by: Neal Kitterlin.
Sometimes you just can’t find the right line. Maybe the rest of the poem is good, maybe the rest of the poem is great (but let’s face it, it’s probably not great, I mean, it needs the right line to really be great), but you can’t find the right line to make it complete. Or maybe it’s not even the right line, maybe it’s the right word or the right syllable.
And sometimes you start Michael Vick and he’s playing well, he’s maybe playing great (but let’s face it, he’s probably not playing great, truly great fantasy quarterback performances are rare this year unless you are Peyton Manning), but then something happens. You’re not watching the game, but you see the points stop rolling in, and obviously this is concerning, but you think maybe the Giants are just orchestrating a long, sustained drive, even though flashes of offensive proficiency are black swan events for the other Manning this year.
But still you’re not too concerned because you are busy watching Drew Brees and the Saints pick apart the Bears in a game that was sort of exciting in a plodding, minimalist way. Really, it was a performance to be appreciated for its efficiency and predictability, admired in the way you’d admire a building designed by Mies van der Rohe or a Carver short (and this isn’t a knock on either, especially Carver, as his stories only now feel predictable in style because he set the standard and everyone now knows exactly what to expect). There were plenty of times when Saints players slipped on the poor natural grass, and you had to figure the Bears were quite lucky to have home field, for morale boost reasons.
And then you figure out Vick was injured and a creeping certainty that you are about to put up a losing record five games into the season overtakes you. It only gets worse as you watch every Bronco go off except for Demaryius Thomas. Then you remember that you also drafted Tony Romo, check your fantasy football app – the smartphone is the lifeline of the fantasy football junkie on Sundays, the only accepted way to real-time refresh scores in all your league and track points across multiple scoring systems as they accrue (I often find myself checking it frantically to see a chunk of yardage or touchdown I just witnessed on television reflected in the stats, as if it didn’t really happen until the numbers update on that tiny screen (or the nightmare reverse of the scenario – points posted only to cruelly vanish after a booth review or penalty wipes out the gain)) – and are floored by the realization that if you had only had the foresight and good judgment to put him in your lineup you would be 3-2 and not 2-3.
Then later that week you find out Owen Daniels is hurt, and so is Julio Jones, and you hit the waiver wire hunting down Garret Graham and Harry Douglas, the putative replacements (quick tip – Graham has a much higher upside than Douglas, whereas conversely, Julio was the much greater loss to those who owned him – that injury has almost certainly sent a large number of fantasy seasons to Valhalla) for these two felled warriors. You’re searching for that potential plug and play advantage – the ability to recoup the points lost from players on bye or lost to injury, or maybe just looking for a little bump in quality over an underperforming or inconsistent player.
And just like you don’t know where the line you are looking for is going to come from, what bit of ambient information is going to hit your ear, swim around in your brain for minutes, hours, or even days before it wends its way into that perfect spot, you don’t know which of these guys is going to hit it big or hit it all. While even in my smaller, eight-team leagues these kind of players can push you over the edge (my opponent in another league picked up and started Alshon Jeffery against me this week, after I foolishly reminded him that his lineup was a walking collection of inactives, and Jeffery proceeded to put up over 200 yards and a touchdown while I sputtered around with Aaron Rodgers and Darren Sproles), it is in the fourteen-team league I joined that these moves will truly make or break you, where fantasy fortunes are won and lost on a roll of the waiver wire dice. More participants means less talent to draw from, means that players that will languish on waiver wires all year in a smaller league are actually drafted, means that someone somewhere might still own Zach Sudfeld.
A large part of my starting team in that league last week were either elevated back-ups, waiver wire pick-ups, or late round draft picks never expected to see the light of day. There was Terrelle Pryor at quarterback, Rashad Jennings and Jacquizz Rodgers at running back, Darrius Heyward-Bey at wide receiver, and probably my best pick-up, the Kansas City defense. With this crew of cast-offs, bolstered by the superstar Jimmy Graham, a finally-performing-up-to-his-potential Hakeem Nicks, and the well-exercised golden foot of Matt Prater, I won handily. All while my supposedly stacked lineup in my other leagues languished.
When the words don’t work or Steven Jackson predictably misses time, we pull text or players from elsewhere, from overheard conversations, from unheralded teams, from twitter feeds and facebook statuses, from fantasy football websites, from an article we read last month or a game we happened to catch, by scouring statistics or just trusting in our guts, those poetic instincts that fail us on the page and on the field as often as not. But when they work there is a kind of additional victory, a hard-earned magic borne from tinkering and tweaking the final product, results springing up and thriving from the margins.