Football, you broke my heart.
I know it's an exceptionally lame cliché, but for five months every year, I'm married to football, my flesh-and-blood wife be damned. Obviously football and I have never had a proper ceremony, but based on my unconditional devotion to the sport, I should at least be living in Utah. So when football puts me through a weekend like this last one, I feel betrayed.
How bad was it? All three of my fantasy teams got destroyed. My alma mater, Indiana University, got run over by Shoelace Robinson. (Side note: why are people still calling this guy "Denard?" We've been given the gift of a glorious nickname. I suggest, nay, demand everyone begin employing it immediately.) In my pick 'em leagues, after setting an early-season pace Ace Rothstein would've been proud of, I came back down to earth by correctly identifying winners in only half the games. And my beloved Steelers came up 32 seconds shy of putting a stranglehold on the AFC North at the season's quarter pole. Yep, this past weekend, football let me know how Elin Woods must've felt last Thanksgiving.
I tried to complain to my actual wife about it, but she couldn't have cared less. My wife is a cruel mistress.
I wouldn't even bother bellyaching to Panthers fans. They're in such a sorry frame of mind, they're actually missing Jake Delhomme.
Point is, times are tough all over. Just about every football fan -- outside of Kansas City, at least -- has had reason to feel a little betrayed this season. So now I'm left shaking my head, licking my wounds and pointing fingers. Good news is, there are plenty of culprits at which to point. Especially when it comes to my fantasy teams. Maybe I'm just lashing out, but it's also cathartic.
I don't want to make this only about me, though. If you've owned even one fantasy team, you know my pain. So on behalf of the fantasy universe, for everyone who's suffered betrayal at the hands of an underperforming first-round pick, I present to you my inaugural (and no doubt partial) list of Fantasy Enemies.
» Drew Brees -- Analysts celebrate him for his ability to spread the ball all over the field. They hail him when he connects with nine different receivers in one game. Well, what they call a cagey gunslinger whose unpredictability makes him impossible to gameplan against, I call a selfish jerk. Hey, Drew, would it kill ya to have a monogamous hookup with one wide receiver for the whole season? You're making me (and Marques Colston) look bad. One week you can't take your eyes off of Devery Henderson, and the next week you're giving him the high hat so you can make hay with Lance Moore. Did you ever consider how badly that screws up my fantasy lineup? Well, did ya, you cad?! Your wandering eyes would put Don Draper to shame.
» Todd Haley -- A couple weeks ago, I condemned John Harbaugh and Cam Cameron because of their charitable decision to give Willis McGahee the goal-line glory instead of handing off those TDs to Ray Rice. It's horribly frustrating for those of us who used a first-round pick on Rice, but at least we knew what we were getting into; the Ravens coaches did the same thing last year. Haley, on the other hand, never even hinted in the preseason that home-run hitter Jamaal Charles would serve as no more than a pinch runner for between-the-tackles slugger Thomas Jones. Now fantasy owners are left to either bench Charles, who they took very early in the draft, or root for him to break loose on one of his carries, which occur roughly as often as Haley's Comet. Wait a second, I just stumbled into a great nickname for Charles: 'Haley's Comet!" C'mon, Todd Haley -- that alone should get him more touches!
» Kurt Warner -- You could've added a couple more chapters to your Cinderella story with your pal Larry Fitzgerald, but you had to get all "I don't want any more concussions 'cause I'd like to be able to think clearly when I'm 60." Waa. Cry me a river… Wait, hold off on that. There's already an ocean's worth of saltwater tears being shed by people who drafted Fitzgerald. Their fantasy aspirations are going down the drain as we speak, as if you care. It was more important for you to dance around on TV with Hasselhoff and the Palin kid. Break a leg with that. No, seriously, break a leg.
» Steelers D -- The Steel Curtain's return to dominance pleases me as both a Steelers fan and a fantasy owner who has them in his lineup. But for every fantasy owner whose success depends on a big performance from his top running back (in other words, every fantasy owner), the Steelers D has been a wet blanket… I mean a wet Terrible Towel.
» Chris Johnson -- If you're so much as a C-plus student of NFL history, you knew going into this season that CJ2K was highly unlikely to go over two-grand back-to-back. No one had ever done it before, and so far, it doesn't look like Johnson's gonna break that streak… let alone get to the 2,500 he predicted for himself. Sure, he's had a couple of good games, but that simply ain't gonna cut it for a guy who was no worse than the second overall fantasy pick. For cripe's sake, Peyton Hillis is having a better season!
» Dave Dameshek -- That's right, the man in the mirror, and I don't mean Michael Jackson. At some point, I have to take responsibility for my fantasy failures. Take the aforementioned Hillis. I hemmed and hawed all week about whether to start him or Beanie Wells. All week, Hillis stayed in my starting lineup… until 5:30 a.m. Sunday. As you may know, Hillis went over 100 yards again and scored another touchdown. Beanie? I'm still not sure if he was in uniform. My alleged "pals," Sal and Sports Guy Simmons, mocked me on their modest little podcast for that atrocious decision, but, alas, my foolishness didn't end there. For the last couple weeks, people have been asking me if it was time to bench Terrell Owens. I steadfastly warned them that the week they sat him down would be the week he exploded for two touchdowns. Somehow, though, when I looked at my own lineup in the predawn hour, I saw fit to swap out T.O. for the immortal Louis Murphy. Oof. T.O. went on to have a monster game, catching 10 passes for 222 yards and a TD. Thing is, I still can't figure out why I did it. Probably had something to do with the duality of man, the super ego and the id, and all the other stuff they were probably talking about in my college philosophy class that I skipped in favor of playing Sega NHL.
Of course, the cruelest twist is still to come this weekend, when Hillis and T.O. combine to give me four fantasy points while Beanie and Murphy set single-game records for rushing and receiving yards. Oh, football, I should never watch you again… but who am I kidding? I can't quit you.