Consumed by a bizarre fantasy life

09/08/2011 12:00 AM

03/13/2012 10:37 AM

Remember when LaGarrette Blount, then an Oregon running back, threw that punch at Boise State's Byron Hout after the Broncos had upended the Ducks in their 2009 season opener?

What a cheap shot. What a punk. Boy, that guy Blount — who does he think he is?

I was happy he got suspended. I didn't care if he ever played another down of football.

Well, uh, guess who one of my favorite players is now, barely more than two years later?

Yeah, it's, um, LaGarrette Blount, running back for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Not because I'm a decent person and have forgiven Blount. No, nothing like that.

Blount is a running back on my fantasy football team. I picked him last week without hesitation or remorse because I think he's going to score a bunch of touchdowns and gain a bunch of yards.

I threw character out the window — his and mine — for a chance to score big against my fantasy football opponents, whom I dislike now more than I ever disliked Blount.

LaGarrette and me, we've bonded. That punch he threw is so two years ago. The guy is a beast, capable of wrecking defenses. And this season, I've read, Tampa Bay intends to get Blount more carries and to make him a more active receiver out of the backfield for quarterback Josh Freeman, another of my fantasy league guys, albeit a backup.

My fantasy team is an 18-point favorite Sunday. My favorite team, the St. Louis Rams... I'm not sure what they are against the... who do they play again? Oh yeah, Philadelphia. Should be a wing-dinger and I'm sure I'll watch.

But only with one eye. My other eye will be on my fantasy team because, yes, I'm that guy.

I didn't used to be. There was a day when I wouldn't have walked across the street to draft an NFL fantasy team.

Now, though, I'm probably as hooked as most. I spend Sundays paying as much attention to the fantasy crawl at the bottom of the television screen as I do to the game showing on the rest of the set.

I have a phone app dedicated to fantasy football. I have already made four roster moves and the season hasn't even started.

I am Fantasy Football Guy. And it doesn't make me proud.

I want to win, although when I stop to really think about it, what is it that I'm really winning? Ours isn't a cash league because I'm not a law breaker. Or because I'm cheap, one of the two.

Pretty much all that is on the line in our league is pride, and I lost most of what I had of that years ago.

It's competition, fabricated as it is.

It's my players against yours on any given Sunday. It's about matchups and injuries and reserves. Fantasy football has forced me to pay much closer attention to the NFL than I ever did before. I was a good NFL fan before I played my first fantasy game; now I'm up early on Sundays poring over my roster and throwing down black coffee one pot after another.

My wife loves football, too, which I suppose is why she tolerates my obsessive behavior. During our draft, she suggested that I pick Oakland kicker Sebastian Janikowski in the late rounds. Mind you, we're talking about a kicker.

I cut her off before she could even get the name out of her mouth, telling her that I couldn't go with Janikowski. Being Fantasy Football Guy, I had someone better in mind. I chose Garrett Hartley of the New Orleans Saints, who I have since dropped in favor of New England's Adam Vinatieri. As you can tell, I'm really scrambling to find a kicker.

This is my third season of fantasy football. I had the league's top-scoring team in 2009, but lost in the second round of the playoffs. I didn't make the playoffs last year and vowed during the offseason to make changes. OK, changes are inevitable in fantasy football. Still, I view myself as a proactive and informed general manager.

I scour the player lists looking for a sleeper or two. This season, I'm taking a gamble on St. Louis rookie tight end Lance Kendricks, who had a big preseason. He's one of three tight ends on my roster, which is too many. But I have a hunch on this kid.

Matt Schaub of Houston is my starting quarterback. Andre Johnson, Schaub's favorite receiver, is now mine, too, because he's on my team. I love Detroit wide receiver Calvin Johnson, one of mine. My other running back is Cleveland's Peyton Hillis and I also have Arizona's Beanie Wells in the backfield.

I love this team. But if you're a fantasy owner, you love your team, too. We're all 0-0. We're all feeling good.

By Monday night, half of our teams will have lost a game. And half will have wins. I plan to be among that half that is celebrating being 1-0.

If I'm not, changes are going to be made.

About Bob Lutz

Bob Lutz has been The Eagle's sports columnist since 1996. A native of Derby, he has worked for the newspaper since 1974 and covered a variety of beats, from high schools to Wichita State to pro sports. If you want to get in good with him, mention the St. Louis Cardinals. Provided they're winning, of course.

Contact Bob at 316-268-6597 or blutz@wichitaeagle.com

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