The 2016 NFL season kicks off this week, and for me that marks the start of something equally significant: fantasy football.
I have a complicated relationship with fantasy football. We began our tumultuous on-again off-again relationship four years ago. My then-co-workers invited me to join their league. It’s also possible I wheedled the invite out of them, but it was four years ago, which basically makes it ancient history. I approached that first fantasy season like you would any new relationship–with a mixture of excitement, anticipation, and even a bit of fear.
The league commissioner walked me through a mock draft and explained the rules of the game. I felt pretty good about the whole thing until I experienced my first draft and realized I had no idea what I was doing. That paired with the scathing automated draft report card I received from Yahoo inspired me to write the Queen of the League series.
My goals that first season were simple. I wanted to gain some knowledge and experience to write a book and then make it to the play-offs, which I did. I accomplished the first–though I’ll never feel like an expert–and I took my team to the post-season. But after I lost in the semi-finals to a person who hadn’t set a line-up most of the season, I decided that wasn’t enough. No, I wanted to win.
It’s a goal I’ve had every year since with every team I’ve managed. And every year, with every team (all six of them as I doubled up on leagues for three years) I’ve fallen short. One year, I made it to the finals only to succumb in that final round and win the silver medal. That’s the closest I’ve come to the ultimate prize, and after a while, losing takes its toll.
Last year, when I failed to take either of my teams to the play-offs, I realized I needed to do some soul-searching. I almost quit straight-out. I’d already questioned doing fantasy football that year, because we’d lost some of that love and feeling. It was only natural to have the same thoughts during the past off-season.
But as usual, once players returned to camp and pre-season football geared up, I found that familiar sense of longing for victory. Could I do it this year? Could this be my time to take a team all the way? It was a complete 180 from where I found myself last January, but once you’ve fallen for fantasy football, it’s hard to give up.
Rather than call it quits completely, this season I’m only managing one fantasy team. I also promised myself I wouldn’t overdo the prep work like I did my second season, but I wouldn’t go in blind like I did last year. Granted, I skipped doing a mock draft, a choice I only regretted about half-way through my live draft last Sunday when my plan went to the wayside and I had to take players I knew little about.
Despite my pre-draft laziness, I managed to put together a scrappy team of players who might have the power to take me to the championship circle. This year Yahoo! gave my team a B- saying “That’s not bad! It’s not great, either.” Here’s who I’m counting on to lead me to victory:
Cam Newton – quarterback
Ryan Tannehill – quarterback
A.J. Green – wide receiver
Doug Baldwin – wide receiver
DeSean Jackson – wide receiver
Vincent Jackson – wide receiver
Tavon Austin – wide receiver
Eddie Lacy – running back
Melvin Gordon – running back
Ameer Abdullah – running back
CharlesSims – running back
Gary Barnidge – tightend
Dwayne Allen – tightend
Mason Crosby – kicker
Pittsburgh – defense
We’re in this to win it. At least until I tinker with my team by surfing the waiver wires and making trades with my fellow league mangers. And who are we kidding? I already admitted I didn’t know some of the players on my team, so I have a healthy dose of skepticism. Still, you never know. Here’s hoping this year doesn’t lead to another heartbreak.
I’ll be back next week along with a couple of my fellow authors to share some of our favorite football watch party foods. Until then, wish the Dread Pirate Rodgers (yeah, that’s my team name) and I luck in our first week of competition.
Laura Chapman is the author of the Queen of the League romantic comedy series. First & Goal and Going for Two are now available from Marching Ink. Three & Out will be available later this year. When she isn’t hard at work penning her next novel or pulling her hair out over a fantasy football line-up, Laura enjoys baking, crocheting, and binge-watching Netflix with her cats, Jane and Bingley.