Friday, January 3, 2014

A Lesson in Premature Celebration

How the Worst Loss in Fantasy Football History Unfolded

Premature celebration happens to the best of us. We’ve all been there. 

Your team blows a five-run ninth-inning lead, the dreaded yellow flags fly onto the field, or some crazy shit like this happens (sorry Spurs fans), and then all that euphoria previously enjoyed in those magical seconds in which your brain has convinced you that something glorious has happened, is taken away with a soul-crushing reversal of fortune.

Yes, premature celebration has devastating consequences. Worst of all, no known cure for premature celebration exists. 

And in my experience as a sports fan, I’ve realized that I’m highly predisposed to this condition (the jury is still out on if genetics is a factor).

I’ve suffered many episodes of premature celebration in my lifetime, but none more painful and embarrassing than this past Sunday, Week 17 in the NFL.

This tragic tale involves fantasy football, and if you’re looking for a reason to quit this evil enterprise, then you should keep reading.

If you’ve won your league championship this season (or ever for that matter) and think you’re better than the rest of us, you’re not. It could have happened to you.

Because for ten triumphant, breathtaking seconds at the end of the Eagles-Cowboys Sunday night season finale I was one of you. I was a fantasy football champion. 

I let it wash over me. As I was on the verge of passing out, I felt a strange sensation with my tongue. I could literally taste victory, and it was delicious.

I couldn’t believe it. It was a fantasy miracle. I had just seemingly won by half a point when the fantasy football Gods smited me in the form of Eagles running back LeSean McCoy.

A great man once said, “Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane.” Truer words have never been uttered. Here’s the saga of the worst loss in fantasy football history:

Episode I:

The Week Before
My fantasy league held a two-week scoring period. So after my team pulled out a huge win in Week 15, I snuck into the championship. 

I put all my stock on a high scoring Monday night affair between the Bears and Eagles in Week 16 with Jay Cutler, Matt Forte, DeSean Jackson, and Zach Ertz. And it was a high scoring affair (on the Eagles end at least), just not by any of the dudes I just mentioned. 

My opponent had Foles and McCoy. Heading into the game our scores were reasonably close, with the projection slightly in my favor. And what happens? Naturally Foles and McCoy light up the fantasy scoreboard to the tune of 48 points. 

Meanwhile Cutler, Forte (and the rest of the Bears team for that matter) looked like they forgot how to play football. It’s almost as if the Bears forgot you had to do a little more than just show up to the game. 

The Eagles put up 55 points and neither Jackson or Ertz accounted for any of them. So, I headed into the last week of my fantasy season trailing 73-112.5 (our league had a 0.5 PPR scoring system).

Needless to say, my team completely choked when it mattered most. An almost 40-point deficit? Fuck it. I was pretty much eliminated already. Sure, it stung, but I was the underdog in this matchup anyway. 

I had no chance. There was no hope. It was beautiful.

Hope Meter (0-10): 0

The Injury Report
In Week 16, my number one overall pick Adrian Peterson finally shut it down for the season. I was going to have a big gap to fill for the upcoming week. 

I decided to take Zac Stacy (my best waiver pickup of the season and a consistent producer all year) out of my flex and plug him into the hole left by AP. 

Sure, Stacy was facing the 5th ranked defense against the run in the Seattle Seahawks, but he rushed for 134 against the very same Seahawks in Week 8. And the waiver wire for running backs was a complete scrub fest by this point in the season, so I figured Stacy was my only option.

The Waiver Wire/Rosterbation
I had lost my all-star tight end Rob Gronkowski to a torn ACL a couple weeks earlier. And ever since, my tight end situation had been a complete nightmare. 

This week, I picked up some dude I never heard of on the Houston Texans (Ryan Griffin) partly because he had the highest projection of available tight ends on the wire and partly because he may or may not be related to Peter Griffin (RIP Brian the Dog). 

I took a quick peak at running backs for the hell of it. Nothing.

I chose not to start my best receiver, DeSean Jackson, with the theory that the only way to overcome a 40-point deficit is by Nick Foles having an awful game. And if he has an awful game, Desean Jackson would have an awful game. 

So, I decided to start Jordy Nelson instead after I found out Aaron Rodgers was finally going to return to the Packers. Julian Edeleman on the Patriots was my WR2 and in a desperation move, I decided to move the highly unreliable Marques Colston into my flex.

By Saturday night, I had finally come to peace with the lineup in front of me (sadly it was not rosterbating material) and decided that I wouldn’t even look at it again until the games started. 

Quick tip: Don’t ever do what I just said I did in that last sentence.

Never come to peace, always tinker. Lineups can always be better.

Drive your self crazy contemplating which kicker your going to start until 1:04 pm on Sunday. Because if you don’t, it might just haunt you for the rest of your life. (Maybe I’m exaggerating?)

Hope Meter: 3 (The Foles-Jackson Theory got me a little excited.)

Episode II:

Game Day
I woke up early so I could catch the 1pm games. It wasn’t easy, but I somehow rolled out of bed at 12:45. Just enough time to grab a fat bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch and wander up to my resting place for the rest of the day: the couch in front of the TV. 

I put 16 weeks of blood, sweat, and tears into meticulously setting my lineup, and judgment day was finally here: the last Sunday of fantasy football. And I needed a miracle.

The Early Games
In the 1pm games, I had Andrew Luck as my QB, Ryan Griffin as my TE, the Panthers D/ST, and fantasy-stud kicker Justin Tucker.

Luck had an average game with 15 fantasy points. The Griffin dude apparently got me 5.5 points. (I don’t know how, because there was no way I was watching the worst team in the league attempt to play football.) The second-ranked Panthers defense came up huge as usual with a 17-point showing, and Tucker rebounded from the goose egg he put up the week before with a respectable 9-point performance. 

Four of my players put up a combined 46.5 points, while my opponent had three players (Andre Johnson, Josh Gordon, and Coby Fleener) put up a combined 21 points. It was a decent start, but I still needed that fantasy miracle.

Hope Meter: 5

The Late Games
My fantasy miracle came in a combination form of Jordy Nelson and Matt Forte. 

Nelson reaped the benefits of a returning Rodgers and rewarded fantasy owners smart enough to start them (remember the Foles-Jackson theory?) with 21 points. His highest fantasy total in nine weeks! 

In the same game, Matt Forte decides to have his highest fantasy output of the season scoring three touchdowns and an unworldly 35 fantasy points.

Meanwhile, Edelman comes up clutch with 12.5 points and Colston puts up enough points (9) for me not to hate myself for starting him. 

I remember doing something like this. Until, I checked to see how Zac Stacy did.

About Zac Stacy...
It turned out that this week, Stacy was my lineup’s Anna Kournikova: looked great, didn’t play well. 

I mean, this guy had been an absolute horse for me since my stroke-of-genius waiver wire addition in Week 7. He had averaged 17.5 fantasy points for me the past two weeks. There was no way I wasn’t sticking with him. I mean who on the waiver wire could do better anyway? 

Knile Davis could. 

Wait, who's Knile Davis? 

Well, it turns out the Chiefs decided early Sunday morning (the one time I didn’t bother doing a last minute lineup check) that the man who would be replacing fantasy MVP RB Jamaal Charles that day would be none other than never-heard-of-him-in-my-life Knile Davis. 

And as it turns out, it doesn’t matter who the Chiefs throw out there at running back, their dude is going to put up fantasy points. Knile Davis went off for 21 points. 

And my horse Zac Stacy? Five miserable, traumatizing points. Really man, really?

Zac Stacy aside, I was still miraculously in this thing. I went into the Eagles-Cowboys season finale with a 43 and a half point lead. My team scored 129 points for the week to push my two-week total to 202. 

My thinking was as long as Nick Foles throws for three interceptions (he had one all season) and DeMarco Murray tears his ACL (ideally in the first quarter), then Shady McCoy could put up a Shady-like game and I could still squeak out a win. 

But the odds of all that happening most likely weren’t in my favor, so I tempered my expectations. I wasn’t going to win, but it might be close.

Hope Meter: 7 (approaching the danger zone)

Episode III:

Philadelphia @ Dallas
I could bore you with the details of me nervously sitting on the edge of my couch rooting for fantasy favorable outcomes for the first 3 ½ quarters, but I won’t. Lets just skip straight to the madness. 

Foles had underperformed, Murray had fumbled, and McCoy was having an average game (below average for him). 

The Cowboys had the ball with 1:49 left in what certainly looked like would be the final drive of the game. 

As my heart was threatening to explode inside my chest, I held onto the slimmest of leads: a half point. As long as Murray didn’t catch a ball on this drive, I would win. 

The drive was short lived, however, as Kyle Orton did his best Tony Romo impression and threw an interception on the very first play from scrimmage. 

I held my breath. My hope meter was approaching eleven. There was 1:43 remaining and the Cowboys only had one timeout remaining. For all intents and purposes, this thing was over.

I collapsed on the ground and that’s when the whole taste-of-victory-on-my-tongue thing went down. Was I really about to become a fantasy champion?

All the Eagles had to do was take a few knees and this puppy was over. 

But then, when the cameras finally switched from a dejected Jerry Jones in his owners box back to the seemingly irrelevant action on the field, the Eagles weren’t lined up in kneel formation.

Instead, there was LeSean McCoy (who needed only 10 more yards for one more point) lined up in the backfield. 

Is Chip Kelly out of his damn mind? Doesn’t he know that there are fantasy championships at stake here?! There’s no way LeSean McCoy is getting 10 yards, even if I have to teleport to Dallas to tackle him myself. 

What happened next is the reason why hope is dangerous and premature celebration is a serious affliction. 

Two handoffs, both to McCoy, 11 total yards, and one crucial fantasy point. Foles finally took a knee and the game was over. 

So was my fantasy season.

The final score? Me: 202, Fantasy Champion (not me): 202.5
Yes, it really happened. Maybe it was karma for my team's name?

This is why you shouldn’t play fantasy football. 

It takes up hours of your time, depletes you of an unreasonable amount of mental and physical health, and ruins great games like Eagles-Cowboys for the NFC East title.

Oh, and did I mention I’m an Eagles fan?

*Freak Stat Correction Update

The day after I posted this, I checked my league box score in one last desperate hope that there had been a stat correction (I had checked every day since Monday—it was Friday now). 

There were only two players that had stat corrections for Week 17.

One of them was Demarco Murray. 

The stat correction? A loss of three yards rushing to bring his game total from 51 yards to 48. In our league, that meant a one point deduction.

I stared at my computer screen in disbelief. I had done it. I had won, and then I had lost, and now I had won again?

I let out a roar that went down a little something like this

You really can't make this stuff up. The final final score? 

Fantasy Champion (me): 202, Other guy: 201.5

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