Joy of fantasy football

By Ernie Brown Jr.

While listening to ESPN sports talk radio a few weeks ago, ESPN anchor and commentator Scott Van Pelt said, in general terms, that all fantasy football players were crazy geeks and nerds.

I fit in Van Pelt’s category.

I know, however, that I am not alone. Thousands of people play fantasy sports, and more people are playing them every year.

I’ve been playing fantasy football for nine years; I am in two fantasy football leagues, and I’ve been a fantasy football champion in each league.

Our family league began when my cousin, Kamau Thornton, persuaded me, my brother, my dad, my nephews and a few close family friends to get involved.

That first year, few of us had the prerequisite fantasy aids such as magazines, Internet ratings, and the other informational material that are must-haves for making sound draft selections.

So, it was not surprising some bonehead choices were made.

True fantasy players know that you never draft a place kicker in the first round. My brother, Mark, didn’t know that nine years ago. He boldly used his first fantasy draft pick to select place kicker Sebastian Janikowski of the Raiders.

We laughed hysterically at that choice, though some of the picks of the other league members were equally as questionable.

Yours truly selected Peyton Manning of the Colts, and a I had a fair first year.

Kamau, however, drafted the best and was the luckiest owner. His powerhouse team that first year included Daunte Culpepper (he was very good when he played with the Vikings), and Vikings running back Robert Smith. Kamau breezed through the regular and post seasons to win the first family Super Bowl championship.

Since then, however, he’s come up dry. And remember my brother and his place kicker pick? Well since then, he’s won three Super Bowl championships.

And that’s why I’m writing this column, because this month is when most fantasy football drafts will take place. Yes, fantasy players of all shapes, sizes, colors and genders will begin pouring over their study aids and begin developing a draft strategy.

We fantasy owners will look over the available talent on all 32 NFL teams and decide who will be on our squad when our name is called.

Rules vary depending on the league you play in, but, in general, fantasy owners draft 15 players. You start a quarterback, two running backs, two wide receivers, a tight end, a team defense and a place kicker. In a nine-player league, you add a flex player, who can be another quarterback, wide receiver, running back or tight end. Your other players constitute your bench, and they can be used when your starters are on their bye weeks, or if one of your starters gets hurt, which often happens in the NFL.

Scoring is pretty simple: six points for a rushing or passing touchdown, three points for a field goal, one point for a point after touchdown, two points for a safety, two points for a sack, two points for an interception, two points for a defensive fumble recovery.

Points are also given to quarterbacks, wide receivers and running backs for the passing and rushing yards they accumulate. Again, the points can be adjusted depending on your league and its rules.

Internet sites like CBS Sportsline, ESPN, Sports Illustrated and Yahoo!, handle the scoring for you automatically.

Now, some people spend way too much time wringing their hands over their starting lineups, devising strategies, and trying to work out trades. People, it is called fantasy football for a reason.

I have found that luck and happenstance rule the day in fantasy sports. Just put your player in and hope he does well.

Everyone has a diversion to escape the harsh realities of life for a few moments. For some it’s shopping, for others it’s kayaking, bicycling, crocheting, etc.

For me, it’s fantasy football (as well as basketball and baseball). But, don’t be a hater until you’ve tried it. You just might find yourself becoming a member of fantasy world.

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