You can see it in your friends already. The twitching. The nervousness. Lighting one cigarette with the other. Standing near windows. Baggy eyes. Paranoia.
They know. They can feel it now. It's possible it will really happen.
A fall without fantasy football.
Already, the usual fantasy previews from ESPN The Magazine and USA Today have been postponed. Already, the email you usually get from your commissioner giving you the date and time of the draft is late. Already, you know you're staring straight down the barrel of entire Sundays spent at Home Depot.
"No football on Sundays is like no Christmas for 16 straight years," says Jerry (Turtle) Ferrara, of the HBO comedy "Entourage." "I find myself playing chess now on Sundays. And I hate chess."
Ferrara is like most of the guys in my fantasy league. If there's no fantasy football this year, he may curl up in a ball and die.
"What will I do if there is no fantasy football season?" says Todd Milliner, producer of the sitcom "Hot in Cleveland." "Probably pay a bit more attention to the nuance of the college game, catch up on some overdue reading and then put a gun in my mouth. I cannot go on without football. There is no replacement."
They try to put a good face on it, but you can see it in their eyes. They are the wide-eyed guy stuck in an elevator, damping his brow with a handkerchief and muttering, "What if there's not enough air?!?"
"My life will be a husk of itself," says comedian Kevin Christy. "I'll walk the streets like a man suddenly struck with amnesia, trying to piece together any references to his past. I'll stagger from block to block mumbling, 'Steve Slaton in the fourth round? Why, Kevin? Why?'"
Then again ... "Maybe it's the best thing that can happen to me," says Beverly Hills Realtor to the Stars, Jon Bronson. "I make lineup changes while driving. Maybe I'll live longer if the season gets canceled?"
Twenty million Americans play fantasy football. Scratch that. Twenty million Americans obsess about fantasy football. Seven days a week for four months. Without fantasy football, I'm worried about the lack of beds in our mental wellness facilities in this country.
Luckily, there are alternatives.
People, these could work! Just hear me out!
FANTASY FANTASY FOOTBALL LEAGUE
You take all the years from 1958-1979 and write them on slips of paper and put them in a hat. Everybody in your league agrees that no research can be done beforehand. League commissioner draws the year out of the hat -- say, 1973 -- and you draft all the players from the NFL in that year. (Mutton chops and bell sleeves are a must. Try to get Goldie Hawn to come.) Then, each Sunday night, the commissioner simply looks at the box scores from that corresponding week and compiles the results. In your email comes the exact results of how your draftees did and how YOU did against your opponent that week. At the end of the season, trophies, money and dap are awarded commensurately. (1973 dollar values.) If you picked 1973, for instance, these would probably be your first five choices:
O.J. Simpson, RB, Buffalo Bills
Roger Staubach, QB, Dallas Cowboys
Roman Gabriel, QB, Los Angeles Rams
Floyd Little, RB, Denver Broncos
Joe Namath, QB, New York Jets
At the after-season party, everybody would wear paisley bell bottoms and dance to Marvin Gaye.
FANTASY UFL LEAGUE
True, there are only five teams this year, but that makes for a very easy draft. And it could calm your nerves right away, since the season starts August 13, starring many players you might have heard of, such as Sacramento Mountain Lions QB Daunte Culpepper and ... and ... well, that's it, really.
Yes, Culpepper is not very good anymore, but you're the guy who drafted Rex Grossman, so can it.
Here's the weekly points breakdown for your UFL Fantasy league:
• Touchdown: +10
• Touchdown by a player you've ever heard of: +15
• Touchdown by a player your mom has ever heard of: +50
• Your player's team doesn't fold: +5
FANTASY RAY LEWIS CRIME WAVE LEAGUE
The Baltimore linebacker predicted a huge crime wave in America if there is no NFL season. He did not stipulate whether it would be time-killing fans doing the lawbreaking or out-of-work players. Nonetheless, Crime Wave players would draft by crime and accrue points based on weekly increases in that crime, as set by the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports.
Here's the projected top draft choices:
4. Doing Business with Lenny Dykstra
5. Homicide by Wives Who Never Dreamed They'd Have Their Husband Hanging Around This Much
FANTASY RON ARTEST
The bizarre Los Angeles Lakers forward is as unpredictable as a drunk bee. One week he is escalating the worst brawl in NBA history, the next he is winning the NBA's J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award. One year he is sinking a title-clinching 3-pointer, the next he is playing as though he just got off a Minsk-to-Buenos Aires flight on which he swallowed three Ambien.
This week, he announced that he is officially changing his name to Metta World Peace.
No, really. He is.
The Artest Fantasy League simply awards points for guessing the next name he chooses. Top draft possibilities:
1. Zorgoff the Protector
2. Dances with Moose
3. Lord Spicy PumpkinBottom
5. The Little Thing That Goes Over The Letter O Sometimes in German? That Thing
Points are awarded thusly:
• Your player wins the match: +3
• Your player wins the match but he/she has four or more vowels in his/her last name: +1
• Your player beats an American male: 0
FANTASY POP WARNER FOOTBALL LEAGUE
Pop Warner football is for kids from 5 to 15. Because it offers no individual statistics (on purpose), you're going to need to bring your entire league to the field in order to compile them. You may need to rent a cherry picker.
Violations in this league include:
• Bribing opposition player with money: Game default
• Bribing opposition with Xbox 360: Season default
• Sneaking your player a five-hour energy drink: 10-point deduction
• Making out with star opponent's mother on the sideline to distract star
opponent : 50-point deduction
• Sending in plays: 5-point deduction
• Sending in yourself: Game default.
OK, it's desperate, but these are desperate times. Plus, you'll discover some new bars if you want to go watch the games on TV, and you'll totally catch up on how the Chilean miners are doing.
The problem is, nothing really happens in soccer, the sport that gave us the word "nil." Therefore, the goals have to really handle the payload here.
The scoring system:
10 points: Bicycle kick goal with opposite foot
9: Bicycle kick goal with power foot
8: Header goal
7: Goal scored without pretending your spine has been severed by slight brush of opponent's left pinky
6: Goal scored, no riot
5: Goal scored, you were awake
4: You figure out why only the referee gets to know how much "extra time" is to be played
3: Ball goes off goalie's hand
2: Ball hits post and goes in
1: Ball hits two posts and goes in
0: Ball rolls limply over line without touching net in manner of cold honey tipped over
-1: You leave, make sandwich and return to couch before announcer finishes saying the word "goal."
NFL OWNERS LEAGUE
This league requires photo or video evidence involving NFL team owners, whose hard-luck plight has captured America's sympathy in this owner-mandated lockout.
Points are awarded anytime one of the NFL team owners:
1. Gives press conference from yacht.
2. Gives press conference from yacht and leaves in submarine.
3. Makes The Forbes 400, a list of the wealthiest Americans.
3.5. Is seen having dinner with Forbes himself.
4. Wags finger scoldingly at NFLPA lawyer and reveals $100,000 Rolex on wrist.
5. Is injured in butler accident.
If none of these work for you, you might consider coming to one of my Fantasy Football Addiction Withdrawal Help Centers.
We serve methadone.
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Rick Reilly is the 11-time National Sportswriter of the Year. He contributes essays and commentary to "SportsCenter" and ESPN/ABC golf and tennis coverage. He's also the host of "Homecoming," ESPN's unique, one-hour interview show set in the hometowns of legendary athletes. For more Rick, check out the archive.
Feel like taking a detour from sane sports? Try Rick's new book, "Sports from Hell."