by Neal Kitterlin
This is the fantasy week where things both fell into place and stopped making sense. My long-term keeper league team is finally gaining some scoring consistency, but I haven’t gotten a win against a truly formidable opponent yet; I lost a very winnable game in my work league because I cautiously left Darren Sproles on the bench, failing to recognize the true awfulness of the Dallas Cowboys; and I lost a disappointing game in my 14-team league to a team that started two inactive players.
That last loss was crushing, even though it didn’t really much affect my overall standing in the league. It came about because of underperformance all the way around by my players and a lights-out game by DeMaryius Thomas on the other side. I would have won had Mike James not broke his ankle after gouging the Miami Dolphins for 40+ yards in the first quarter, but bad days by Jimmy Graham, Andre Ellington, Hakeem Nicks and Ben Roethlisberger had probably sealed my fate before that.* And since Thomas helped me greatly in my keeper league, where I’m hoping to mount a comeback and make the playoffs, I can’t complain too much.
Things have settled into a rhythm now, for good or ill, in the fantasy world, so it seems like the best course for this column is a continuation of last week’s examination of fantasy football through the lens of Kanye West’s “Yeezus” album.
“I’m In It” – Representative Line: “Put my fist in her like a civil rights sign.” The second half of Yeezus follows directly from the last track of its first half, carrying over the spare sounds and minimalist beats that are a constant theme of the album. Here we have Kanye relaying some sexual debauchery, at first with the braggadocio and joy that is common and easily recognizable to regular hip-hop listeners. But there is a sense of emptiness and compulsive behavior behind it all – on the first hook, Kanye proudly announces “I’m in it”; on the second, the line has morphed to “I’m in it and I can’t get out.” Then there is the appropriation of the language of civil rights to describe sexuality, a move perhaps designed to court controversy but also suggesting that even with increased rights and freedoms we can still be at the mercy of our demons, capable of trapping ourselves in a nightmare from which we cannot wake. And now I’ve probably written myself into too dark and serious a place to relate to fantasy football, so for this one I won’t even try, except to say that fantasy football obsessives certainly understand compulsive behavior, the need to know what is happening with all games involving your players (and when you are in as many leagues as I am, that’s pretty much all the games, period) at any time, the itch to check your app or apps even at inappropriate moments, the feeling that you are bound to these things even when they distract from reality, the inability to let it go.
“Blood on the Leaves” — Representative Line: “We could’ve been somebody. . .” Starting off with a sample of Nina Simone’s “Strange Fruit,” “Blood on the Leaves” leaves you feeling instantly off-guard, a little queasy. We initially wonder if Kanye is returning to the politics of Yeezus’ first half, but we soon find that he has instead taken the appropriation of “I’m In It” to a new level. There is a sense of discomfort there, but the quality of the track, rightly or wrongly, ameliorates any offense, and when the brass kicks in it is simultaneously a surprise and a relief, a punch in the gut that offers a way out of the oppressive atmosphere, an opportunity to breathe, to fully take in the bitter regret – “we could’ve been somebody, we could’ve been somebody.” In fantasy football, as in life, it’s important to know when and how to give up, how to let go. It can be easy to really get behind highly drafted players who perform well regularly – no one hates Marshawn Lynch or Drew Brees, even after an aberrant subpar game, but a sense of bitter resignation can set in with other players, the ones we can’t give up on completely but continually disappoint us. We want to believe C.J. Spiller will finally gain some consistency, will break out and stay productive all season, but we know we can’t rely on that – sorry, C.J., we could’ve been somebody, but for now you’re on the bench.
“Guilt Trip” – Representative Line: “If you love me so much then why’d you let me go?” Probably the most non-descript song on Yeezus, “Guilt Trip” is another tale of a relationship gone bad. It’s not a bad song – I don’t really think Yeezus has any bad songs – but it’s certainly not a stand-out. It’s just kind of there, which is probably a smart move after “Blood on the Leaves,” because that track would have probably overwhelmed anything in this spot. There are always a few “just kind of there” performances any given week on a fantasy team – for me this week they were Alfred Morris, Jordan Reed, and Andre Johnson (whose two touchdowns offset his lack of production yards-wise). They weren’t spectacular, but they weren’t busts either, slipping under the radar by performing pretty much just as expected.
“Send It Up” – Representative Line: “Yeezus just rose again”. “Send It Up” is probably the most fun, uncomplicated track on the album. If there’s any message here, it’s to focus on the good memories and not worry about the bad things so much, providing a bit of a counter-point to the recriminations and desolation present on much of the rest of the album. “Send It Up” finds Yeezus emerging a bit from the darkness and enjoying life a little. The ominous feel hasn’t dissipated entirely, but there is the sense that it has abated, leading us to the surprising closing track.
“Bound 2” – Representative Line: “Maybe we could still make it to the church steps/But first, you gon’ remember how to forget.” “Bound 2” finds Kanye dropping the aggressive, minimalist sound that dominates Yeezus in favor of his soulful, College Dropout-era sound. While the music may be a throwback to Kanye’s past, the lyrics are all about leaving the past behind, less from a desire for a new start than from exhaustion, as if everything that has gone before on Yeezus has accumulated and overwhelmed. Kanye’s pitch to his intended is not so much that he will change his ways, or even that she should accept him as it is, but that it is simply too difficult to extricate from each other now. But there is a beauty and sweetness in the entropy, in the inevitable winding down, in resignation.
We can pick at the margins of things, work the waiver wires, try to engineer late-season trades, but sometimes who we are, the make-up of our team, is what it is. We made it, we were there at the draft, no one forced us to waste a high pick on David Wilson. There is a time when we must simply watch it all play out, for better or worse – “After all these long ass verses/I’m tired, you’re tired, Jesus wept.”
* Betting against the Miami Dolphins last weekend was probably the safest bet out there last week, closely followed by putting money on Carolina and betting that the Lions defense would make several hits that were either late or of dubious legality.