First, some back story. Bear with me…
Despite being a longtime Huddler – I first discovered this fantasy football Shangri La in 1998, my first year playing, back in the good ol’ free site days– I’ve never written a single word for this site…outside of the message board forums, that is, where, some might argue, I’ve written far too many words. But the other day I was PM’ing with David Dorey (DMD) and the subject finally came up.
“Curious . . . why did you never want to write for the Huddle?” he asked. Never want to? was my first reaction. I would have loved to! I just . . .well . . . I have no idea. It just never happened. Just one of those unexplained mysteries, like Big Ben’s quarterback sneak TD in the Super Bowl or why some people laugh at anything spewing from the mouth of Carlos Mencia.
Of course, for reasons I can’t fully explain, I first blamed Kevin Federline for my non-Huddle involvement. After all, every injustice currently being inflicted upon humankind has Kevin Federline at its root. This is not up for debate. MENSA think tanks recently concluded that K-Fed’s bizarre sense of celebrity entitlement is behind rising gas prices, Barbaro’s potentially fatal leg injury, and the escalating conflict in the Gaza strip. He must be stopped.
Second, I blamed my life. It’s just gotten progressively busier. In the time between my first Huddle forum post and the present, I’d somehow managed to (1) live abroad; (2) vomit out a book on fantasy football, with the Huddle as one of the recurring “characters;” (3) re-join my old ad agency because only Stephen King and, apparently, T.O. seem to make money writing books; and (4) write a second football-related book, out in October. Oh, and despite having gone to school near Three Mile Island and likely having sperm that, under a microscope, probably look like the Three Stooges in an end-of-show pie fight, I managed to impregnate my wife, and the pre-baby preparation has been eating up a ton of time that would be otherwise spent writing about important things like Kevan Barlow’s average draft position. Yes, all this despite my being mildly retarded and generally unmotivated. Go figure.
Still, when DMD brought it up, an unholy Huddle/St. Amant union seemed like a natural fit. I’m very familiar with the site as a longtime member. I possess a modicum of fantasy football knowledge (why, just yesterday I finally crossed Ricky Williams off my RB depth chart!), and I more or less know how to write the King’s English. And I’ve done enough yapping in the forums to fill three more books, so why not do it on the front page every now and then?
But after wondering why this hadn’t happened sooner, it came down to one simple, palm slap-to-the-forehead conclusion: DMD never asked, and I never asked, figuring the Huddle was already set with its stable of talented FF writers you read every day. After all, while I think I know my stuff as well or better than your average FF schmoe out there, the regular staff here (Levit, Ratterree, Sandy, Cunningham, et al) are better at providing serious detail and rational thought – i.e. articles/columns of value, usually with math and logic and everything, rather than nonsensical ramblings – to explain why Player X is a great value in the 25th round of a 36-team dynasty auction draft with full college farm system.
But better late than never, as they say. And nearly a decade after logging in for the first time and, if memory serves, asking who would start at RB for the Broncos that weekend (a confounding dilemma even then…%@#$! Skeletor), I’ve been “officially” invited to contribute every now and then on the front page. I don’t know how often I’ll be able to, or how often you guys would actually want me to, but I guess we’ll just wing it this pre-season and see what happens.
Speaking of things to do in pre-season, the other day I was at work – yes, even big shot authors who’ve sold between 3 and 17 book copies have to pay the bills – and I was heading into the third round of my 34th mock draft that morning. OK, 34 is exaggerating. It was really like my tenth.
Fact: I’m abso-friggin’-lutely hooked on mock drafts. “Hooked” isn’t even strong enough. Let me re-phrase: I cannot take another healthy breath this summer without mock drafts. I’m not even convinced they were created by ESPN, Antsports or any of the other sites that host them. Rather, I think they were engineered in a lab at Dupont or BASF (after all those ads, I still have no idea what BASF actually does) to enslave the male population of America and steal our minds one Plaxico Burress vs. Andre Johnson decision at a time. When you click on a mock draft banner or link, I’m convinced that an invisible vapor comprised of crack, heroin, and crystal meth, and vaguely smelling of the turf from your favorite stadium, seeps out of your computer monitor and fills your home or office -- ahhh, sweet, sweeeeeeet mock draft smell -- making it impossible to leave before your ass cheeks are numb, your eyes are bleary, and you know exactly where, on average, total strangers are selecting Ciatrick Fason.
So I’m doing yet another mock around lunchtime (how I haven’t been fired yet is a mystery) when Steve, my co-worker and Felon Fantasy League mate/co-owner of the Dream Team – nightmare, really, as it’s a two-owner team, a setup that should be punishable by death -- pops his head in my office.
I ignore him. Round Three is starting. Picking from the #6 spot in this particular mock, I have Steven Jackson at 1.6 and T.O at 2.7. . . . do I go WR and pair T.O. with a Reggie Wayne/Hines Ward-type? Or do I take the best available RB as a #2 behind SJax -- a Jamal Lewis or Willie Parker, whoever’s there? My pick is only six slots away. Go away, Steve.
“Dude, we’re late already,” he says. He’s right. We are late. We should have left for an editing facility about ten minutes ago. I quickly glance up at him as a couple little red autopick guys on top of the page have “selected” Marvin and Gates at 3.01 and 3.02. I hold up my index finger.
Hold your horses…oh, and don’t call me “dude” ever again.
Steve stares at me and shakes his head, laughing, but worried. “You’re doing another mock draft, aren’t you?” I give a distracted nod. Would you shut the %@#$ up! In a surprising move, there goes Chester Taylor at 3.03. Before Boldin!? Might I be able to pair T.O. with Boldin and run roughshod over this fake league that will never play a single fake down of fake football? I’m almost up. I ignore Steve and scan the rankings on the right side of the page. “Mark, seriously, we gotta go.” Time ticks down on the guy picking at 3.04. Boldin is still there, unbelievably. Steve looks at his watch.
Now, a rational man would have snapped back to reality. A rational man would have realized that his job – editing two Mobile ESPN commercials starring annual fantasy stud Shaun Alexander and 2006 fantasy mirage Reggie Bush -- was far more important than a third round pick . . . in a mock draft . . . in early July. A rational man has a baby on the way and, if he lost said job due to counterproductive mock drafting, he would be in serious trouble.
I am not a rational man.
“I’ll meet you over there,” I snap. Dammit, can’t you see that I’m trying to concentrate here! Will Boldin slip past my clueless co-drafters by some incredible miracle?
Poof. At 3.4 Boldin disappears as if to say, “Yeah, nice try, jackass.” Then Hines Ward goes at 3.5, a mini WR run at hand. Steve sighs. The all-too-familiar ESPN SportsCenter tone rings out, telling me I’m up. Pick 3.6 is waiting. I have a minute-thirty to decide. Reggie Wayne is still there. So is Jamal. So is Willie. And so is friggin Steve.
“Lemme get this straight,” he teases, only half-kidding (the other half is seriously worried for my mental well-being). “You’re making us late because you’re playing fantasy fantasy football?”
I say nothing. He’s right, though. This is indeed fake fake football. But I don’t care. Wayne practically begs to be chosen. Yo, book boy, T.O. and I would put up mad points for you! My boy Peyton’s looking for me all day long! If you take that broken down, orange jumpsuit-wearing jailbird Jamal instead of me, you’ll regret it all season! Dude, don’t forget, you get bonuses for long touchdowns in the FFL! Good Lord, now even Reggie Wayne is calling me dude.
“That's even more pathetic than real fantasy football,” Steve scoffs. This is a strong statement coming from him. Steve is about as addicted as I am. He was one of the guys who brought me into the Felon League in the first place, a decision he likely now regrets, as it just might get him fired, too.
But why do we FF junkies do mock drafts in the first place? Why do we insist upon playing fantasy fantasy football in early July, several weeks before our real fake football drafts? Mocks are even less real than the real fake thing! Well, one answer is this: duh, to prepare. It’s our training camp, our mental equivalent of pushing tackling sleds and doing high-kneed sprints through radial tires. If you show up in mid-August looking Tony Siragusa-bloated and carrying one lame magazine with an outdated cheat sheet that still has Gus Frerotte starting for the Dolphins, you’ll end up drafting . . .well, Gus Frerotte. Mocks whip our asses into shape after the long, cold, baseball- and Dancing with the Stars-filled off-season, even though the teams we mock draft disintegrate into nothing the second the mock is over. You admire your solid Matt Hasselbeck, Lamont Jordan, Kevin Jones, Hines Ward, Darrell Jackson, Randy McMichael, Jeff Wilkins, Steelers D squad for one shining moment, and then forget them and move on to your next fake fake team. Mocks are like drinking decaf coffee -- tastes just as good going down, but doesn’t give you any true jolt afterward.
But there’s also a more Psychology 101-like reason we love mock drafts: because your fantasy draft is the best day of the year. Period. A feeble-minded author who shall remain nameless once even described it as “Christmas Day meets a bachelor party meets New Year’s Eve.” And with work, family, work, bills, family, work , and bills, we need as many of these types of “happy” days as possible. So to be able to have this Christmas Day feeling over and over and over, perhaps even ten times before the average workday begins, is nothing short of nirvana (the Hindu/Buddhist term denoting a state of great inner peace and contentment, not the grunge band). Mock drafts distract us from the Heyyyyy, Milton, whaaaat’s happppppening?-esque drudgery of the average workday.
And speaking of Lumberg…Steve’s still standing there. Screw Steve. Screw editing. Screw my job. I have a mock to dominate. With an assassin’s stealth, I move the mouse. The little arrow rolls over the “draft player” button. Reggie Wayne’s mug smiles back at me. Do it, man. Peyton-to-me for long TDs. All year long, baby! I click “select player.” Did Reggie just wink at me or do I have glaucoma from staring at the screen for the past two hours? He’s mine. Christ, I hope he and T.O. can get along. With the 30th pick, Team Stamant selects Reggie Wayne, the real-time message board announces in bright red letters. I pump a fist. Steve shakes his head again. We’re so fired.
And then the non-caffeinated sadness sets in. Despite a strong start of SJax, T.O. and Wayne, I have to bail after only three rounds. I apologize to my fellow mockers for having to switch to autodraft, and log off. But that’s OK. There’ll be more mocks later -- a half-hour to be exact. I sit on a couch in a darkened editing facility, laptop (not surprisingly) on my lap, impatiently waiting for my next mock to start. And Steve? He sits next to me . . . logged in and set to pick two slots after me in the very same mock. He’ll go on to do five more over the rest of the afternoon. Three straight hours of fantasy fantasy football? God, he’s pathetic.
Mark St. Amant – known as msaint in these parts – is a longtime Huddler and author of Committed: Confessions of a Fantasy Football Junkie and the forthcoming Just Kick It: Tales of an Underdog, Over-Age, Out-of-Place Semi-Pro Football Player (release date October 17th). He will contribute to the Huddle sporadically throughout the season, consistently if he gets fired.
p.s. This year, Derrick Mason, Frank Gore, Michael Clayton, Ben Watson and Chris Perry are fantastic slightly under-the-radar value picks. Why? Better ask the other Huddle writers. They’ll have actual logic to substantiate such a claim.