Of late, I’ve found myself to be surprisingly disputatious when discussing our mildly serious fantasy football league. Maybe it’s low blood sugar, or arthritis. The irritation gets a bit worse each year, even though I’ve never seen eye-to-eye with some of my rivals.
None of this involves me anymore. On orders of my doctor, I turned the franchise over to my son this year. But I still feel a need to vent. Judging from my dad, I guess I always will.
There is, for example, the Serial Offender. He apparently sees what should be a soft-care battle for modest remuneration as a blood sport worthy of a swing-state Senate campaign. Last year, he offered to trade me a couple of guys I could have picked up off the waiver wire for Ben Roethlisberger. Naturally, I declined; but a week or two later, a few minutes before the trade deadline, he traded the same two players for Aaron Rodgers.
I have no idea how this swap eventuated. The butt of this trade was someone who was out of the playoffs by the eighth week. Maybe he was a pal of the offender. Perhaps he thought it was a good deal. I’m hoping I never find out.
This year, The Offender sent out an email complaining that no one ever wanted to make trades. Later, another genius emailed to say that no trade should ever be vetoed — a process requiring a majority of team owners — unless the proposed trade was “blatantly” one-sided.
Of course, we all could agree on that; what we couldn’t agree on was the definition of “blatant.” I’m surprised the guy knew how to use it in a sentence. I wasn’t surprised that he didn’t offer any guidance on this issue.
Considering the grand prize is a couple of C-notes, it amazes me that people are willing to engender such ill will for so little money. I was raised by a litigious father who would file suit over just about any slight, real or imagined. The old man once sued his next-door neighbor because the guy’s air-conditioning unit made too much noise.
I actually thought my dad was right to sue, but it did seem that perhaps he might have tried for some kind of common ground first. Anyway, my dad came up with a brilliant strategy: when he took the stand, he would emphasize the fact that his neighbor was a doctor. “People don’t like doctors,” the old man explained.
So every time my dad referred to the neighbor, he would call him “Doctor Silver.” My dad, who had the misfortune of growing up Jewish in Tulsa, was, understandably, under the impression that the jury would dislike his neighbor because the guy was Jewish, too. And, he reasoned, nothing says Jewish like a Jewish doctor.
My dad lost the lawsuit, as well as various other ones.
My dad hated losing, but he enjoyed the confrontation. And I respect that. And, in most cases, he believed that he represented all that was ethical and decent against all that wasn’t.
I don’t know what The Offender thinks he represents. But he keeps representing. This year, in his role as the league commissioner, he sent out an email in September to announce that he had already performed an online lottery for the order of the draft.
Here’s a shock: he wound up with the first overall pick.
The moral of the story, I guess, is that if you put 10 people together, one of them will have the ethics of a rabid snake. And — this is the only reference I will make this week to our system of government — that snake will somehow insinuate himself into a position of power.
By contrast, nearly every bookmaker I’ve known over the past four decades has been honest. They paid up. They didn’t kneecap you if you came up short one week. Some of them even gave you an extra half point if you didn’t like their line. Maybe one out of the 20 or so I’ve known was a genuine putz.
It wouldn’t surprise me if The Offender winds up winning it all this year. If so, he will profit without shame or regret. Some of us will hold this against him. At least one will argue that he didn’t do anything that was blatant.
And then, as now, I am willing to bet that the apologist won’t be able to define the word. In fact, I’m pretty sure he won’t know what “putz” means.
I, however, will. And I can use at least two of my rivals as examples.
Last week, I interrupted a dreadful season to go 4-0. Which doesn’t mean I’m hot. When you bet against the spread, you are never hot. Because the spread is better than you are. The only way to beat the spread over the long run is to not bet. And while most gamblers are not romantics, they still believe that it’s better to bet and lose than never to have bet at all.
New Orleans at Tampa Bay
New Orleans started out the year with a run and gun offense that raced down the field relentlessly and swiftly. But that has changed a bit. The Saints now use every second of the play clock and their defense has become better than good. Since Week 3, only one team has scored more than 23 points against them, and that was the Rams. One reason for this penury is that even teams with legitimate running backs can’t achieve much against the Saints, who allow a league-least 3.5 yards per carry. Teams that have to pass 50 times per game always attract Over bettors, but one-dimensional teams tend to disappoint. Finally, what matters most to me is that it doesn’t appear that the public has adjusted to any of this, which is why I think the total is a bit high.
The Pick: Saints 26, Bucs 21 — Under 55 1/2 for $40
Baltimore at Kansas City
Defense wins championships, but the question is whether defense can win this game. Taking the Ravens makes me queasy, because they could lose by 30 if they have to chase. Still, the Ravens are Number One in scoring defense, while the Chiefs have scored more points than any other team. The Ravens have rushed for more than 200 yards in three straight games; not coincidentally, Lamar Jackson has been their quarterback in three straight games.
In those three, Jackson has rushed for a total of 265 yards. What I like best about Baltimore is its ability to crawl down the field. To wit, they average a league-best 71.7 plays per game. Oh, and KC is in a three-way tie for allowing the most yards per carry (5.1). I’m still somewhat tremulous at the notion of bucking the Chiefs, but, technically speaking, the KC freight train might be slowing down. After covering their first seven games, the Chiefs have failed to cover four of their last five contests. There’s a good case to be made that the line has caught up with them, and now that their coverup of Kareem Hunt has been exposed, their running game consists of a tandem of leftover rushers.
The Pick: Chiefs, 27, Ravens 24 Baltimore — plus-7 for $40
Indianapolis at Houston
I’m not arguing that Indy’s scoreless disgrace at Jacksonville last week is a trend, but I don’t think it’s a fluke, either. This is just another example of a one-dimensional offense that has run out of magic. Just to update the stats I cited last week, the Texans have not allowed more than 23 points since week four. Houston has won nine straight by grinding out yardage on the ground. Deshaun Watson hasn’t thrown for more than 239 yards in the most recent seven of those contests, and I believe he’s still playing with broken ribs and, quite possibly, still dealing with a partially collapsed lung. It’s just that the total doesn’t reflect this.
The Pick: Texans 26, Colts 17 — Under 50 for $40