I fancy myself quite the football purest. I read coaching books on specific schemes, I geek out on football history, and love strange esoteric debates about the origins of strategic elements such as ZBS (that's zone blocking system for those of you not fully in the football know). Heck, a good portion of my academic career is based on trying to measure the impact of offensive linemen.
For years I have participated in a fantasy football league (the Dumas League, as we are such fans of the 19th century french writer) but have always said that fantasy is just fantasy, and nothing beats real football. I mean who really cares, outside of our group league participants, whether Reggie Bush catches his 3rd pass of the day in the 4th quarter of a blowout win, it does not matter in a pure football sense. And I certainly don't have the stomach to watch the Red Zone channel, that could be renamed the "Fantasy Football Channel" as it only shows plays that are relevant to FF participants. I like complete games, see to give and take and back and forth...real football.
Then came yesterday. I realized at about 10am yesterday that I was a week and a day away from the draft, the Dumas League draft. It was as if the sun was suddenly started to break through the Bay Area fog that has descended on us with a furry this August. I had a renewed sense of excitement and anticipation. The draft was coming, the draft was coming. That is when I realized that the Dumas League draft is one of my absolute favorite football dates on the calender.
Our draft is a live draft, and I would probably quite the league the day we went to an online draft. League participants gather in my backyard, eat too much food (New Orleans themed this year in honor of the Saints first SB win), and yell things like "For the love of god, it is the 10th round, you don't need 10 minutes to make a pick" and "You know, that tequila really was a mistake." For somewhere between 2 and 10 hours (some owners are not asked back) we draft, argue, laugh at first guy drafting someone who has either been already drafted or is on injured reserve for the year, while secretly hoping that we don't end up being the first guy to draft somoene who has either been already drafted or on injured reserve.
This is what fantasy has become, it is no longer just a game, it has become ritual. The jokes get repeated, the past gets rehashed ("so I get the first pick in the draft and he takes the Ravens defense for me!!!") and new keen insights are made ("....so I should have been looking at by weeks?!"). Even the selection of our draft order has become ritual (several weeks ahead of the draft, my son picks names and numbers out of a hat, with at least 3 league participants in attendance as witnesses, this year it occurred in a bar which was the only way to get 3 league participants to be in the same place at the same time).
So here I am a week away. I am armed with my FO Almanac and Kubiak Projection system, as well as my usual innovative strategies ("this year my team will be picked by my students" - too much Wisdom of the Crowds that year), and ready to match wits and beers with the rest of the Dumas League. Draft day may be a totally fabricated ritual, but it is a great one! Oh, and in case any of the other Dumasers are reading this, I'm taking Vick if he is still available in the 2nd round, so pick him early.