Fantasy football first-timer happy with the dogs |

Fantasy football first-timer happy with the dogs

Column by Darin Olde, Tribune staff writer

If there’s a way to judge the level of excitement and fanaticism in fantasy football, a shorty stay with a relatively non-sports family during a holiday known for turkey and football is certainly it.

In short, my level of fanaticism according to the family barometer: Whoa! which means: get this guy away from the TV and kettle corn and on to dish duty and Tripoli. I guess I spent too much time in front of the TV, at the computer and rambling on about obscure special teams stats.

I had to explain to my significant other and family that this level of obsessive-compulsive behavior is common. In fact, compared with the fellas in the league I’m probably among the least fanatical about the game.

Some of the other guys play in three separate leagues. This is my only league. I’m a first-timer and I hardly have enough time to toil over one, let alone three leagues.

Everything changes once you get the FF bug, though. Now, instead poring over the snow report and ski reviews I have my head buried on the NFL stats Web page with such regularity that my friends and family are beginning to talk. Hey, this is all a part of the process, especially if you’re a first-timer.

Steve Maltase, who’s also a FF first-timer, said he spent most of his Thanksgiving watching football, often with his 4-year-old daughter.

“Sometimes she asks me why I have the big screen split in half watching two games at once. She wants to know why I don’t have cartoons on one side,” Maltase said. “I do that sometimes, put cartoons on one side and sports on the other. But she loves sports so it’s cool.”

It does confound my girlfriend when we get together Sunday mornings to watch teams play that don’t have any relation to our favorite teams, or that it doesn’t matter who wins but how the fantasy football players play that matters. She’ll often ask something like “If the Patriots win this game will you win this week?” Unfortunately, that’s not how it works. We’re both learning the hard way.

If you’re an experienced FF player, you can spot newcomers like me right away. Newcomers arrive at the draft with the same ESPN “cheat sheets” depicting the league leading quarterbacks, wide receivers and running backs. We know little about the players we are paying to select, mispronouncing their names and looking at everybody else’s selections for guidance.

Now, after we’ve paid a handsome fee for our losses each week, we’ve become FF junkies, paying a small fee to pick up free agents and dropping the lame ducks. Sometimes I even wake up in the middle of the night and realize that I’ve got to make a last minute change in my lineup.

Sometimes it scares those around me to see this kind of behavior.

My girlfriend, for example, can’t understand why I’m so disappointed on Sunday if my team loses.

“If an episode of ‘Sex in the City’ doesn’t go my way, I don’t pout all day,” she’ll say.

She’s got a point. But I’m a sports guy and this is a game. Otherwise, it would be like running a race and not caring where you finish or what time you make. For competitive sports people it’s pointless. Why race at all?

So there I was on Thursday, caring about Antowain Smith against the Detroit Lions, fuming if Tom Brady threw a touchdown pass inside the 5-yard line or handed off to Kevin Faulk.

There’s a lot of luck involved, I explain. For some this is a problem. Maltase, for example, has six guys on the injured list labeled as “probable, questionable,” or “out,” which is essentially half his team.

“I’m just lucky when I have guys that did play good because you never know,” he says.

One of the sport gurus here at the paper lost his faith in FF when he signed up his dog as a participant. The dog randomly selected his players each week by drooling this way or that, catching this stick or that. His dog ended up winning.

Pretty soon his friends in the league started calling, frustrated that they were picking the wrong players each week. They wanted to see if they could borrow his dog for a while for some FF advice.

That’s just the way the league works, and that’s the way us newcomers like it, because it means we’ve got a better chance against the crusty old Green Bay fans out there, even if means we’ll end up in the doghouse for a while, well on our way to becoming crusty old Denver fans.

— Darin Olde can be reached at or by calling (530) 542-8008.

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