Average Pro: A dream becomes fantasy and then becomes reality

After claiming the top prize in my fantasy football league, I purchased my own trophy to proudly display my achievement. - Mike Baldwin/staff photo
After claiming the top prize in my fantasy football league, I purchased my own trophy to proudly display my achievement.
— image credit: Mike Baldwin/staff photo

I know how Matt Hasselbeck feels, playing injured.

That’s the nature of football, it is a game of pain management. Which makes it a lot like fantasy football.

As my team trailed on Monday Night Football, the last game of the week, I gripped my chest, the burning was coming on strong. Maybe I shouldn’t have eaten that last buffalo chicken wing. It was too late now. It was go time. No regrets. Leave it all on the field. Or in my case, couch.

Fantasy football is not for the faint of heart.

It’s a grueling voyage spanning four months of drafts, trades and sometimes miracles. I’ve seen it all, been participating in the NFL statistics gauntlet since 2006, four long seasons of acid reflux, stubbed toes on the end table, spilled soda on fresh white T-shirts. I’ve seen it all. Call me a gladiator or warrior, either way, the pain and stains are worth it. Nothing compares to the thrill of winning a fantasy football championship.

And this season, despite the naysayers in the media and my little brother’s friend, Garrett, I prevailed to win the United Fantasy Football League 2010 championship. I even bought myself a trophy to commemorate the victory for future generations.

My story started the warm evening of Sep. 6, a week prior to the regular season. Having 90 seconds to select a player in 16 rounds of a snake draft, my anxiety was rampant with worries of a season-opening knee injury or criminal prosecution of one of my stars.

Tom Brady, Ray Rice, Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and the Steelers defense/special teams were among my best choices for my team, the Dream Machine. The 10-team league was full of owners who were complete strangers, laughing when I drafted Brady. Let’s see who laughs last.

The year started with a 2-4 record, and I panicked. I never won a fantasy football title before and it seemed as if the losing streak would continue. But when the going gets tough, the tough go to 7-Eleven for a cherry Slurpee.

Channel-ling my inner Pete Carroll, the little voice in my head, I led the league with 95 transactions, all coming from the waiver wire, which is a collection of available free agents where tomorrow’s heroes are today’s steal. Sure, I was offered a trade or two, but these offers were met with suspicion. I worried my opponent knew something that I didn’t. I’m sure this led to some disappointment for the rest of the league, but there was no two-thirds majority to stop it.

After I picked up New England’s BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Tennessee’s Kenny Britt and Denver’s Tim Tebow on the wire, I was flying high with a playoff spot clinched. The Dream Machine finished the regular season with an 8-5 record, but the winner’s championship bracket was a fresh start.

I won the semi-finals matchup, 189-175, with the help of Brady and Rice, whose teams each had playoff implications of their own. For the championship, I gambled by starting Tebow over Brady in Week 17.

My brave roster change was rewarded with fantasy glory. I won my league after beating the opponent, 220-140. On that same day, my favorite NFL team, the Seattle Seahawks, won the NFC West title with a win against the St. Louis Rams.

In a world of daily stress, bills and traffic jams, a person needs to keep things in perspective, the things that matter, like fantasy football. Some might think it’s a waste of energy, a juvenile pastime. Those people are wrong and jealous. The title symbolized a season full of hard work and dedication, which is why I bought my own trophy in the shape of a golden monster. I keep it on my mantle and polish it when needed.

I don’t think I’ll ever win another fantasy football crown, at least not like this, so I’m taking this moment to announce my retirement. I’m a little like Barry Sanders, when you think about it. Now it’s time to step aside and let somebody else have a crack at the glory.

This isn’t to say I won’t entertain offers to come out of retirement. In this sense, I’m a lot like Brett Favre, the non-creepy, above-the-waist Brett Favre from the Wrangler commercials.

Because, in the end, it’s not just a game. It’s fantasy football.

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