As far as I'm concerned, rivalry is just an adorable way of saying two entities hate each other's guts. It is the magical ingredient that elevates an NFL game to must-see status. Week 11 featured some great rivalry games that delivered on a variety of levels. The Raiders-Steelers rivalry may be decades removed from its prime, but that didn't stop both teams from taking cheap shots at the quarterback like it was still 1974 and no one fined you, let alone tossed a flag when you took flagrant shots. The Giants and Eagles represented the classic divisional game that ends up being far more competitive than many suspected before the conclusion.
Sometimes it's man versus the entire machine -- take Brett Favre donning sacrilegious Viking purple to prove the entire Packers organization wrong… or in the case of last weekend's tilt, using a 51.2 passer rating to pound the final nail in the coffin of a disastrous and no doubt final comeback.
Sometimes it's two teams in their glorious prime perennially fighting it out to be the best -- witness the Colts and Pats, the latest chapter in a long story that automatically garnered game of the week status, and rightfully so.
My question is: Why should fantasy football be any different? Those of you who have played in the same league for years know how long grudges can fester. How a little part of you dies when certain individuals show up to your draft carting around the league trophy. Hey, when your best buddy takes the crown you feel good for him, but that leaves eight or eleven other dudes who have a good chance of matching a variety of deeply annoying profiles:
» He always wins, you're mad as hell, and you just can't take it anymore.
» He won once, thanks to pure luck, and now he thinks he's better than you.
» He keeps trying to talk you into watching "Glee."
» The year he hosted the draft, he served green tea during the traditional seventh-round lunch break.
» He banged your sister/He didn't bang your sister. Either way she won't shut up about it.
» He once drafted Hines Ward one slot ahead of you -- not because he needed him, but because he knew you did.
» He suggested you rename your team "Loservania."
» He mouth-farted when you walked up to the big board and slapped that Stevie Johnson sticker down in Round 14
» Every year, the same bad combo: Sandals and toe fungus…
» Maybe he's a former NFL star and current network personality who lets a fantasy expert draft and manage his team all season long… What?! I didn't say that!
» Or, that time-honored classic -- you just don't like his face…
So many jackasses, so many reasons to plan his destruction… so here's my pitch: Let's say you're in the tank and find yourself limping into Week 12 with no hope of the postseason. Why not blow up your lineup for a good cause? File this one under Fantasy Football Black Ops… if you can't win, at least take it out on a rival with some proven techniques for the ugliest of realities: The only wind remaining beneath your wing is grudge mode.
Take your eyes off your own roster and study his. Who does he need? Who might he try to stockpile for his playoff run? Which one of his top performers just pulled up lame or lost a teammate with a large impact on a star's production? Consequently which late-season, came-out-of-nowhere wonder is the perfect fit from the seeds and stems of available free agents? If you're even considering this, you are easily atop the pecking order with the first crack at everything because you suck. Calculate his needs and make the preemptive grab… even if that means you now have four quarterbacks, three defenses, or a baker's dozen tight ends.
Your league rules
'Tis the time of year when everyone's focus is on winning, not proper procedure, and that includes your commissioner. Study the rules closely and call out all moves that might be actionable. Pitch scoring changes that affect him more than you. If you have an IR, make sure he isn't stashing healthy players. Propose that next year's buy-in hurts him in a special way.
Help his enemies with trades that are just valid enough to fly under the radar. Would his primary competitor benefit from Philip Rivers down the stretch? Make it so. What's that you say? You feel loyalty to your roster, particularly the one guy who came through for you this year? Let's get clear on the agenda -- if you can't win, the only alpha male arrow remaining in your quiver is destruction.
P.S. -- Whomever you are holding on to, these mutts you call a starting lineup left you holding a 3-win bag. Why not send the virtual wake-up call that no one on your roster is safe? It may not resonate in the locker room like releasing Randy Moss days after you surrendered a high draft pick for him, but it might just feel like it. And what have you got to lose?
Head to head
If your schedule has blessed you with a matchup against your target, it is mandatory that you take your best shot. That means going for broke. Let's admit he's got the better roster, so you need to swing for the fences by taking wild reaches on high-upside/high-risk players. Call in some trade favors from fellow losers -- beef yourself up for the showdown, even if you agree to return the favor one week later. Oh, and don't get lazy and overlook available kickers and team defenses with particularly tasty matchups for this week only.
Psychological torture and propaganda
Mind pollution is a seek-and-destroy mission's best friend. At worst, they create a distraction; at best they undermine confidence, so take the toxicity of your league message board to new lows. Let your words be swords, goad him into over-thinking, and most importantly, curry mass resentment among the ranks. Trust me, if you have issues with this guy, you're not alone. Pitch the idea of renaming the league after the JUCO he drank his way out of. Hire a hacker to log into his team site and change his logo. If all else fails, log in your angry sister and turn her loose.
Grudge mode -- it adds some spice and some purpose to a lost season.
Oh, and welcome to the dark side.