Fantasy Football Builds Feisty Camaraderie by Utter-Fantasy Football Guest Writer Chris Gundrum
There are over 200 days between the Super Bowl and the start of the next NFL season. But fans don’t have to endure that span without getting their football fix. Key events throughout the offseason including free agency, the draft and training camp serve as milestones on the path to opening day. While each event builds more anticipation for the regular season than the last, nothing fosters more excitement for the NFL season than a fantasy football draft. “I can’t imagine going a season without fantasy football,” said my brother and fantasy nemesis Ben Gundrum, who plays in the Elite 8 fantasy football league. “It just enhances the excitement of each game week to week.”
Elite Eight is a collection of eight guys who have been playing fantasy football together for the past four years. The draft is held live after the second preseason game of the year and past ones are sources of fond memories for the guys. One of the eight, Mike Freland, said his favorite draft was the first year Elite Eight got together. “We were all sitting in my aunt and uncle’s house with football magazines scattered on the floor and pizza boxes and cases of beer we used as tables to write on. It was our war room and it was majestic.”
Ben remembers that in that first year the league allowed trades to occur during the draft. “Matt Forte was on five different teams before the night was over,” said Gundrum. “It was crazy.” Although the league no longer allows trades during the draft, the guys now have game plans to take players just to use in trades afterward. Freland calls this particular strategy…“Stopping the homer”, and it comes into play after the draft. “If you know a guy has a favorite team and wants to draft a player from that team, you draft him first,” said Freland. “Are you doing it because you like the player? Hell no. You do it to get under the other guy’s skin and eventually use it as leverage. Inevitably every league has at least one homer. With Elite Eight there are plenty of opportunities to use this diabolical tactic because although everyone is from Cincinnati, they don’t all root for the Bengals. “We have two Jets fans, one Giants fan, one Cowboys fan, one lonely Raiders fan and 3 Bengals fans.” reports Freland. “Knowing the other guys favorite players is an essential part of drafting.”
While some leagues use a snake or linear draft order, Elite Eight uses a more unique format. The order for the first round is based on what place each person finished the previous year, and knowing what order each manager will draft is also an essential part of the draft. For example, the last place manager picks first, second to last picks second, and so on. However, rounds 2-15 are randomized. Therefore a manager may pick third in the first round and then sixth in the second round. “I like the way the first round goes,” said Gundrum. “But then the rest of the draft is so interesting because you never know how things will fall.”
No matter what order they’re picking or what players are available each round, what the members of this fantasy football league enjoy most is having everyone together in the same room for the draft. According to Elite Eight, the live draft is the best part. It’s all in good fun and the camaraderie between the guys is what’s most important.…in other words, we’ll never become “the Hateful Eight.” “It’s so much more boisterous and amusing having everyone together trash-talking about picks instead of sitting in front of a computer clicking a button,” proclaims Ben. “To me playing fantasy football is more than picking players and combing through piles of stats, or looking at past injury reports trying to predict how well someone is going to hold up for sixteen weeks,” said Freland. “Fantasy football is about getting a group of people together who have a common bond… their unwavering love of the game of football.”
This year’s draft has come and gone for Elite Eight and rosters are already being adjusted. Justin, who is the big Giants fan, has both Dez and Zeke and it’s killing him so we’ll see what happens there. Ben is the Cowboys fan and he took David Johnson with his first pick and Allen Robinson with his second but he could’ve picked Dez or Elliott and didn’t. That left us scratching our heads. Players are being dropped and added from free agency, which is all part of the “Elite Entertainment.” Soon, the members of Elite Eight Fantasy Football League will go head to head for sixteen weeks and eventually crown the 2016 fantasy football champion.
And after it’s all said and done, all they’ll have to do is wait another 200 days to do it all over again.
Please follow Chris on twitter at @ChrisGundrum