The Rookie

A couple Sundays ago, I was sitting in a really nice seat, just off the corner of the end zone, at Heinz Field watching the Pittsburgh Steelers come from behind to defeat the once again heart-breaking, fan-frustrating and blood pressure-elevating Detroit Lions.

And it rained.

The entire game.

And I discovered that my rain suit had shed its water repellency, particularly in the forearms and the region in closest contact with the seat.

So did the soppiness I was feeling and the sloppiness I was watching on the field affect my ability to concentrate on the game?

Heck, no. That was gone in the first quarter when I first thought, “I hope Philip Rivers throws a lot of touchdown passes today” and “Peyton Manning better throw the ball to Demaryius Thomas a lot” and “Ray Rice is due for a big, BIG game.”

As all NFL fans know, Philip Rivers, Demaryius Thomas and Ray Rice do not play for the Steelers or Lions.

They play for me.

Welcome to the new world order of football fantasy football where allegiance to one team doesn’t matter, only SportsCenter-worthy performances by individual players.

This is my first season of playing fantasy football, and I only relented and agreed to sign up back in August because my son Brad was putting a league together, had convinced his brother Bryan to join, and was a team or two short of the required number.

That’s when, “C’mon Dad, you can do this … I’ll walk you through it,” started. “It’s easy.”

Easy for them doesn’t translate easy for me.

Brad called one day and said I needed to come up with a team name before the player draft. Luckily, two of my grandchildren were in the car with me that day. “Okay,” I said to six-year-old Leila and four-year-old Ollie, “I need a name for my fantasy football team. Any ideas?”

“Um-mm, how about bluebirds,” said Leila. “I like bluebirds.”

“No … oranges!” Ollie exclaimed.

Not exactly the tough, manly names was I looking for, but, hey, they couldn’t be doing any worse than the Swamp Swimmers.

When draft day rolled around I was working, so I let the computer generate my team. I got some good players Aaron Rodgers and the aforementioned Demaryius Thomas and Ray Rice and some duds. So much for fantasy football being my all-stars against your all-stars.

I’ve discovered through the weekly ritual of shedding an unproductive or unhealthy player and picking up a hopefully-productive player that fantasy football is about hoarding good players on your back-up list (aka bench). You can’t play them and they aren’t earning points for you, but, more importantly, they aren’t earning points against you.

I’ve also discovered that it’s not a good idea to leave an injured player (see Aaron Rodgers) on your active team roster when he’s injured and won’t play. Nor is it a good idea to leave players (see Cincinnati Bengals defense) on your active roster when that team hits its bye week.

When I told my nephew, a fantasy football veteran, that I was a fantasy football rookie, he laughed and assured me, “It’ll change the way you watch football. You’ll watch the crawler (at the bottom of the TV screen) more than you watch the game.”

That’s probably why my attention drifted at Heinz Field: no crawler.

So I’m recommending to the NFL that stadiums put a crawler at the bottom of their gigantic scoreboards, or have it ring the upper deck, because we fantasy football players need to know what’s going on not only on THE field, but on ALL fields.