Fantasy Football for Gridiron Realists
I live in a fantasy world. Like thousands of other sports-deranged men across America this time of year, I feel some dark compulsion to play fantasy football. Keeps me friggin' glued to the TV set on Sundays. Just when the leaves are turning, too, it's nice and brisk outside, I've joined the ranks of the idiot box football zombies, staring at box scores and stat sheets, trying to find a mid-season bargain at wide receiver. Still, there's something deeply unsatisfying about it all. While the teams of the NFL, in particular, and pro sports in general are beginning to look less like honest gamesmen and more like a pack of truffle pigs ferreting out fresh new revenue streams, I feel that it's time to revise the ground rules of the hugely popular, but by now hoplessly simplistic simulated experience of "owning your own football team."For those of you less acquainted with the finer points of this perniciously time-devouring and addictive pastime in its traditional fashion, it's a game in which you and eight to 10 of your friends pay a fee to form a "fantasy league." One afternoon before the NFL season starts, you get together to drink beer and hold a draft, selecting your own personal squad from the well-paid rosters of NFL teams. Each week, you select from your roster a mandated combination of positions to comprise a starting lineup to go head-to-head against other teams in your league, and your selected players collect statistics for your team. With subtle variations from league to league, the most basic method of scoring these fantasy leagues is by counting your players' touchdowns. At the end of the season, whoever has won the most games and made it through the playoffs is crowned champion and gets to keep the pot.OK, simple. The worst knock on these fantasy leagues, for football purists, is that they change the experience of watching the sacred game. They're right, too. I'm a fan of the Philadelphia Eagles, but I'll watch games that I would otherwise have absolutely no interest in sitting through -- say, Arizona against San Diego -- just because I'm playing against the guy who has San Diego's tight end. There are actually people who think that if I'm not rooting for one team or another -- or just simply enjoying the aesthetic intensity of the gridiron ballet -- then I shouldn't be allowed to watch the game at all. Hey, go talk to the guy who's praying for the team up by 10 points with three minutes left in the fourth quarter to kick another field goal so they'll cover the spread.Or for that matter, talk to the owner who spirited his team to another city for the promise of hundreds of millions of Personal Seat License dollars from a new football palace. You think the artistry of the game appeals to that guy? No, the real problem is that fantasy football has become an anachronism; there's no way that the simple drafting and trading of players is enough anymore to simulate running a football operation. What happened to all the high-tech money-grubbing? To remedy this, here are the rules and bylaws to my brand new version of fantasy football: Reality Football, to more closely approximate the challenges an NFL owner must take on each year. It incorporates the traditional touchdowns, points, head-to-head format, but with some very radical differences. I'm hoping it'll catch on; leagues are starting up next year, so all you aspiring football barons stay in touch...Reality Football BylawsDraft: There are 20 rounds. The draft order is selected randomly, with the order going from first pick to last pick and then last to first, and so on. Like any regular league, each owner drafts players to fill his starting lineup (quarterback, two running backs, two wide receivers, tight end, kicker, team defense) and players to fill its bench. In addition, however, each owner must select an NFL stadium currently in use, and a secondary American city.Secondary City: This is a city currently without an NFL franchise, which the owner will use to leverage against his home city. The threat that an owner will leave his home for his secondary city will induce the home city to finance improvements to his team's stadium, or even to pay for a brand-new stadium. For purposes of scoring (explained later) these are divided into three categories:Group 1. DESPERATE: Had an NFL franchise that moved away and was not replaced, OR, had a single major league franchise (MLB, NHL, NBA) that moved away, leaving the city with no teams, OR, tried already to attract a team and failed. In this category: Los Angeles, Cleveland, Houston and, apparently, Hartford.Group 2. HOPEFUL: Already supports one or more major league franchises but has never had an NFL team. In this category: San Antonio, Salt Lake City, Orlando, San Jose, Portland, Sacramento.Group 3. WORTHLESS: Has no major league franchises. May support one or more minor league franchises. In this category: Oklahoma City, Des Moines, Little Rock, Binghamton and just about any other American city.Scoring Team scoring: Game score is calculated as follows: six points for a running/receiving TD, four points for a passing TD. One point for 10 yards rushing, one point for 25 yards passing. Three points for a field goal, one point for an extra point.Owner scoring: Each owner begins with 50 points from network revenue sharing. He must pay his players as follows: four points for starters, two points for bench players. If a player starts more than one week, the player demands another point; the owner must give the point or release the player. The attendance at each team's home stadium is to be scored as follows: if it is sold out for the week's game, the owner receives 15 points. If the stadium is at less than three-quarter's capacity, the owner loses 20 points.*With new skyboxes, profit increases. A sellout is worth 20 points. A game below three-quarters capacity, negative 25 points.*With a new stadium, an owner's profits increase even more. A sellout is worth 30 points. Below three-quarters capacity, negative 40.Renovations/New Stadium*If an owner's secondary city is Group 3/Worthless, then his threats are hollow; he's paying for the whole thing his damn self. Skyboxes cost 80 points. A new stadium costs 200 points.*If an owner's secondary city is Group 2/Hopeful, then his home city may not be completely willing to pay, but will share some of the cost with the owner. New skyboxes will cost 60 points. A new stadium costs 150 points.*If an owner's secondary city is Group 1/Desperate, then his home city is very eager to make him happy, and will give in to his demands with minimal complaint. New skyboxes will cost 35 points. A new stadium costs 90 points. If an owner has negative points and therefore cannot afford to build skyboxes or a stadium, then he is allowed to move to his secondary city, which will happily build the owner a new stadium for free. In a new stadium in a secondary city, an owner still gets 30 points for a sellout, but he will not lose points for a three-quarters capacity game; the secondary city will devise a ridiculous financial deal with the owner to ensure that he makes a profit in his new home.League play: The teams are split into two divisions. Reality Football's head-to-head regular season lasts until week 15 of the NFL season. In week 16, the top two teams from each division enter the playoffs; No.1 of Division A plays No. 2 of Division B and vice versa. The following week, the two winners square off in the Reality Bowl. Owner points are collected through the playoff rounds.Winner: The winner of Reality Football is the team with the most cash, um, owner points at the end of the season. The winner of the Reality Bowl gets a cute trophy.