by Neal Kitterlin
This is the time of the fantasy season where we learn what has worked and what has not. Where injuries have visited some of us with a swift and brutal fury – let’s pause a moment and pour a little out for the Randall Cobb and Julio Jones owners, the desperate few relying on Jay Cutler, the owners who were disappointed in Doug Martin and C.J. Spiller already but now have grown despondent. Let’s pause a moment to consider those who reached for the Bears defense, who reached for Colin Kaepernick, who reached for David Wilson.
Between injuries and byes we are working the waiver wires, we are scouring the player lists, the free agent pick-ups. We are refreshing our inboxes in hopes of news on the success of our attempts at obtaining mid-season replacements. Does our kicker have a bye? Were we able to claim Harry Douglas? Jarret Boykin? Joseph Randall? Mike James? Jordan Reed? Keenan Allen? Who is playing the Jaguars this week? Are the Jaguars really still an NFL team? Who watches the watchmen of the waiver wires, who anoints the next big thing?
We enthusiastically pine for players whose names we did not recognize on draft day, their identities now emerging from the fog of anonymity through a combination of performance, circumstance, and pure, unflagging hope. We study the tossed-off comments of coaches in press conferences for some clue as to usage patterns, become amateur diagnosticians of muscle tears and strains, pulls and ligament locations.
What sadness when a stalwart goes down, but what joy when one of our diamonds in the rough hits it big. Harry Douglas puts up big points, and maybe our team loses anyway, but we can at least congratulate ourselves that we figured it out before others, that we saw it first, knew that with Julio gone and Roddy White limping persistently like a zombie at a chain link fence, valiantly pushing on and refusing to go down, but of little use to anyone, Matt Ryan would have to throw to someone and that someone would be Harry Douglas.
This week I have a decision between two of these mid-season wonders – Andre Ellington and Mike James. They are opposites in many ways – Ellington is small and quick, James is big and plodding; Ellington has a high upside but a lot of risk, James has limited breakout potential but some level of certainty; Ellington is used in a limited role, James figures to touch the football early and often. I’m going with James as my flex – he’s pretty close to a sure thing as a flex player in a deep league, but I have the perpetual fear I will be kicking myself for abandoning Ellington come next week.
Or maybe not. So far I have lived a charmed existence in my fourteen-team league. Last week I survived the blanking of Jimmy Graham. This week I survived the early Cutler injury, his body having produced a total of negative point eight eight (-0.88) points before he lifted his somehow still-apathetic face off the field and limped to the tunnel before collapsing. Vincent Jackson helped. So did Alfred Morris, even though he had touchdown after touchdown vultured by Roy Helu.
And what a game that was to watch. So much offense, so little defense, an unlikely shoot-out where each offense performed admirably and both defenses seemingly stopped caring and just sat back and enjoyed the talents on display. I myself was barely awake and lucid. I had been to see Deltron 3030 at the House of Blues the night before, and Kid Koala’s turntables were still scratching in my head, the swells of Del’s sixteen-piece touring orchestra echoing triumphantly as I hoped that Chicago’s once-proud defense would rise from the ashes like the city Deltron Osiris referenced in one of the best songs of the night, one of the hookiest and kinetic tracks on the long-awaited Event 2 album, the sound of the future coming on and plowing over post-apocalyptic disillusionment. After that, and a seemingly pointless 3 a.m. Chicago traffic jam (in which I was rear-ended while practically parked on the Dan Ryan expressway, always a jarring feeling of relinquished control even at the lowest speeds), I arrived home at 5:00 a.m. and never really recovered enough to figure out what I was seeing on that field. It was a lot of fun, though, and might have even been football.
And in that thicket of exhaustion I slowed down on checking my fantasy scores and stopped caring so much for a little while (I was back on my game Monday night to consider the fantasy ramifications of a Vikings-Giants game that might have only approached football in an entirely different and much less thrilling way than the Bears-Redskins scorefest – I needn’t have worried about Adrian Peterson spoiling my 20-point lead, in other words). Big pass after big pass, long run after long run, I just looked upon it without judgment or even any real sense of context. It finally stopped making sense – just throw it up and they will get it, put the ball in their hand and they will run through and around tackles, to the extent tackles are attempted, and we will marvel, our eyes growing wide, our fantasy scores rising.
And then that Sunday night there was earth, there was Manning returning to be bested by his old team, living proof that no matter what galaxy you visit you can and will come home again, and it will be strange and your arm will go all noodly as you are impacted by a very large man coming toward you at a very high speed, but you will spring up and keep throwing nonetheless, rising, rising, rising from the ashes, from the land of the dead, be you Peyton Manningor Deltron Osiris, our futures will spring from our pasts and find us.