Most of you who have been reading this column of mine here at ESPN for sure know by now that I am far from a sports statistician or analyst. Nope, I could actually give a flying fudge about most of the more banal and intellectual odds and bits about the particular games that I follow. I'm just an everyday fan who hopes his teams will win that year.
So, if you know that about me, then you may find this next part quizzical.
I am now entering my third year as a fantasy footballer. Not only do I play the game, but I am also in a league whose players are pretty damn competitive. The Alice in Chains & Friends Fantasy Football Charity League (quite a mouthful, so let's go with AIC&FFCL from now on) is chock-full of rock dudes like myself. For whatever reason, "rock guys" have, in a large part, always wanted to be sports guys. I've heard that the opposite was true. Regardless, many of my fantasy football colleagues do not share my aloofness and sense of humor about the sports games.
But, all of my humor seems to go away as the moment for the actual draft comes upon our league. I've got my draft CliffsNotes from my earnest young nephew Andrew (a 16-year-old dude who does stats like no other). I'm sitting here Tuesday evening next to Alice in Chains guitarist Jerry Cantrell, and ESPN's NFL theme song suddenly starts to chime as the "players" sign in for the draft. My jaw starts to clench, and my teeth start to grind. The funny-ness of thinking in terms of "who cares?" gives way to good old-school competitiveness -- and of being out of my league.
Yes, but I am truly lucky to have a future ESPN sports analyst as a nephew. Andrew hooks me up ahead of time. He sends me a well-developed round-by-round list of players to draft, and gives me plenty of alternates in case these players get drafted from underneath me.
But Jerry doesn't like it so much if I don't play from my own knowledge. At least that's what I tell myself. I stash Andrew's list, and go it alone, trying to remember by rote what my nephew had instructed me. But I went blank.
Jerry is a good dude. He is competitive, to be sure, but he and I share a lot of the same traits and have even gone to a Super Bowl together.
We are both sports fans of the highest order. But he knows the game much better, in a stats sort of way, than I do. He expects from others the same passion for this game that he has. I'm getting there with fantasy football but am nowhere near his echelon yet.
The other guys in the league are well-versed too. Vinnie Paul and Mike Inez are no slouches. Newbie to the league, and sole female player Ann Wilson from Heart, brought much game and smack talk to the draft. Chris DeGarmo of Queensryche fame, brought his intellect to these IQ-deprived FF shores (yes, DeGarmo flies jets these days. That's right. Jets, J-E-T-S, Jets.).
So there I sat at "zero-hour." The mind was blank and I forgot how the ESPN draft site even worked. It was 110 degrees in the San Fernando Valley, and Jerry's air conditioning was only half-working. I started to sweat. I got jerked around by the draft's computerized random order and was the last pick in the first round, but at least I had some extra time to gather myself.
So, how did I do?
I will do this as a sort of "Simon Says" sort of exercise. That is, what did my nephew Andrew suggest, how much of it did I retain, and lastly and most importantly, who did I draft.
First round: Andrew said, Ray Rice. I got Roddy White.
Second round: Andrew said, Vincent Jackson. I got Rashard Mendenhall.
Third round: Andrew said Tony Romo. I got Ahmad Bradshaw.
Fourth round: Andrew said to pick Mario Manningham. I remembered it as Mike Williams.
Fifth round: Andrew's pick was Brandon Marshall. I got Ben Roethlisberger.
Sixth round: he suggested Anquan Boldin. I received Mario Manningham.
Seventh round: He, Mike Tolbert. Me, Owen Daniels.
Eighth round: Andrew, Owen Daniels. Duff, Pierre Thomas (I was only one round off on Daniels)
Ninth round: Andrew suggested Percy Harvin, and I ultimately got Steve Smith of the Panthers.
10th round: Emmanuel Sanders vs. Eli Manning as my backup quarterback.
And etc. …
At the end of the day, I got a pretty good team in my AIC&FFCL draft. But as you can also see, I don't have the best skill when it comes to name-retention. It is all a game of chance anyway because of the timing of your fantasy team's head-to-head matchups, and who knows what will happen with injuries and so on.
The auto-pick feature seemed to be working well for those two players in our league who didn't draft for themselves, "Mad Men" actor Jay Ferguson and Brewers pitcher Randy Wolf. (I guess Wolf had a pretty good reason for his online absence because the draft conflicted with Milwaukee's game in St. Louis.) I might get spanked by both of these teams, even after all of this toil and sweat I put in.
And before we get too caught up in who got the best fantasy draft, let's not forget that we have the real article about to commence this week. In a year that saw a lockout and the threat of no season at all, the fact we are even playing fantasy football at all should not be lost on us. The real deal is here, y'all. And I, for one, am psyched. Go 'Hawks!
Now, back, to business, do I start Roethlisberger versus the Ravens or Manning against the Redskins? I'm not even at Jerry's house anymore and I'm starting to sweat. … Let's play some (fantasy) football!
Musician Duff McKagan, who writes for Seattle Weekly, has written for Playboy.com and has his autobiography due out later this year, writes a weekly sports column for ESPN.com. To send him a note, click here and fill out the form.