Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Beauty of Fantasy Football

Every so often, as human beings, we come to points in our lives where an overly-obscure and peculiar turn of events unfolds in front of our eyes, leaving us no choice but to appreciate the beauty in its rareness.

This happened to me Monday night, while watching the Ravens/Texans game.

* * *

I've cursed fantasy football with the best of them.

It's a B.S. hobby, I'd say. "Completely random" has been another common admission from yours truly after a frustrating fantasy week. That's just the tip of the iceberg, though.

See, the evil that comes out of me late (sometimes early) Sunday afternoons and evenings stems from something like a Brian Westbrook kneel-down at the one-yard line instead of walking into the endzone three years ago, costing my fantasy team a playoff victory (I lost by three — the touchdown, obviously, would have given me six), and heightened after I selected sure-thing Steve Slaton in the first round of my fantasy draft last season (ouch).

It culminated in week 10 of this season after I brought a 51-point lead into the Monday Night Football game, where my opponent had only Michael Vick left to play in a rainy Washington DC. By Tuesday morning, my fantasy football hopes and dreams were all but crushed.

52 fantasy points by one-single player causing your team to lose by one point will take its toll.

The very premise of the game is a sham, to be quite honest. You draft players from all 32 teams in the NFL to one "fantasy" team, which you now "own". Each week, you have to decide which players to play and which to bench based on injuries, team-gameplanning, and matchups — knowledge of which most NFL teams go to great lengths to deny your obtaining. The points awarded for yards and touchdowns are usually completely out of proportion compared to how the actual game of football is played, and kickers (yes — KICKERS!) have a say in the outcome.

It's ridiculous.

You end up becoming so invested in it, you'll find yourself watching a football game and rooting for the running back and tight-end on one team, all the while hoping the opposing team's entire defensive unit doesn't give up too many points. It becomes scary, at times, as you begin to weigh the possibilities of who you'd rather come out victorious — your fantasy team, or the team you've been a fan of your entire life.

There should be laws against fantasy football, you know. The game is completely preposterous. I think I'm writing it off for good.

Of course, that's how I felt up until Monday night.

* * *

The Monday Night Football game between the Ravens and Texans was (as it was for most FFB leagues) the very last NFL game that would have an impact on the playoff picture for my fantasy league. In my league, it basically came down to two teams vying for the final playoff spot (the fantasy playoffs are weeks 15 and 16). Both teams came into the week with a 7-6 record.

One of the teams, we'll call them Team A, had already won their game, but had no chance of winning the tie-breaker (total points scored throughout the season) over the other 7-6 team, or Team B. So, needless to say, Team A needed Team B to lose.

Team B brought just less than an 11-point lead (we use decimals — don't ask) into the Monday night game over the team they were facing, who we'll call Team C, which had already been eliminated from fantasy playoff-contention. All of Team B's players had played their games, and Team C had only the Ravens' defensive unit left.

Now, for the purposes of this story, I'll only clarify the correct fantasy points awarded for a team defense as those are the only that apply:

  • Shutout = 12 fantasy points
  • 1 to 6 points given up = eight
  • 7 to 13 given up = four
  • 14 to 20 given up = one
  • 21 to 27 given up = zero
  • 28 to 34 given up = minus-one
  • 35 or more given up = minus-four
  • Forced turnover = two
  • Sack = one
  • Defensive/Special teams touchdown = six

OK. Let's skip ahead to the Texans final drive of the MNF game. It's 28 to 20 Ravens, meaning the Baltimore defensive unit has gained Team C one point for their total points yielded in the actual football game. They also have two sacks, one pick, and a kickoff return for a touchdown, bringing their total fantasy points gained at the moment to 11.

That's plenty to digest, but bear with me.

Team B is now rooting heavily for a Texans' 95-yard touchdown drive with less than two-minutes remaining, because, of course, that would bring the Ravens' defensive unit into the 21-27 point bracket, which would subtract a point from Team C's total putting Team B in the lead.

Another component was the possibility of the Ravens getting a sack, nullifying the fantasy value of the Texans' score. I couldn't help but notice, though, as the Texans were driving, that they would naturally go for two if they scored (being down by eight). If that occurred, Team C would lose a total of two points on the drive (assuming their were no sacks) but would still have an opportunity to win the fantasy match because the MNF game, at a 28 to 28 tie, would be headed for overtime.

As we know, the Texans did in fact score the touchdown with 21 seconds remaining, creating an interesting, only-in-fantasy flip-flop in rooting interest for Team B. On the drive, of course, Team B was rooting for a Texans touchdown, helping them to a probable fantasy victory and playoff berth. Once the touchdown was scored, though, Team B was in fact rooting hard for the Ravens' defense to deny the Texans the two-point conversion which would force overtime (even though the two-point conversion would take an additional point away from Team C because it would give the Texans 28, putting the Ravens defense in the 28-34 points yielded bracket), because overtime was another opportunity for the Baltimore defense to score fantasy points (via pick-six, maybe).

Houston converted the two, forcing the tie, and Team B brought a less-than-two point advantage into the overtime period with its fantasy playoff hopes hanging in the balance.

Baltimore got the ball first, and aside from a kickoff return for a score, Team B was just fine with that. In fact, at this point, Team B was simply rooting for a quick ending. Whoever came out on top — Ravens or Texans — it didn't matter. Just so long as nothing drastic happened on the defensive side of the ball for Baltimore.

The deciding moment came after a Raven punt — much to Team B's dismay — as Houston's Matt Schaub threw a pick-six to Baltimore's Josh Wilson, sending Team A (with eight extra fantasy points, six of which from the touchdown it wouldn't need), not Team B, to the fantasy playoffs (and, oh yeah, triumphantly winning the game for Baltimore).

One other scenario went through my head as this was all playing out Monday and I was evaluating the fantasy magnitude of the moment. I was of the belief that even with a forced turnover, which would give Team C the lead over Team B, Team B could still win the match if the Texans broke 35 points for the game (subtracting three more points from Team C according to our points system above). After the initial excitement of unveiling of an extra sub-plot, I realized, because the game was in OT, it was impossible for Houston, with 28 points, to get to 35. In OT, once a touchdown is scored, the game is over. No extra-point needed. So, essentially, once Wilson made the interception for Baltimore Monday, Team B had been eliminated from playoff contention completely. For fantasy purposes, the touchdown was just icing on the cake.

* * *

Maybe this was too much. Maybe I was just caught up in the moment and fantasy football is just as ridiculous as it has always been. That's probably true. I'm not sure.

I do know that it made me, at least for a moment, see through the frustration that is fantasy ownership, and appreciate the game for what it is and what it was surely created for. It is frustrating. It is random. It's the beauty of fantasy football, and by God, it was brilliant.

No comments:

Post a Comment