I have never won anything.
From the teams that I have played for to the teams that I have pulled for, my whole life in relation to sports has been marred by either great expectations that have fallen short or just bitter and utter failure.
I believe it all started on my sixth grade little league baseball team. We were a legitimate juggernaut and plowed through the regular season, easily wrapping up the No. 1 seed for the playoffs. I don’t know if we just got too cocky or simply ran out of gas, but were upset in the first round by the lowly No. 4 seed that we had already beaten twice that year.
It hasn’t gotten any better since.
Being a fan of all four major Philadelphia sports teams hasn’t helped my pursuit of a postseason parade either.
There was the infamous Joe Carter homerun against the Phillies in 1993, the Flyers were totally dominated by Detroit in the ’97 Stanley Cup Finals, the 2001 Sixers were the second notch on the Lakers’ three-peat belt and the ‘04 Eagles ran into the buzz saw that is the New England Patriots dynasty. So you can understand if I was beginning to take all the losing a little too personal.
And then fantasy football came along.
Back in the fall I wrote about the many different types of fantasy sports personalities and I finished by noting that while I’m still not sure what category I fit into, all I cared about was finishing the season as the champ.
Well, break out the champagne, baby!
After 27 years of sports-related disappointed, I’m proud to say that the Sam’s Town Killers (named after my favorite album from my favorite band) are the champions of the East Coast 10 fantasy football league.
While I usually spend the off-seasons planning and pining for next year, this was at last my year.
I actually felt pretty good about this team after draft night back in August. I once again had high expectations going into the season and that was only validated as I got off to a sizzling 5-0 start and stood alone in first place.
But then, almost on cue, I inexplicably went into a three game free fall and suddenly found myself having to fight for a playoff spot heading into the second half of the season instead of cruising towards one.
A couple of well-timed trades and waiver wire pick-ups got me back on the winning way and I won three straight before the wheels came off once again. I dropped two of my last three because of several key injuries and I limped into the playoffs as the fourth and final team.
In the semifinals however, my team seemingly banded together and responded with an improbable upset of the top seed; and then there I was, staring destiny straight in the face, as I prepared my team (and myself) for the title bout.
On championship day, I set up a makeshift media headquarters in my living room as I had my computer updating my league’s fantasy scores sitting next to my television that I kept flipping back and forth from channel to channel so that I could keep up with the most pertinent action of the moment.
We ended that Sunday tied and while all of my opponent’s players were already done, I still had Denver Broncos’ wide receiver Brandon Marshall left to go on Monday night, which just also happened to be Christmas Eve.
Despite needing only one point to win, I still spent the whole day Monday envisioning how I could still manage to lose. In our league, a wide receiver just needs 10 receiving yards for a single point and Marshall (who was by far my most consistent player this season) had yet to give me less than at least seven points in a game all year.
He would have to earn it again this week as the stifling San Diego defense came out strong and held him to five measly yards in the first half. My worst fears were beginning to consume me. My girlfriend groaned as she knew there was no chance of us being able to enjoy Christmas Eve until this was decided and she prepared for the worst as I paced the floor.
And then, sweet rapture.
Looking back now, I know that for as long as I live I will never forget the first time I sipped from glory’s cup. Midway through the third quarter the Broncos were faced with a third-and-three and I just had a feeling inside. And at precisely 10:03 p.m. (EST), Denver quarterback Jay Cutler dropped back to pass and hit Marshall on a slant route for a 15-yard gain and more importantly, my first championship ever.
A lot of people think that fanatics like me foolishly take fantasy sports too seriously and if I have to be honest with myself, they’re probably right. But my question is how is it any different than investing in a professional team and celebrating or commiserating depending on their outcomes?
At least with fantasy sports, there is some degree of personal involvement.
If one of my Philly teams ever win a title, I know that I will lose my mind and purchase every piece of championship memorabilia that I can get my hands on and will use phrases like “we are the champions” and “I can’t believe we finally did it” even though I will have had absolutely nothing to do with the team’s accomplishment.
But the Sam’s Town Killers, now that was all me.
I drafted the players, I pulled the trigger on the blockbuster trades, and I scoured the free agent list to put together this title team and because of it, my championship draught is officially over.
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe nothing compares with following a team your whole life and then finally witness them achieve the ultimate goal; and thereby feel some sort of justification for aligning yourself with that city and those colors. I can’t wait to find out for sure, but for now I’m just going to enjoy the ignorant bliss.
They don’t call it “fantasy” football for nothing.