By Bruno Vanderhoof
The Tavern Fantasy League is heading into it’s seventh successful season. It’s a typical 14 team PPR league that started with a meagre $50 entry fee, and has now grown to almost $500 per team.
Modest by some standards, but a small fortune for most of it’s members. We’ve seen an undefeated season, worst to first, and enough Monday night re-counts to make drunk forty something degenerates break down and cry.
The same core of owners/friends have been there for the duration, save a few gone and their replacements. Blue collar guys that love NFL football. Raiders fans, Packers fans, Cowboys fans, Seahwaks fans (geographical reasons), and even one die-hard Browns fan.
Yes I’m a Browns fan.
Since the late seventies when Brian Sipe was throwing touchdowns in the snow to Ozzie Newsome (I’m sure it was just the snow). But enough reminiscing, these guys love football and for the most part are an absolute pleasure to be around every Sunday for five months and two weeks.
We do an in person draft at the local establishment where we spend all of our Sundays during the season. Draft night is the highlight of the year.
It’s like Christmas for ridiculous old men. Some of whom go sleepless the nights before like 5-year-old’s in a trailer park anticipating a game boy with no box, wrapped carelessly in the funnies.
(No offense to our beloved commissioner and the RV parking facility he calls home.)
We arrive early, pre-drink, pre-smoke, laugh, and talk a lot of s*&t. We wear our team’s colors, heckle our hated rivals, and speculate who will go first, last, and everywhere in between.
We also do our homework. Study the web, listen to the experts, ignore the idiots, charts, graphs, apps, what have you. As the entry fee went up, so did the level of competition. Guys don’t like losing money, and like the ridicule that comes with losing even less.
Strategy is first and foremost: Running Back first, wait on your Quarterback, take the best possible player available, take the best possible Packer available, etc, etc, etc. Over the years our league has strayed from what the talking heads have told us to do… QBs inexplicably tend to go early and often for whatever reason.
It’s become a tradition of sorts to anticipate who will start the first wave of Quarterbacks being taken. So we all have had to adjust our strategies a little, if for no other reason than to just avoid being stuck with Matt Cassel or Jake Delhomme.
One strategy I have managed to stick with through thick and thin, and to moderate-almost good success is…. No matter what, no matter how bad you think your draft is going, no matter that it looks like a post-Cincy Carson Palmer may be your QB1….. Don’t ever pick a Brown!
Remember, I am a Browns fan.
The kind that considers himself a die hard Browns fan. The kind of die hard fan that watches every minute of every game, all season. Even though he thinks the team’s management and ownership have actually been trying their absolute hardest to not only turn him away from his beloved team, but the entire sport completely.
Recently they have almost turned me off for good. But then comes the actual draft, training camp, and that cruel temptress… Hope. Not long after that I feel like Lucy pulled the ball away at the last second yet again, just as I was about to finally hit that game winning feild goal.
Charlie Frye, Peyton Hillis, Donte Stallworth, Mohammed Massaquoi, Evan Moore, Colt McCoy, the aforementioned Jake Delhomme, and so many others were all fantasy killers. But we as fans are suckers. We refuse to give up on our heroes, no matter how hopeless. They play juuuuust well enough for a quarter or two in August to wake that sleeping temptress that you swore you’d never share a pipe with again. Yes that’s her… Hope.
So, for the first six years of the STFFL draft I have avoided Browns’ players like the plague. Don’t get me wrong, it’s been excruciatingly difficult at times. But I’ve always had the last laugh. My competitors and rivals reach for Braylon Edwards, and I just nod and smile, relishing my small internal victory.
Derek Anderson in 2008, to a Steelers fan no less….. just a nod and a smile. All the while every owner gasps “Dude, you just missed another one!” But I always got the last laugh.
But last night was the 2013 STFFL draft, and I couldn’t keep it in my pants. A somewhat unexpected run on Running Backs early, and I found myself at number six overall saying, against everything that I know is real, “The Menace select Trent Richardson!” The hush that came over that excited group of NFL fans was as disturbing a moment as we’ve had in all the drafts leading up to this one.
I’d done it. The hype had finally bore it’s way in. I was in the alley blazing up with Hope…… and it felt good!!!
Then, after I had rallied and made some remarkably cerebral picks…. It happened again.
Round eight. Pick number 107.
“The Menace select Josh Gordon.” I swear, even the stripper we hired to run the draft board looked at me in shock. And I’m sure the look on my face was eerily similar. Thank the good lord that when, in the thirteenth round I heard the words “Brandon Weeden”, it was not my voice.
When the stripper looked at me funny I thought “That wasn’t my voice, right?” But alas it was another fool, thanks to the big guy for that one!
And so we start another NFL season, and no one knows what will happen. But one thing is for certain…..
Hope and I are back together, we’re blind wasted….. and she’s driving!!!