From a guest turn on a soap opera to performing a wedding to being able to connect myself to Sir Laurence Olivier, Elvis and Anne Hathaway, among others, "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon"-style, it's been a wild but random ride, to say the least.
But it doesn't get more random than my appearance Tuesday on "Dancing with the Stars," where I am, in fact, not actually dancing (ABC, 9 p.m. ET, but check your local listings).
I was as shocked as you that I'm doing the show, but it makes sense once you hear the idea. I'm doing something where I'm using the same research style, trend-spotting and statistical analysis I use in fantasy sports to give my predictions on whom I think will finish in the top three and ultimately win. I appear with Season 8 contestant and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak. He has created a mathematical formula to predict his winner. (Hint: He's a lot brainier than me.)
I am well aware that I am getting to do this (and everything else) not because of me, but because of the popularity and reach of both ESPN and fantasy sports (did you know that, according to research by the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, 30 million people now play fantasy sports?) but if you've read me for any amount of time, you know I'm not proud. Do I care what the reason is? Hell no. I was thrilled to be asked.
Honestly, the show's a guilty pleasure. Good-looking people, fun costumes, sexy dances, funny judges and good old-fashioned competition. Watching it, it's easy to see why it's been such a monster hit. So this past week, I went for it. Studied like it was my college entrance exam, except this time I cared.
Did you know that, of the past 48 contestants eliminated from the show, 54 percent of them were wearing red or black? That no contestant over the age of 37 has ever won? That dancer Cheryl Burke has more "30s" (the highest score you can get from the judges) than anyone else?
How about the fact that, in previous seasons, Wayne Newton and Adam Carolla were both eliminated while sporting a mustache? That four of the eight winners were born in May? That contestant Joanna Krupa is crazy hot? (Some of the facts are more obvious than others).
I delved into Season 9 and learned everything I could, not just about the show, but about this season's contestants. Singers/entertainers like Mya, Aaron Carter, Donny Osmond and Kelly Osbourne. Athletes like Michael Irvin, Chuck Liddell, Natalie Coughlin and Louie Vito. Actresses Debi Mazar and Melissa Joan Hart, model Joanna Krupa, Iron Chef star Mark Dacascos and politician Tom DeLay.
And as I talked to folks about what I was doing, one consistent question came up.
UFC fans (and there are millions upon millions of them) know exactly who Liddell is, but trust me, the average sports fan who isn't into UFC has no idea. Vito is an X Games star, but my dad, a huge sports fan, has never heard of him. I've never seen an episode of "Iron Chef." but there are foodies all over the world who love Dacascos. I'm guessing millions of people have stared at pictures of Krupa, but not nearly as many know her name.
None of them, except maybe Irvin or Osmond, are famous as defined by my friend, Greg Erb. His definition is simply this: If a person is known by people who would not necessarily know them, they are famous. Like, even if you are not a fan of pop music and never listen to top 40 radio, you've heard of Madonna. She's famous. People who have never watched a basketball game in their life know who Michael Jordan is. He's famous. But unless you are a hoops fan, you've probably never heard of Baron Davis. He's not famous. That sort of thing.
I think that's a bit too narrow, but whether Greg is right or wrong, it's not the point. The show is not called "Dancing with the Famous." It's called "Dancing with the Stars."
And every single person on the show, to a select group of people, is a star. Star of MTV or C-Span, of Food Network or the X Games, they are really well-known and very important to a certain group of people.
I recently did an event with Gary "Baba Booey" Dell'Abate of "The Howard Stern Show." More people than not walked by him, totally unaware of who he was. But the people who recognized him? They were very, very, very excited. The people who are fans of Howard (and I'm among them) would rather meet someone from that cast than some famous movie star. Gary's not famous, but he is a star.
And that's what we are doing here. We are well past the famous part of the season. Adrian Peterson, Drew Brees and Randy Moss are long gone. We're looking for stars. Players that will be important and meaningful to your team. You may need more wide receiver depth or a bye week quarterback. One more running back or a reliable tight end. Not big names, just someone who will be important to your team, even if nobody else in your league has interest in them.
Which brings us, a cha-cha and samba later, to this week's column. And to my editor, who challenged my ability to link "Dancing with the Stars" to fantasy football pickups: In your face. Never again underestimate my ability to connect random things by a tenuous thread.
Don't look back in anger:
"Once more, with feeling."
Here are some guys that I have suggested you pick up in previous columns like last week's, who are still available in way too many leagues and whom should be picked up before any of the guys listed below. I've listed them in the order I would claim them.
Glen Coffee, RB, 49ers (58 percent), Mike Sims-Walker, WR, Jaguars (38 percent), Tashard Choice, RB, Cowboys (41 percent), Jerome Harrison, RB, Browns (2 percent), Brent Celek, TE, Eagles (57 percent), Nate Burleson, WR, Seahawks (42 percent), Pierre Garcon, WR, Colts (38 percent). By the way, I'm not doing an obvious name section today, but if I were, Antonio Bryant, WR, Buccaneers (80 percent) would be at the top of it.
With that, we go to the new names. As always, ownership percentages in ESPN.com 10-team standard leagues are listed in parentheses. Reminder: This week's byes are for the Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers, New Orleans Saints and San Diego Chargers. That's three of the top five quarterbacks so far who will be sitting out, by the way.
Pickups of the week
"Say baby, if you were fast food, you'd be a McGorgeous."
Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Steelers (37 percent): A funny thing happened on the way to Dumpsville. A week after Mendenhall got zero carries, and his head coach called him out for not knowing the plays, two big things happened. Willie Parker got turf toe and Mendenhall was contrite and promised to do better. And better he did do. Crazy game for anyone, even against the porous Chargers defense. He had 191 total yards and two scores. For the three previous games, Parker had 203 total yards and one touchdown. Now, as of this writing. I don't know the health status of Parker, but I do know that Mendenhall will be part of the offense going forward and that they play Detroit this week.
And considering the Detroit matchup, Mewelde Moore, RB, Steelers (3 percent) will be the third-down back regardless of Parker's health. And with Cleveland next up in Week 6, he's an interesting name for deeper leagues.
Nate Washington, WR, Titans (14 percent): Truthfully, he should be in the "Don't look back" section since I've talked about him so much in the preseason and before. But it's a been a while, he's still available in tons of leagues, and most importantly, he has now scored in three straight games. He had seven receptions for 66 yards and a score in Week 4, and he had 12 targets before leaving the game after getting hit. We'll see how severe the injury is (my guess is he is fine), but he's the Tennessee receiver I want the most, ahead of Justin Gage (53 percent) and Kenny Britt (9 percent), who despite having a big game in Week 4 and leading the Titans in targets this season, I still don't entirely trust.
San Francisco 49ers D/ST (30 percent): Yes, they had a crazy game, leading the Week 4 scoring leaders with 39 fantasy points in ESPN standard scoring. But here's the thing. Prior to Sunday, they were eighth in fantasy scoring among defenses, one point ahead of the Baltimore Ravens and one point behind the New Orleans Saints. The Falcons come to town, and then it's a bye, but check out how they end the season: Starting in Week 12, they get the Jaguars, Seahawks, Cardinals, Eagles, Lions and Rams. Only the Eagles present a real problem. It's a good, aggressive defense and I like them a lot.
Incidentally, I don't want to waste a whole lot of time here on this subject, but I also like the Denver Broncos D/ST (51 percent), Cincinnati Bengals D/ST (23 percent) and Indianapolis Colts D/ST (14 percent).
Sidney Rice, WR, Vikings (6 percent): A touchdown in two straight weeks, Favre has been looking for him (22 targets on the year) and they get St. Louis this week. Sometimes it's that simple.
Mohamed Massaquoi, WR, Browns (0.2 percent): Sure, you like the eight receptions in Week 4. The 148 receiving yards aren't bad either. But it's the 13 targets that jump out at me, especially when compared to the five targets that Braylon Edwards got. Normally, you'd write off a game like this as a fluke and I'm not totally sold yet. But the reason I have one eyebrow raised (What? You're not here. I might be able to do that.) is that it was Derek Anderson's first game this season as the starting quarterback for the Browns. We know Cleveland is going to be down and throwing and it's not a stretch to assume more double coverage for Edwards. Which means this could happen again. My guess is we've just seen Massaquoi's best game of the year, but it's worth a bench spot to find out if I'm wrong.
Vernon Davis, TE, 49ers (41 percent): I've been saying for a while that he's a guy that you want as a matchup play, but that I don't trust him week in and week out. But with three scores in two weeks and Shaun Hill looking for him (he now leads the 49ers in targets), he needs to be owned in every league. As for starting him, he's still a matchup play, but he's got another great one this week. Atlanta comes to town and the Falcons have already given up two touchdowns to tight ends in three games.
Matt Hasselbeck, QB, Seahawks (66 percent): If he was dropped in your league, this is a good week to pick him back up. He's going to try to practice on Wednesday and start this week. If he does, he picked a good week to come back as Seattle faces Jacksonville. Only four teams give up more fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks than the Jags. I also really like Seneca Wallace, QB, Seahawks (1 percent) as a spot start if Hasselbeck can't go.
"They all look better at closing time"
If you're really stuck for a bye week quarterback, here are some guys that are available in a lot of leagues who have decent matchups for this week only. In order, I'd pick up: Seneca Wallace/Matt Hasselbeck (vs. Jacksonville) ; Matt Cassell (vs. Dallas); Derek Anderson (vs Buffalo); Mark Sanchez (at Miami); Kerry Collins (vs. Indianapolis); Shaun Hill (vs. Atlanta) and Jason Campbell (at Carolina).
Just below the Mendoza Line:
"Missed it by that much."
It's a baseball saying, but it's appropriate here as well. Here are some guys who shouldn't be picked up (except in deeper leagues) but whom I like and you should keep an eye on.
Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Lions had 10 targets Sunday on his way to a 4-for-64 day. He's a nice pass-catching tight end and rookie quarterbacks tend to like those, especially when they are down and having to throw or get hit. ... I don't think you can really trust any Patriots running back, but our old friend Sammy Morris, RB, Patriots, scored last week and had 11 touches for 56 yards as well. ... If you're looking to handcuff Maurice Jones-Drew, or want to screw over whoever owns him, Rashad Jennings, RB, Jaguars, is the guy you want. He had nine touches for 53 yards on Sunday. ... His teammate, TE Mercedes Lewis, has a score in two of the past three weeks and a decent matchup in Week 5 against Seattle. Lewis, believe it or not, is tied for ninth overall among fantasy tight end scorers so far.
Chris Brown was sick, so I'm not putting too much into it, but Ryan Moats, RB, Texans, did look decent in relief of Steve Slaton with a 15-for-56 day… With Darren McFadden out for the next two to four weeks, I'm even more down on the Raiders than I thought possible. I can't imagine a scenario in which I'd actually want to start one, but if you need someone, I rank Michael Bush, RB, Raiders, over Justin Fargas, RB, Raiders.
There's just not enough balls to go around, so I'm not ready to jump on Austin Collie, WR, Colts, just yet, but he did have 6-for-65 and a score on Sunday. ... From the "he's all they have" category, Donnie Avery, WR, Rams, seems healthy, at least. ... Peyton Hillis, RB, Broncos, is a guy I've always liked who might get more of a shot if Correll Buckhalter's injury keeps him out this weekend. ... Domenik Hixon, WR, Giants, is going to come back soon and be better, from a fantasy perspective.
Welcome to Dumpsville. Population: You
Nate and I have discussed this on our podcast the past two days. With so many running back by committees these days plus rookies and other guys emerging, folks are having to actually cut good players (or players with a lot of upside) to make it possible to fill in on bye weeks.
As always, I am not saying you should dump these players, but rather if you need/want to drop these players, I wouldn't try to talk you out of it. You'll see some repeat names from previous weeks. So, in no particular order ...
Any Patriots running back, Jonathan Stewart, Mike Bell, Le'Ron McClain, Derrick Ward, Earnest Graham, Darren McFadden, Zach Miller and any other Raider, LenDale White, Chester Taylor, Jerious Norwood, Roy E. Williams (any Dallas wideout, frankly), Laveranues Coles, Josh Morgan, Chris Chambers, Kevin Curtis, Devery Henderson, Julian Edelman, Ted Ginn Jr., Kevin Boss.
Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- could probably find a way to work William Shakespeare, the national debt and foods that start with the letter "Q" into a fantasy football column, if properly motivated. He is the creator of RotoPass.com, a Web site that combines a bunch of well-known fantasy sites, including ESPN Insider, for one low price. Use promo code ESPN for 10 percent off. Cyberstalk the TMR | Be his Cyberfriend