Commentary

I have become that Fantasy Guy

Updated: November 4, 2010, 5:10 PM ET
By Rick Reilly | ESPN.com

Ferrara & O'Connell & Reilly Getty Images/ESPNWhat do Jerry "Turtle" Ferrara, Rick Reilly and former Bachelor Charlie O'Connell have in common? A fantasy football league, of course.

You could always spot them, the addicts. The Frisbee-eyed fools leaping off their bar stools over a missed FG in the first quarter of a game 3,000 miles away.

The sickies checking WebMD on their iPhones to see how long turf toe takes to heal.

The incurables watching two hours of Sunday-morning Weather Channel before picking a kicker.

They're fantasy football freaks, and I always figured the "fantasy" referred to their sex lives.

But this season, I was talked into joining a Hollywood league with Season 7 "Bachelor" Charlie O'Connell, actor Jerry Ferrara (Turtle from "Entourage"), movie critic Ben Lyons, and a bunch of stand-up comedians and movie and TV producers.

What did I find out? They weren't getting any, either. But only because they were too busy working the waiver wires all Saturday night.

The very first week, I found out why fantasy players morph into fantasy freaks. If you don't go in up to your hairline, you get scalped. It's serious.

"I once broke up with a girl because she told me to start Ahman Green," says Ferrara, 30. "He had minus-3 points. I said I needed space. She asked if I was still mad about the fantasy football thing. I swore I wasn't. But I dropped Ahman Green the next day."

It's sad, really. Because the girls these guys get would make a mohel botch a bris.

"I've had opportunities for sex on Sunday mornings that have been waaaaay too close to game time," says actor Max Greenfield ("No Ordinary Family," "Ugly Betty," "Veronica Mars," et al). "I've had, you know, difficulty focusing."

Lyons' girlfriend woke up last weekend only to find him feverishly scouring the waiver wire. "She wanted to watch," Lyons says. "After about 90 seconds, she got out of bed and said, 'Wow, that was really boring.' So no morning sex for me, but I did pick up [Bills receiver] Steven Johnson, which I'm really excited about."

Still, the defending champion of our league -- Todd Milliner (co-producer, "Hot in Cleveland") -- has never passed up sex with a girl to concentrate on fantasy. He's gay.

"Do you have any idea how many brunches I miss for fantasy?" he laments.

Milliner has got to be one of the best fantasy football owners in the country -- gay or straight. He went undefeated last season, 15-0. He's so obsessed, he doesn't do Thanksgiving dinner. He doesn't do fall holidays, period.

"I spoiled the Halloween of every kid who came to my door this year because I couldn't answer it. I had to be ready at all times to know whether Mewelde Moore got a TD or not. And I don't even HAVE Mewelde Moore."

Into this craziness stepped little naive me, vowing, "I'm just going to do this for laughs. I refuse to become obsessed."

As if.

The draft was at a Sunset Boulevard joint called Happy Endings. All these comedians and actors and yet nobody said a single funny thing all night. They were nose-down into their stacks of spread sheets and laptops. They were on phones to consultants. They had calculators out.

I stood there with my one crappy printout from Rotoworld.

The very first week, I found out why fantasy players morph into fantasy freaks. If you don't go in up to your hairline, you get scalped. It's serious. Guys were adding and dropping like incoming Harvard freshmen. Mauling the waiver wire. Gypsy trading.

They were proving my exact point about fantasy -- it ruins the games. Your childhood team lost? Your favorite player won? Who cares? You don't own them!

"I'm at a bar, and there's a crowd of people all cheering for their team, bound by the common love of their squad," says one of our owners, comedian Kevin Christy. "And I'm freaking out because Nick Folk just hit an 18-yard field goal in the middle of the first quarter in a losing effort against who gives a s---. I've become a sports bar non sequitur."

And then I found myself doing worse, like bugging reporter buddies for Reggie Bush injury updates. Like rooting for an Indiana tornado when Monday night came and I had nobody left on my roster. Like yelling insane things at the TV.

"Honey, why are you cheering for No. 80 but against No. 88?" said my confused wife, the lovely Cynthia. "Aren't they on the same team?"

It's a kind of sweet misery only fantasy freaks like me can understand.

"I'm most embarrassed about rooting for guys to have a six-week groin injury," says one of my opponents, realtor to the stars Jon Bronson. "And watching my phone too much. I think I was staring at my iPhone when my kid took her first step."

But the more I got to know these guys, the more I saw why they did it.

Most of us don't go to an office. Our Guy Time Meter hovers near zero sometimes. I love my wife, but she doesn't want to kick paper field goals or ask if I got my haircut at the Oakland airport. Guys show love by giving each other crap. It's just how we do it.

What are we gonna do, compliment each other's shirts and then make clam dip?

Nothing presents more chances to taunt than fantasy football. It's daily for me now with these guys, hourly sometimes. And it's more fun than a fistful of pardons.

"It's the camaraderie of the guys," says Ferrara of his fantasy entourage. "It allows you to kinda be kids again. It's like we're all back playing Wiffle Ball in the yard. Man, I'm getting kinda teary just thinking this stuff."

That comes from Ferrara's heart. It has to. He's 1-7.


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Columnist, ESPN.com