Mums the Word

Gridiron Grace

Sunday, December 4, 2011

My rivals are scheming, looking over their War Boards somewhere beyond the blue mountains, those cold-activated indigo peaks illuminated in the face of my laptop’s glow. Five Coors Light Silver Bullet shell casings lie scattered across my desk, a sixth live round loaded in my hand. I don’t draft sober. It’s fantasy football season, the opiate of those masses who have turned their backs on paradise.

The Java Applet ticks off the final remaining seconds and the draft is afoot. My coworker Katar makes the obvious selection: Adrian Peterson, a vicious Viking halfback and the most consistent performer of the past four years. I would have done the same. Cursing through clenched teeth, I flay the top name on my battle-plan spreadsheet with a slash of black ink. The second pick is Tom Brady, a surprising yet fine choice. A quarterback so early? For pick three, Michael Vick goes, another quarterback, and then another one. My opponents are spooked by the two-quarterback format, and now it’s a run on the bank. I pick Arian Foster seventh overall. Unbelievable; the top performer of 2010 and I own him. My opponents don’t understand the game we are playing. I’m steering an M1 Abrams tank while they’re fixing bayonets.

For my football-illiterate readers, my opponents squabbled over domestic beer while I savored brandy from a snifter.

My rivals must be spooked by Foster’s injury. He damaged his hamstring in the preseason, but I know better. This is the highest-calibre athlete on the crust of the planet; a symphony of speed, agility and power. He might miss a game or two but I know this man’s healing powers are on par with that of The X-Men’s Wolverine, even after he famously shared his MRI on Twitter.

4 those sincerely concerned, I’m doing ok & plan 2 B back by opening day. 4 those worried abt your fantasy team, u ppl are sick

Arian, you are commodity, and commodities don’t talk. Now shut up and run.

The draft rumbles onward and my opponents maintain committed to mediocrity, hucking clumps of mud at each other, scrambling for second- and third-tier quarterbacks while I adorn my roster with diamonds and pearls. Two top-tier running backs; three top-tier wide receivers. It’s a massacre. The coup de grace is Sebastian Janikowski, a career criminal with a trebuchet for a left leg.

The draft is almost over and I still don’t have a quarterback...because I’m not a coward. I’m not saying I don’t need one - I need two - I just refuse to draft out of fear. Victory doesn’t lie at the end of some Yellow Brick Road: risk-taking is essential. The path of least resistance is choked with cars and lined with Walmarts and Ameri-trash chain restaurants like Chili’s. To get anywhere interesting, you have to veer off course, even if you know there are sharks in the water. That takes faith.

My cast of quarterback options is highly suspect. I got Donovan McNabb, an exhausted legend, fat and slow and desperate to prove otherwise. That’s all I can count on. I also chose David Garrard, an undisciplined mess with all of the talent in the world and no aptitude to control it. Both would expire early. Garrard was released prior to Opening Day; I guess the brass tired of watching him panic under pressure, overthrowing receivers and making suicide rushes up the gut. McNabb simply wore his age and drowned in the tide of youth.

I manned my quarterback position with seasoned mercenary veterans and undercooked rookie prospects for the first few games, trading victories and losses evenly. Then, at long last, my final pick in the draft got promoted to starter. Enter Tim Tebow, a dopey Born Again pretty boy from Florida. A legend in college, his attributes include Clydesdale thighs, a wobbly throwing arm and the heart of a lion.

Once Tebow started playing, the Broncos started winning, and so did I. I’ve lost once since his promotion, and my team has clinched a spot in the playoffs with three weeks to go. He’s a polarizing figure, famous for very public displays of affection for his alleged Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ of Nazareth. While I find many Christians irritating, I think it is important to differentiate snake-tongued hypocrites like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson from earnest do-gooders like Bronco #15.

What is there to hate? Faith is admirable for its courage if not for its substance, even for the most craven of atheists. Perhaps it is childish, this man who sincerely believes that the Everlasting Creator of All Matter in the Universe somehow has a vested interest in the National Football League. I’d give it a “maybe.” When Jesus dangled on that cross under His Father’s sky, bleeding from his face, hands and ribs, he had a lot to think about. Pain, certainly, was a consideration, not to mention the task of absorbing the sum punishment of all Mankind’s sins, past, present, and future. Wear his shoes. I know if that were me, pinned up in shame, unable to scratch my nose, my mind would wander. I would prefer to think about football.


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