Wednesday, August 5, 2009

1993 – A Taste of Success

Before this season began, our league had used a draft system to initially acquire players from the free agent pool. In our fantasy baseball league, we had always auctioned off players. In 1993, everyone in our league was still in high school, none of us had jobs, and we all loved the auction environment; something about being able to own any player you want (as long as you’re willing to pay up) was inspiring. In a draft environment, you have no shot at Thurman Thomas or Sterling Sharpe if you draw poorly in the lottery. Although they take much longer, we decided to do our fantasy football league auction-style. It’s not like any of us had to be at work the next morning or had a wife to check in with!

In spite of my fervent hatred of the 49ers after they embarrassed my Broncos 55-10 in Super Bowl XXIV, I was not to be denied having Steve Young as my QB1. I spent 20% of my draft money on the intrepid Young after his stellar 1992 campaign as San Francisco’s full-time QB. Not only was he a great passer with high football IQ and the great Jerry Rice to throw to, but he was also able to make plays with his scrambling ability. This was the first time I resolved to take a player on a team I hated.

Although John Elway had yet to rise to prominence as a fantasy QB, 1993 was the year he was granted a level of autonomy that had yet to pervade the rest of the NFL. This was the first season Elway was allowed to call his own plays in the huddle from a color-coded wristband he wore during games. Nowadays, you see just about every QB wearing this type of gear. Furthermore, the Broncos declared they would open up the offense and pass more. I must have been the only person privy to this info, because I got Elway late in the auction relatively cheap after most other people bought both their QBs, and couldn’t bid on a third passer.

In 1993, having John Elway and Steve Young as my starting quarterbacks brought the same joy as celebrating Christmas morning every Sunday from September through December. Not only did they both have monster years passing for 4000+ yards each, but these athletically gifted athletes were marvelous to watch! Elway bore a cannon-arm that could heave a pass 70 yards downfield at approximately 70 miles per hour, and Young went on to post a passer rating over 100 while orchestrating the indomitable 49ers West Coast Offense, still a new phenomenon in those days.

Aside from my quarterbacks, I felt like I had made all the right personnel moves. I would pick up marginal players like Broncos Glyn Milburn and Derek Russell off the waiver wire and they would score TDs when I had injuries or my starters were on bye. I remember one game I was playing against a team that started the great tight end Shannon Sharpe when Sharpe caught the ball, ran to the 2-yard line, and fumbled the ball into the end zone. Said fumble was recovered by Derek Russell, whom I started on a whim because I had another wideout on bye. I ended up winning that game by less than five points, so that fumble recovery in the end zone essentially won that week for me. I landed Sterling Sharpe in one of those dreaded 4-for-1 trades including an over-the-hill Herschel Walker (who I upsold as a PPR machine after he had an 11-catch performance one game), Curtis Duncan, a team defense, and some bum I can’t remember. The only reason I acquired Sterling was because my trade partner had to hang up the phone, as I could hear his dad yelling at him after a three-hour telephone conversation, and I wouldn’t let him leave to study for next morning’s vocab quiz until we sealed the deal.

After 1993, I thought I had this fantasy football thing all figured out. Little did I know I wouldn’t win another fantasy football title for ten years, when I would be out of college and a full-fledged member of the working world. That I felt I knew so much more about fantasy football than my competitors, yet underperformed in these subsequent seasons is what led me to conclude that fantasy football success is comprised of 60% luck / 40% skill. You can draft a great team, but if you 1st round pick tears his ACL Week 1, there’s not a lot you can do to replace that level of production.

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