Keeping Football a Fantasy

The only thing better than your annual fantasy football draft is your annual fantasy football draft via Skype. The trash talking is louder and more visible, and the dropped calls are more strategic for prolonging your pick. I was lucky to take part in such a draft this past Sunday.

The rules were simple: 1. Listen up and write down everyone’s picks. 2. Should you try to draft a player already taken, you would receive a warning. 3. Two warnings, and the Commissioner and his sidekick drafted a “Poop Pick” for you. In our case, it was the Oakland Raiders’ Defense in the fifth round as a punishment for trying to draft La’Veon Bell a second time. Shit happens.

I nearly forced a Poop Pick upon myself. It was the end of the third round, and Josh Gordon—the most mesmerizing, non-human route-runner outside of Calvin Johnson, the transcendent, athletic FREAK with size you can’t teach for a wideout and hands you couldn’t genetically modify in a lab -—was obviously still there. I say obviously because it’s the NFL. Because smoking weed a few times obviously gets you suspended for the whole goddamn season.

Now, in a game like a fantasy football, you’re used to comparing guys: This guy had a better rookie year in terms of yards after the catch; that guy usually tanks in the second half. We analyze and over-analyze. We talk ourselves out of drafting running backs in the first two rounds. We critique to make our trade proposals sound more appealing. Demaryius Thomas is GUARANTEED to score at least 6 more touchdowns with Decker gone and Welker injured. It’s just science.

Even though it seemed like Gordon would surely be out for the year, I analyzed him. Thoroughly. I would have given my first-born child to draft him where I was with the last pick in the third round. I got sidetracked and compared him to Megatron. I even compared him to Jerry Rice. Not being able to turn off that analytical switch, I compared him to his fellow, prominently suspended AFC North dude, Ray Rice. (Meanwhile, the clock for my selection was ticking and ticking and ticking until I opted for Jordy Nelson.)

I’ll present the cold, hard facts: Ray Rice was suspended for two games for beating his fiancé. Josh Gordon, having failed a couple drug tests for weed, just got banned for the year. And, while we’re at it, why not include Matt Prater and Riley Cooper’s predicaments? The former got hosed for four games for sipping on a few brews; the latter was caught on camera dropping the most heinous string of racial slurs and received merely a fine and a slap on the wrist from the Eagles, not the NFL. That was it.

What FREAKING message is the NFL trying to send? But actually??? That trying to kick back and drink a couple casuals is worse than BEATING YOUR SOON-TO-BE WIFE? TWICE as bad, apparently! That taking a couple puffs of the Devil’s Lettuce is infinitely more destructive than SAYING THE N-WORD? And destructive to whom? To yourself? To others?! I doubt Tyrant Goodell has ever really done weed, pot, OR Marajauna. To quote Ryan Howard from The Office, “I don’t think he’s ever done drugs. I don’t know if anyone’s ever offered him any.” Of course, Ryan is referring to his own boss, Michael, but the same point applies: No one in his or her right mind (or altered, decidedly not-right mind) would voluntarily get high with Righteous Roger. Not even David Stern. And we all know a Roger Goodell. He’s the entitled asshole at recess back in the day who combines awkward athleticism, bad hair, and the need to be in charge. He’s the perennial team captain for kickball in third grade when he’s, at best, the seventh best player in a twelve-person game. He’s power hungry, not power-savvy. When he finally becomes team captain, he doesn’t let go. He creates his own rules in Four Square that forbid anyone else from being in the coveted Four Square. In second grade, he snitches on the down-to-earth goofballs who use the bathroom passes to sneak out to the playground during the middle of class (For the record, I was one of those goofballs.).

I never understand Goodell’s motives. And when I don’t—which is always—I turn to fantasy football. Because it’s a distraction. Because it makes us forget about the guilt we feel watching the Concussion Circus, a gladiator spectacle of mushed brains, or the morally repugnant Punishment Brigade of Arbitrary Suspensions. Because the worst punishment in our league is being stuck with the Oakland Raiders’ Defense.

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