Anyone can go to Yahoo! and sign up to play Fantasy Football in a public league. But this year, after talking football faithfully with a group of guys for six years, I was finally invited into their elite, private Fantasy Football league.
"Look, honey!" I told my husband when I got the news. "I am the proud new owner of the San Diego Thunder!"
"Star Tram Football League?" John read my computer screen frowning.
"Um, they're kind of Trek fans, but they didn't want Paramount to sue."
"Sweetheart," John put a hand on my shoulder and looked at me seriously. "Are these guys geeks?"
"No! Well, sort of." I turned back to the screen and looked at the Thunder's hall of fame. So many banners from past honors! Would I, the first female owner in the league, be able to contribute to the Thunder's proud heritage?
John was frowning again. "Your team sucks, sweetie. How did you get this again?"
"They haven't heard from Bob since the middle of last season. They think he's dead, so the team goes to me."
"Was Bob the one who choked to death on a Brent Spiner action figure?"
I sighed. "I think it was a Squire of Gothos doll."
"Well, did they at least get it out of his mouth okay? Some of those things are worth money."
All season long, I hand-picked my lineup, snagged free agents to shore up my offense, kept a close eye on injuries, and selected strategies that complemented the strengths of my team stars. I was doing pretty well, considering that there was a time when I couldn't figure out how each team gets four downs to make one down.
(Spock: "Mathematically, Captain, that is impossible."
Kirk: "Are you ready for some footba-a-all!" *crushes beer can against forehead, eats entire pizza in one sitting, bursts girdle, perms hair, then passes out*
But more importantly still, I talked enormous amounts of smack.
While other teams released official sounding press releases, my team's sound bites went more like this: "San Diego Guardian newspaper quoted Alexandra Queen, owner of the Thunder, about her thoughts for this upcoming game with Yakima: 'Just because Shockwave averages 15 more points a game than I do doesn't mean we aren't gonna trounce em this week! Thunder's bringing the cheerleaders out on the field to play -- and those girls haven't had carbs all season long. They're meeeean!'"
I also made sure my fans got their share of the spotlight. In the proud tradition of the Redskin's Hoggettes, I dubbed my fan base the "San Diego Thunder Thighs". There is only one group of fans in our fantasy league that were feared more this year, and those were the season ticket holders of the Roswell 51'ers. While a group of large men in dresses is always a little intimidating, nothing strikes fear into your heart like a beered-up batch of fans waving about strange versions of the foam "We're #1" fingers that they refer to only as "probes".
Yes, at the end of the season, through some good moves on my part and some bad luck on behalf of my competition, I had secured a playoff berth as Division Champion.
Then, the week before our fantasy league playoffs, Thunder quarterback Marc Bulger's shoulder blew out.
"Who's your backup?" my husband asked when he found out the cause of my bloodcurdling shriek.
"Maddox!" I wailed. For those of you who haven't been following the (real) Pittsburgh Steelers this year, Maddox was their quarterback at the front of the season. Then he got injured, leaving the Steelers with a rookie to take his place. Ben "Oh my gosh, he's amazing" Roethlisberger. Maddox hasn't exactly been sold to Alpo as dog food yet, but for my Fantasy Football team's purposes, Maddox may just as well put on a dress and pass out cold beers to the Thunder Thighs sitting in my fantasy executive boxes.
So there I was, one week before my first playoff game against the San Francisco Rage and neither one of my quarterbacks were going to be anywhere near a football. I checked the league roster. No one had signed Chandler, the (real) back-up for Bulger. Saved! With Bulger out, Chandler would be guaranteed some time with the football, and the (real) Rams were doing fairly well this year. I could still make a decent showing in the playoffs.
With what remained of my salary cap, I put in a bid to pick up Chandler for the San Diego Thunder.
Alas, the San Francisco Rage owner had also been doing the math, and the rotten lout outbid me for Chandler. I played against them with no quarterback, and with Chandler moping, unused, on the Rage sidelines. My hopes for the STFL Toilet Bowl Championship were flushed down the drain.
"Didn't you bid on someone else, just in case?" my husband asked me after the screaming had stopped.
"No," I sniffled.
"Rookie," he sighed.
I brightened a little. "Ben Roethlisberger-like rookie?"
Oh, well. Any Andromeda fans up for a rousing season of fantasy slamball?
Comments and armchair coach tips to Alex.Queen@gmail.com.
This article first appeared in the December 18, 2004 issue of the Manteca (Calif.) Bulletin.