Why Fantasy Football Matters (and Our Lives Do Not)

( 3 )

Overview

Talking Trash, Trading Studs, and Drafting Sleepers -- an Insider's Guide to the World's Greatest Obsession

U.S. businesses lose $200 million in productivity each football season because employees are managing their fantasy squads instead of working.

In Why Fantasy Football Matters (And Our Lives Do Not), two grizzled veterans revel in the addiction that is fantasy football. From pre-draft hijinx to post-draft trash talk, from tumultuous trades...

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Overview

Talking Trash, Trading Studs, and Drafting Sleepers -- an Insider's Guide to the World's Greatest Obsession

U.S. businesses lose $200 million in productivity each football season because employees are managing their fantasy squads instead of working.

In Why Fantasy Football Matters (And Our Lives Do Not), two grizzled veterans revel in the addiction that is fantasy football. From pre-draft hijinx to post-draft trash talk, from tumultuous trades to the perils of free agency, it celebrates the eccentric personalities, absurd rituals, and hilarious superstitions of one of the most fanatical fantasy leagues on earth.

With humor, insight, and a dash of advice, Why Fantasy Football Matters celebrates the thirty-two million Americans who prefer managing their fantasy squads to relaxing with loved ones. And it gives girlfriends, coworkers, and sports purists all the proof they need to accept that this is an obsession that really matters.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This book is to fantasy football what the Bible is to religion — only funnier — and with more football." — Jason Sklar, cohost of Cheap Seats, ESPN Classic

"This is the biography of every fantasy league out there — the camaraderie, smack talking, and competition that drives us all. The only thing more entertaining than reading about how normally responsible, mature professional people turn into obsessed lunatics is when you realize most of the writing is really about you." — David Dorey, TheHuddle.com

"The passion, brotherhood, and insanity of fantasy football are here in all their glory. The perfect read for fantasy football enthusiasts . . . or those who want to understand them." — Brendan Roberts, Sporting News

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781416909965
  • Publisher: Gallery Books
  • Publication date: 8/1/2006
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 0.58 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 9.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Erik Barmack is a director of business development at ESPN and is the former vice president of fantasy games at the Sporting News. He has written for the Sporting News, the Sports Business Journal, the Atlantic Online, and others.

He and Max Handelman have won three Bush League Championships, and bickered endlessly while losing the other five.

Max Handelman launched Fox Sports's fantasy games division. He is now an independent film producer.

He and Erik Barmack have won three Bush League Championships, and bickered endlessly while losing the other five.

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Read an Excerpt

1

THE WAR DANCE

All tribes have rituals to prepare for a new season. Hopi Indians pray for rain, Jews hit the latest Neiman Marcus sale, Christians make ham and cheese sandwiches, and the Islamic fundamentalists dance a jig before showering the sky with gunfire.

Fantasy football tribes are equally devoted to rituals. They take time and require deep spiritual commitment. A fantasy football fanatic must be completely dedicated to the season. There's no half-stepping or wavering. You're either all-in or you're out. And this is specifically the case in the Bush League — the most competitive and ruthless fantasy football league in the entire western hemisphere.

We prepare for the season. We dance over hot coals. We sing and we chant, our spears jutting skyward.

We're girding for battle. For our annual rebirth.

JULY 11 THE FLARE ACROSS THE DESERT SKY

The darkest day of the year for any male sports fan. The NBA finals have just ended, and the pennant races haven't started yet. Tumbleweeds blow across the barren sports landscape. But all of that is about to change with just one e-mail: "Subject: Bush League — It's on, gentlemen, it's on."

The author of this missive is Prashun Thind, pesky Bush League manager extraordinaire. He's hunched over his keyboard, tapping away, ready to get things rolling.

Prashun Thind (aka "Prash"): Manager of the Thindianapolis Colts. A Wall Street investment banker. Resembles a gecko, with dark purple eyelids that remain one-quarter closed. Many think that this look is the result of work fatigue. Actual cause is routine pot smoking. Tends to keep his bony hands perpetually clasped, Mr. Burns-like. Speaks authoritatively on all things statistical.

"Yo, hoes," Prash writes in his e-mail, a flare across the black desert sky. "Are you bitches ready to throw down? After being stopped short at the goal line last season, the Thindianapolis Colts are now primed for a title run. Team manager, Thindy Infante, has rallied the troops. We're ready, we're primed. Let's get it on."

Once Prash starts trash-talking, Bush League managers leave their cover. They rub their eyes amid the glimmering light. Just one e-mail and the primal instincts return. The muscles start twitching. The brain starts churning. The fingers start tapping. Preseason has officially begun.

JULY 11 RALLYING THE TROOPS

Al Lopez shakes his head and grins. He hasn't heard from Thind in seven months. Lopez has little in common with the guy, and has a difficult time discussing anything with him other than fantasy football. But looking out his Beverly Hills office window, he has to admit — he misses the little bugger.

Al Lopez (aka "El Matador"): Manager of The Cuban Missile Crisis. A William Morris film agent. In good shape with good teeth and good hair, and decked out in an obligatory three-button Armani. He's also the lone married guy of the group, and now has a son. Some question whether he can maintain his panache amid the turbulence of fatherhood.

Lopez buzzes his assistant. "Hold all my calls." With that, he enters the fray: "Gentlemen, Prash's standard nonsense aside, I couldn't be more psyched for another season. I've donned my Under Armour, I've stretched my hamstrings. I hope everyone's as fired up as I am. Viva la Bush League!"

"Here! Here!" writes one manager.

"When are we determining draft order?" asks another.

The Bush League is buzzing.

PRESEASON RITUALS

1. Clear post-Labor Day schedule for draft.

2. Make idle threats about "booting" inactive managers.

3. Watch NFL Films' year in review marathon.

4. Send out e-mail that begins, "As a former champion . . ."

5. Participate in an all-rookie dynasty mock draft.

JULY 11 THE CHECK'S IN THE MAIL

Kwame Jones, the Bush League Commissioner, reads these e-mails, expects more to hit his inbox, and immediately thinks, Time to get organized.

Kwame Jones (aka "Kwame Jones"): Manager of Kwame Jones, Inc. A former Purdue University tight end. Now teaches at a Catholic high school. Sports a blue blazer, khakis, and a freshly shaved head. People want Kwame to be hip-hop, but he's much more jazz. Calm, serene. But mess with Kwame and you risk a swift beat-down, though never before he warns: "Dude, you must chill."

"Fellas, let's try to avoid a repeat of last year and get the league entry fees settled up front. Please send me your money. Now."

He immediately receives the first of several hollow promises for quick payment. "Roger that, Kwame. The proverbial check is in the proverbial mail."

JULY 15 SURFING THE MESSAGE BOARDS

In preparation for the upcoming draft in fifty-three days, John Schlotterbeck bookmarks his favorite fantasy football sites. Fanball.com, Footballguys.com, RotoWire.com — he's checking them all. In the background Norman Greenbaum's "Spirit in the Sky" plays loudly over his tinny speakers. Schlots nods his head to the beat as he methodically reviews Tight End rankings.

John Schlotterbeck (aka "Schlots"): Manager of the The Fat Minnesota Guys. Once thin and good-looking, he's now lost much of his hair, grown a sizable paunch, and added an obligatory goatee. He dons a dirty white Notre Dame baseball hat and a purple Minnesota Vikings jacket. He's a midwestern guy: decent, religious, and genuine in all ways. Which makes his divorce from his college sweetheart, Debby Dwaynes, all the more tragic.

"Hey-oh!" Schlots says, giving himself a high five. He's just discovered his first sleeper of the new season.

ON SLEEPERS

A sleeper is an undervalued player with "extreme upside" who's available in the later rounds of a fantasy football draft. Or at least that's the theory. The problem is, guys like Schlots spend so much time hunting for sleepers that by the time the draft has arrived, the players are surprises no longer.

Sifting through Internet message boards, Schlots has "locked in" on an athletic tight end who finished last season with a pair of 100-yard games. Swelling with pride, he e-mails Lopez: "Al, good buddy, I've found my diamond in the rough."

"A tight end?" Lopez responds. "You're a day late and a dollar short. I scouted that guy already."

Never mind that Lopez hasn't even cracked a fantasy football guide, or started trolling message boards. He has to pretend that he knows everything. "That guy will be gone by the seventh round. Trust me."

ALL-TIME BUSH LEAGUE SLEEPERS

1. Clinton Portis, 2002 (1,872 yards, 17 TDs), eighth round

2. Randy Moss, 1998 (1,313 yards, 17 TDs), ninth round

3. Rich Gannon, 2002 (4,698 yards, 27 TDs), seventh round

4. Terrell Owens, 2000 (1,451 yards, 13 TDs), fifth round

5. Stephen Davis, 1999 (1,405 yards, 17 TDs), tenth round

ALL-TIME BUSH LEAGUE NONSLEEPER SLEEPERS

1. Onterrio Smith, 2003 (smoked ganja, split time with Moe Williams), fourth round

2. Michael Vick, 2001 (44.2 completion percentage), third round

3. Charles Rogers, 2003 (243 yards, 3 TDs), fifth round

4. Kellen Winslow, 2004 (50 yards, 0 TDs), sixth round

5. Any Cleveland Browns running back, first through sixteenth rounds (although, with the emergence of Rueben Droughns in the City by the Lake, this trend may now be over, or at least temporarily delayed)

JULY 18 THE SACRIFICIAL FISH

Twelve teams anxiously prepare for the draft. Schlots writes, "I love Peyton Manning this year, but only late in the first." Lopez swears that no matter which draft position he gets he's taking two straight running backs. Kwame wants to nab Daunte Culpepper in the second round, but only if he's sure that "his boy" will be there in the third.

The Bush League, in short, has entered full preseason machination mode.

But there's only so much speculating, posturing, and counter-posturing that can happen in a vacuum. The twelve-team draft order must be determined. Who will get the Golden First Pick? And who will get leveled with the Kiss of Death Eleventh Pick?

To assign draft order most leagues drop names in a hat and then select at random. That would be easy. That would make sense. But that would also be boring, and the Bush League won't settle for that.

No, this league uses a far more exotic process. Some have called it barbaric, and others have suggested that it's in poor taste. "Tell that to Saddam Hussein," says Chris O'Brien. No one quite understands his point, but most nod in agreement.

Chris O'Brien (aka "The Mick"): Manager of the Irish Potato Famine. An "e-commerce manager," whatever that means. Rrefers to himself in the third person as "The Mick," which tends to irritate others. Has fiery red hair, and freckles that blot his face when he gets angry. Which happens often. In his book, he's getting screwed. Always. And someone's gotta pay.

"Thind, let's get on with it," O'Brien says. "Some fish are going to have to be sacrificed — it's just that simple."

"Gotcha, O'Brien," Thind says.

Prash has been waiting all summer for the Draft Order Ceremony. Filled with childish glee he heads to a pet store in Chinatown, where he buys twelve goldfish. Each is distinctly different. Some believe this isn't possible, but as it turns out, goldfish come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors.

Managers are then assigned fish and asked to name them. Thind calls his POW Fish. Schlots calls his Shaolin Fish. Kwame calls his Kwame Fish. Lopez calls his El Pescadito. And Chris O'Brien calls his McFish.

The goldfish are placed in small ziplock bags. Swimming in sharp two-inch arcs, they're taken to Thind's office, where they await their fate.

JULY 19 TAPPING THE TANK

"Gentlemen," Thind e-mails, "preparations for the Draft Order Ceremony have begun. I haven't fed my two piranhas, Tarkanian and Peepers, for thirty-six hours. Further, I have repeatedly agitated them by tapping on the glass of the tank. I have no doubt that they will make quick work of our twelve little friends."

JULY 20 THE VOICE OF REASON

Adam Goldman sends out a note urging his fellow Bush Leaguers to abandon the "brutal Draft Order Ceremony."

Adam Goldman: Manager of Team Goyim. The ambivalent Bush League member. Engaged to Margaret Ming, a public relations consultant who supposedly once slept with Puff Daddy. Goldman wears khakis and polo shirts and is prone to leaving Sharpies in his shirt pocket. He's finishing his medical training, with an eye toward becoming a podiatrist. Biggest test, however, is balancing the pressures of the fantasy football season with his fiancée's relentless wedding planning.

"Please, guys, let's find a more humane method." Goldman is roundly mocked. His fish, which he'd begrudgingly called Jew Fish, is renamed Richard Simmons Fish.

Goldman won't relent. "Last night," he writes, "I had a dream of twelve goldfish screaming. How can you live with that?"

Schlots replies, "Goldfish have short memories. If they were in pain last night, they've forgotten it by now."

JULY 20 ANOTHER VOICE OF REASON

"These guys are a bunch of retards," writes The Death Maiden, as she forwards the goldfish exchange to her colleague at work.

The Death Maiden: Manager of The Dolce and Gabanas. The lone female in the league. Always underestimated, she excels by avoiding the chest-thumping male antagonism prevalent throughout the rest of the league. Much to the consternation of other managers, The Death Maiden has made the play-offs two out of the last three years.

"My God!" her friend answers. "They really kill goldfish for sport? Remind me again why you're doing this? These guys are total morons."

"I never get involved in the sideshow," The Death Maiden answers. "I just love fantasy football, and this is the only competitive league I could get into. They're a good group of guys, but boys will be boys."

JULY 20 THE GREAT GOLDFISH MASSACRE

Thind opens the double door to his company's conference room, revealing an enormous aquarium. In that aquarium lurk two lethal piranhas — the aforementioned Peepers and Tark. Peepers is pale and speedy; Tark is darker and more of a bruiser. They're the Stockton and Malone of piranhas.

A few minutes before the start of the ceremony, the on-site Bush League managers enter the conference room and take their seats.

Hoping for a last-minute stay of execution, Goldman calls Thind to talk some sense. But Thind merely places him on speakerphone for the amusement of others.

"Such meaningless violence," Goldman says.

"You've called too late," says Thind.

"We can just pick numbers."

"I'm afraid that won't work, Adam. It's over."

"But . . ."

"There's nothing you can do." Thind hangs up.

There's a palpable silence as all eyes focus on the piranhas.

"Bring the pain," commands O'Brien.

Thind drops the twelve goldfish into the tank. The order in which they're eaten will determine the Bush League draft positions. The owner of the first fish consumed will receive the last pick in the draft. The owner of the last fish swimming, the first pick.

The carnage begins quickly. Peepers instantly devours a slow-moving fish before turning his attention to O'Brien's baby.

"Looks like you might have problems there," Schlots says.

O'Brien yells, "Swim, McFish, swim!" But Peepers chases McFish into a toy castle where Tark locks down on him. There's a murky cloud of red, then little McFish scales sink to the bottom of the tank.

O'Brien's goldfish is the second to be consumed. So he's assigned the second to last draft pick — the eleventh pick. This is not, nor will it ever be, a good draft position. O'Brien is furious. "Hey, you gave me a defective fish. The Mick was given a defective fish."

"Here we go with the third-person talk again. O'Brien, stop making excuses. Your fish was torn asunder. And that is that," Thind says.

O'Brien flops his hand. As he leaves the conference room, he shouts, "The Mick knows it's rigged — it's all rigged."

Now there's hooting and hollering as five men press their faces to the glass as the carnage unfolds. The water becomes rose-tinted. Half a tail rests inside a plastic treasure chest.

With each new victim, an owner's name is called, and his draft pick assigned. Grown men cheer on small, scrappy goldfish as they dart around the tank trying to avoid the Peepers and Tark killing machine. So it goes until all twelve goldfish are gone and the draft order is set.

MORE COMMON METHODS FOR DETERMINING DRAFT ORDER

1. Random drawing from hat

2. Online number generator

3. Reverse order from previous year's record

4. All-night Texas Hold 'Em poker tourney

5. Bidding for draft slots

JULY 22 CHASING DOWN LEAGUE DUES

"Guys," Kwame writes, "I still don't have league dues from many of you. I don't want anyone backing out if you're unhappy with your draft spot."

The Mick asks if he can get a discount because of his lousy draft position.

Kwame doesn't respond.

JULY 23 ON MOCK DRAFTING

Much as law students conduct mock trials in preparation for real trials (or as practice for editing reams of documents, as the vast majority of these sad saps will), fantasy football managers mock draft.

This is how Schlots is spending most of his summer. He's trying to discover what players will be available to him at his draft spot. Will Clinton Portis slide to him in the first? Will Donovan McNabb be there in the second? And how far will his sleeper fall? Schlots keeps mocking, finding different answers to these questions on a daily basis.

Of course much of this mocking is pointless. You can't predict the way men will act on draft day. Well, actually, you can: competitively, boorishly, and drunkenly. So to put it more precisely: Mock drafts won't get you any closer to understanding the strategies of your rivals.

A mock draft is to fantasy football what the Maginot Line was to World War II — an ineffective defensive barrier. As you may recall, this didn't work out so well for les grenouilles. The Germans pump-faked, stutter-stepped through Belgium, and then blitzkrieged into Paris. If World War II can be viewed as a football game — and indeed it can — the Germans circumventing the Maginot Line was like a wide receiver beating a cornerback on a stop-and-go route.

A guy like Schlots is convinced that mock drafting will somehow prepare him for the real draft, or "la fiesta gordita," as he calls it. So he logs many, many hours online, planning speciously, hopping from mock draft to mock draft.

JIBBER-JABBER HEARD IN MOCK DRAFTS

1. "Kevan Barlow at 2.01? Great upside."

2. "I wanted to take Peyton here, but my VBD program told me to take Hines Ward instead."

3. "I'm solid at RB1 and RB2. Now it's time to gamble."

4. "I smell a tight end run coming on."

5. "Brett Favre in the early third round? How can I join your league?"

AUGUST 5 ENTER THE DRAGON

Lopez has locked in on his first-round choice. "It isn't obvious, but it will win me a championship." Paraphrasing Bruce Lee, he adds, "It's like a finger, pointing at the moon. If you stare at the finger, you miss all the heavenly glory." Thind follows up with an e-mail about a new "value-based drafting algorithm." Nine out of twelve Bush Leaguers delete both e-mails without opening them.

MOST OVERUSED QUOTES USED IN PRESEASON E-MAILS

1. Michael Corleone: "Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in."

2. Darth Vader: "The emperor does not share your optimistic appraisal of the situation."

3. Howard Beale: "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore!"

4. Lawrence of Arabia: "No prisoners! No prisoners!"

5. Alfred Hitchcock: "Revenge is sweet and not fattening."

AUGUST 8 UP AROUND THE BEND

The Mick is still venting about the Goldfish Ceremony. He hates his eleventh pick in the draft and keeps dwelling on McFish's sub-par performance. "That frickin' fish had no fight — he wanted to get eaten."

"True that," Schlots says.

"Now I'm screwed. Totally screwed."

"Sounds about right." Schlots tells O'Brien that he'll "need to reach." According to his mock drafts, the tier-one running backs will be off the board by the time O'Brien picks. The Mick objectively knows that Schlots is right, but he occasionally goes deep into denial and argues that his pick "isn't that bad."

"Isn't that bad?" Schlots says. "Both you and I know that you're up around the bend." Schlots has never used this phrase before, but somehow he instinctively knows that it will annoy the hell out of O'Brien.

O'Brien responds by boasting that he's "bullish" about his position, then admitting that he's screwed, and then feigning enthusiasm again before finally falling into a dreamlike trance.

"The Mick sees it all," he says, referring to himself in rapper-ish third person. "The Mick sees everything falling as it should."

AUGUST 11 KNOWING YOUR BYE WEEKS

Thind writes, "I just wanted to let you know that Minnesota and Seattle share the same bye week this year. Keep that in mind." Kwame crafts a sarcastic e-mail in response and is about to send it — but then he realizes that Thind's right. Of course he's right. Considering bye weeks is pretty damned important.

UNDERRATED PRESEASON ANALYSIS

1. Strength of Schedules

2. Bye-Week Overlaps

3. Offensive Line Breakdowns

4. Third-Year Wide Receiver "Upside" Lists

5. Contract Year "Motivation" Lists

AUGUST 13 AWAKEN, RIP VAN WINKLE

The NFL preseason commences, and with it the first opportunity for fantasy managers to begin scouting sleepers. Schlots attends a New York Jets-Detroit Lions game. It's an ugly, ugly affair. But Schlots thinks he's found a "Rip" (that is, a Rip van Winkle, or "sleeper") when a spry second-year wide receiver rolls up serious yards after the catch. Schlots jots the player's name down in his notepad and puts an asterisk next to the name. He then circles the asterisk, and traces the name with a green highlighter.

AUGUST 15 TRADING DRAFT PICKS

The Mick contacts every member of the Bush League to discuss his draft position. He claims that he loves his pick, but he actually hates it. He can't assemble a competitive team if he's drafting "up around the bend," and he knows it.

Still, he tries to persevere. Each day he considers a new player. First it's Corey Dillon, then it's Terrell Owens, and then it's the massively overhyped Kevan Barlow. But these names are dismissed as quickly as they're considered.

Frantic, O'Brien dials Lopez in LA. "Hey, buddy, how are you — "

"I don't want it — "

"You don't want what?"

"What you're offering."

"And what's that?"

"I don't want anything to do with it," Al says, and then he hangs up.

AUGUST 16 PUTTING RIP BACK TO BED

Schlots's boy, the "Rip" he'd discovered just days before, goes down with a torn ACL. He's out for the year. Schlots whips out his "scouting book," crosses out the player's name, and writes "injury prone" next to it.

AUGUST 17 MOCKING THE LATE THIRD ROUND

Schlots and O'Brien are mock drafting again over AOL Instant Messenger. Based on equal parts paranoia and self-amusement, Schlots taunts O'Brien with the claim that "not a single legitimate running back will be left for you. Not a one."

Attempting to control his anger, O'Brien closes out his Instant Message window only to see another flashing message from Schlots. He can't help himself — he has to open it. Schlots has reached the end of the third round in their latest mock draft, and he's typed, "3.11 — Jerome Bettis? Marcel Shipp?"

Furious and trembling, O'Brien logs out. He mutters to himself, "It's not that bad. My draft position is not that bad."

AUGUST 18 ENTER THE SANDMAN

"I'm expecting bad things for you all this season, and am keeping careful tabs on your drafting tendencies." So writes The Bitter Drafter, who clocks in with his annual preseason e-mail. His purpose is to put everyone on edge, to establish his loose-cannon bona fides.

The Bitter Drafter: A veritable ghost in the machine. A man whom other managers barely know. How did he get here? And why? The Newman of the Bush League.

"Some of you ridiculed me for taking Jeff Garcia in the second round last year, and that has not been forgotten. I'll show no mercy in drafting your stud players' backups, and will do so to the detriment of my team. I look forward to it, in fact. That's what I do. Carry on."

AUGUST 18 THE NUMBERS GAME

As he does every year, Goldman e-mails Kwame requesting the immediate termination of The Bitter Drafter's Bush League franchise. Kwame responds, as he always does, that the league needs The Bitter Drafter to round out the required twelve managers.

"It's a numbers game," he writes. "There's nothing I can do."

AUGUST 19 JUNK FOR JUNK

O'Brien reaches a tentative agreement to trade his first, third, fifth, tenth, twelfth, and fourteenth picks (plus twenty free-agent dollars and the right to swap backup kickers) to the ever-clueless Two-Headed Hydra for their first, fourth, fifth, sixth, ninth, and eleventh picks.

The Two-Headed Hydra (aka "the Guppies"): A fantasy team run by two guys, usually in an inexperienced, disorganized, and haphazard fashion. By midyear they're likely to hemorrhage good players to other teams in a frustrating, league-altering fashion.

"So what do you say?" says The Mick. "Are we good?"

"I think we're good," says one of the two guys (The Mick isn't sure which). "We just need to chat about it a bit more. We'll get back to you ASAP."

"All right," The Mick says. "Just don't take too long."

"Okay."

"Because I have other offers on the table."

"Right! We're all over it."

The Mick tells them that he's excited to be "creating mutual value dynamics." Then he crunches through another set of player projection models. Yes, he thinks, I've finally climbed out of the hole.

But before the trade is consummated, Lopez catches wind of the deal. Without really thinking through the ramifications of this trade, he tells The Guppies that they're "giving up incredible value."

"You really think so?" one of them asks.

"Fellas, you're getting hosed."

The Guppies get cold feet and back out.

Through multiple league sources, O'Brien hears about Lopez's tampering. He calls Al a "meddling Hollywood busybody." He then files a formal protest with Kwame, citing Lopez's "interference in all fair trades, and general Drew Rosenhaus-like behavior." Kwame, puzzled and tired, denies that any wrongdoing has occurred.

AUGUST 21 RETRIEVING A FALLEN COMRADE

Goldman declares that the draft date no longer works for him, a date that has been set in stone since the Goldfish Massacre. "I just don't think I can make this work. I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to pass on the Bush League this year."

"Wait — can you work your schedule around Labor Day?"

"No, I have a podiatry conference."

"What about September sixth?"

"Sorry, fellas — no can do. Margaret's dragging me to a baby shower."

"Well what about Wednesday the eighth?"

"Meetings."

Goldman must be boxed in. At first reason is employed: "Could you please give us three or four dates that work?" When he refuses, guilt is applied: "Eleven other guys can make this time. Why can't you?" And then, finally, there's sheer anger: "Dude, do you want to play or not? Because we really can't tell anymore."

Goldman won't budge.

And that's when Al Lopez springs into action. He's like Forrest Gump dashing into the jungle to retrieve a soon-to-be legless Lieutenant Dan. With his persistent, speedy cadence, he tells Adam that everyone's counting on him — that he belongs back in the fray.

Finally Adam concedes.

REASONS WHY MANAGERS LEAVE THE BUSH LEAGUE

1. To spend time with family

2. Embroiled in trade controversy from last season

3. Asked to leave due to late-season inactivity

4. Feigned "work-related" stress

5. Consistent losing record leads to indifference

AUGUST 25 SPORTSCENTER EXPOSES A SLEEPER

Kwame's convinced that a rookie running back for the Titans will break out by week three of the regular season. He watches the San Francisco-Tennessee preseason game to get a final look at his valuable sleeper. He's quickly devastated, however, when said rookie shakes loose in the first quarter and romps for a 60-yard touchdown. This is a play that's sure to make SportsCenter.

And with that highlight, his sleeper disappears.

AUGUST 26 FLIGHT RISK

The Mick, a notorious cheapskate, still hasn't paid his league dues. Kwame and others are concerned.

"The Mick could be a flight risk," notes Prashun.

The Mick may bolt the league rather than cough up his hundred-and-fifty-dollar entry fee for a draft spot that he's convinced is "untenable." Kwame informs The Mick that he's set up a PayPal account to make it easy for all managers to "do the right thing."

The Mick, by way of e-mail, claims that his Internet service at work is down, but he'll get "right on it." He won't end up paying his dues until week eight of the regular season.

AUGUST 26 THE COMMISIONER'S FINAL NOTICE

From: Kwame Jones

Sent: Wednesday, August 25, 2004 1:15 PM

To: Bush League Mailing List

Subject: Be ready, people, be ready

Gentlemen (and Lady):

I just want to confirm that our draft will be held a week from tomorrow. It will be sixteen rounds of mayhem, followed by two mandatory rounds of backup kickers and defenses. Don't try anything fancy.

Bring your cheat sheets, your depth charts, and your bye-week breakdowns. But Lopez, for God's sake, don't bring your blinding Dolphin's jersey. And, Prashun, this year no Colts foam fingers will be allowed in the War Room.

That is all,

The Commish

Copyright ©2006 by Erik Barmack and Max Handelman

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Table of Contents

CONTENTS

CHAPTER 1: The War Dance

CHAPTER 2: The Limbering-Up E-mail

CHAPTER 3: The Draft

CHAPTER 4: Scenes from the Draft

CHAPTER 5: Postdraft Reactions

CHAPTER 6: Sowing Doubt in the First-Pick Dialogue

CHAPTER 7: Sunday Callings

CHAPTER 8: Scenes from the Bar

CHAPTER 9: Request for a Rule Change

CHAPTER 10: Early Season Strategies

CHAPTER 11: I Am Griffin, Hear Me Roar

CHAPTER 12: The Art of the Deal

CHAPTER 13: A Living Will and the Miami Dolphins

CHAPTER 14: The "Who Do I Start?" Fog of War Dialogue

CHAPTER 15: Who Do I Start? (W.D.I.S.)

CHAPTER 16: The Midseason Awards Ceremony

CHAPTER 17: Zen and the Art of Talking Trash

CHAPTER 18: The War Chest

CHAPTER 19: Free Agency

CHAPTER 20: Rage Against the Experts E-mail

CHAPTER 21: The Death Maiden Graces the Bump-N-Run

CHAPTER 22: Schadenfreude

CHAPTER 23: Men Behaving Badly

CHAPTER 24: Late-Season Reflections

CHAPTER 25: The Dawning of the Play-Offs E-mail

CHAPTER 26: Scenes from a Wedding, and the Play-Offs

CHAPTER 27: What We Do in January

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