out only once per week.

As for your question, I am afraid I can no longer respond to requests to select team rosters for my readers. You might try asking someone else (I recommend, but you will probably want to include the scoring system for your league with your question, as it is often difficult to know which player to recommend without understanding how player performances are scored.

Good luck,

09/11/02 12:02 p.m. Sender:


Sorry for leaving out the information. Our league plays 1QB/2RB/2WR/1TE/1K/1D. I don't know what it means, but I pasted it directly from the website, so I'm pretty sure I have it right. Now can you please tell me who I should start between Fred Taylor and Corey Dillon?

Thanks in advance again (though I shouldn't have to thank you again, since I thanked you in advance last time and you didn't answer my question),

09/12/02 08:32 a.m. Sender:

Dear Lionsfan,

That isn't the sort of information I was asking for. In fact, I wasn't asking for any information at all. I recommended that you take your question to Mike Krueger, but I wanted you to know that you should be able to tell him whether you are in a yardage league or a scoring-only league, whether you are penalized points for fumbles or not - that sort of thing.

The information you provided concerns roster composition, which is an entirely different ball of wax. It specifies how many players you start at various positions, but since it seems to mean that you can start two running backs, I'm curious as to who your third running back might be. It must be nice to choose between Taylor and Dillon for your second RB.


09/18/02 12:02 p.m. Sender:


I don't understand why it's so hard to get a straight answer out of you stupid writers. I have asked you a simple question twice, and you have blown me off both times. Now, for the third time, I'm going to ask you a simple question: Should I start Fred Taylor or Corey Dillon this week?

Waiting patiently for one of two advance thank-yous to be collected upon,

09/19/02 08:32 a.m. Sender:

Dear Lionsfan,

My apologies if my first response to your first query was unclear; I was merely attempting to let you know, as politely as possible, that I do not have time to think through the roster decisions of any stranger with an email account who claims to have read one of my columns.

Fortunately, however, I will be happy to answer your question this week, as the Jaguars are on a bye. Since Fred Taylor won't be playing on Sunday, I'm giving you a gigantic green light on Dillon.

Even so, I recommend that you review your league's scoring system and explain the system to whomever it is that you decide to take your roster quandaries to in the future.

Thanks in advance for emailing all future questions to Mike Krueger,

09/25/02 12:02 p.m. Sender:


I'm sorry I came off like such a sourpuss last week, but I was really getting frustrated. Anyway, I can see now that you really gave me some good advice about not starting Taylor 'coz he was on a bye.

But I thought it over, and my gut instinct told me that Taylor was due, so I started him anyway.

I just wanted to let you know that I appreciated your advice even though I didn't take it. Next time, I'll listen. I promise. I think this 'bye' strategy of yours might even have some applicability to some of my other players; perhaps you could use one of your columns to explain how we can avoid drafting players with bye weeks.

Oh, and last but not least, who do you like this week-Taylor or Dillon?

Thanks in advance for the column (but you still owe me a pick),


[For the rest of the correspondence between the not-as-fictional-as-you-would-hope Lionsfan and the regrettably real, check in with FFToday in August.]