Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Reality Football

(Editor's note: Although the author began this article on Tuesday night and had previously been able to write while watching sporting events, he has learned that writing during a September pennant race is next to impossible. Since the words "Brewers" and "pennant chase" have not appeared in a sentence for the past 25 seasons, we have decided to give the writer a pass on the disjointed article that follows:)

I yanked the zipper off of my khaki pants at work on Friday.

I'm not reporting this because I'm proud of removing my zipper. Actually, it's rather embarrassing when you have to let your co-workers know that you are currently unable to close up your fly. Safety pins wouldn't do the trick, and to be honest--I wasn't all that comfortable having pins in my nether regions anyhow. But I'm not trying to brag about my zipper yanking strength, and I'm not going to stoop for the easy boyish joke of having too much girth in my trousers (although...)

No, the only reason I'm sharing this embarrassing moment with you is because I had to take a drive home to retrieve another pair of khaki pants in the middle of the work day. (And since khakis are the official uniform bottoms of a Miller Park concierge, I have three pairs in the old closet.) And during that drive, I happened to catch a little of the Jim Rome show.

Now, I'll admit; there was a time when I was a pretty big fan of Jim Rome. I'll never forget when he called Jim Everett "Chris" (you know, like the tennis player), and Everett went over the table and tackled him. Ironically, Rome called Everett "Chris" because he said he was afraid to take a hit. Apparently, he wasn't afraid to give one to a smarmy sports host.

But like so many of the sports personalities of the past couple decades, once Rome became larger than the sports he was discussing--I seemed to completely lose interest in him. It happened with Madden too. I used to love to grab the remote and turn on his selection show of the All-Madden team. Now I find myself grabbing the remote to press mute just about any time he opens his mouth. Likewise, I used to think Dick Vitale brought excitement to college basketball. Now I just think he yells a lot. And Chris Berman used to give funny nicknames. Now I just think Chris Berman looks funny.

Who knows--maybe I've just grown cynical since my college years. But far too many of these sports personalities remind me of the movie Jerry MaGuire--You know, because you start out thinking that you're watching this good sports movie about an agent and his star player. You like Rod Tidwell. You even celebrate the moment he makes the winning catch against Dallas, and you laugh as he does his elaborate touchdown dance. But by the time the movie ends...it suddenly dawns on you that what you were watching may not have had that much to do with sports after all...And you feel a little foolish when it's over, just about the time you realize that Jerry had her at hello. That's how it is with me and Rome--he just seems to have crossed over the line between sports and fluffy entertainment.

Regardless, on Friday afternoon I did tune in to Jim Rome (silently praying I wouldn't have to hear him yell "rack 'em" ) and listened to a fascinating interview with Redskins tight end, Chris Cooley. (Which is the point of this whole story in the first place.) I was just about to change the channel when suddenly Cooley said something that greatly concerned me...he said, "Yeah, I play fantasy football. I have since high school."

Time out. Now, I love fantasy football. Love it. I mean, I love it like O.J. loves collectibles. It's a serious problem for me. And my wife often misses me on Sunday afternoons because I'm lost in the world of fantasy stats where I'm often found yelling at my computer to throw the damn ball to Anquan Boldin. And I even think it's cool that Ben Sheets runs a fantasy league in the Brewers clubhouse every year. (Perhaps he should spend less time running the league and more time finding ways to stay healthy, but that's another story...). But when an NFL player admits that he too plays fantasy football...well, perhaps this whole thing has gotten a bit out of hand.

Of course, it's also pretty cool (forgive me) that Cooley still participates in a league with his high school friends. It's refreshing to know that stardom hasn't changed him. After all, he admitted that he never really thought the NFL was a possibility until his senior year at Utah State.

And Cooley confessed to Rome that he never gets the chance to draft himself because others in his league rate him higher than he does. Imagine what that must be like on draft day:

Token Friend: "Yeah, uhm...with the 4th pick in the 7th round I choose...him."

Cooley: "Me?"

TF: "Yeah. I need a tight end. So I picked you."

Cooley: "Dude. That's way too high for me."

TF: "Just make sure you catch the ball. All right? I'm counting on you."

Cooley: "Whatever, man. I'm just saying--it's a reach. Especially with Heap and Watson still on the board."

It has to be awkward. And what happens when Cooley plays himself on a given week? If it's Monday Night Football and he has nobody left to play, while holding just a slight lead...well, maybe he's not getting open quite so easily.

Impossible, you say.

Oh really?

How many times have die-hard Packers fans (not naming any names) caught themselves not minding all that much when a TD pass is scored against the Pack because Roy Williams or L.J. Smith was on the receiving end? Be honest. It happens to the best of us.

After all, the Redskins are usually well out of playoff contention by the time Cooley's fantasy bowl rolls around. So you just never know.

So that's why I've decided not to draft or trade for Chris Cooley ever again until he drafts or trades for himself first. Because if HE's not grabbing the fantasy version of himself...what's that say in reality?
Since it's taken me over three days to complete this article--I have to link you to Simmons ESPN blog on Friday Night Lights. Like Simmons, I too enjoyed the hell out of FNL last year. But I didn't wait until after the season to watch it on DVD. I was right there with Riggins, Street and Crash from the opening week until the season ended. Every week I kept calling it "the soap opera disguised as a sports show," but yet every week I was right there on the couch hoping that Matt would win the Coach's approval. And if I gave Sonia the option to watch either Heroes or FNL from the saved programs on our DVR, she always chose FNL.

I had no idea that FNL was in jeopardy of being cancelled, so I'm joining in on Simmons' plea to save the show:


I don't know if I agree with him that it's the best Sport show ever. I always really liked those Scooby Doo episodes when the Globetrotters helped out.

Now that, my friends, was real.


Clint Barton said...

Great post, Tom.

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