By Bill Simmons
Page 2 columnist

Editor's Note: This column appears in the Dec.23 edition of ESPN The Magazine.

Nobody makes better fantasy trades than your good buddy the Sports Guy. I'm a modern-day Red Auerbach. My friends vacillate between despising me, cursing my good fortune and appreciating the chance just to play in the same league as me. Best of all, I'm humble as hell.

And now I'm selling my secrets. Without further ado, 10 tips for orchestrating a one-sided fantasy trade:

Michael Vick
Trading Michael Vick? You've obviously fallen for the Sports Guy's tricks.

1. Make your splash early. Someone always drafts a blue-chipper, watches him stumble out of the gate, then pulls a Pitino and decides, "I gotta dump this lemon while he still has value." Giddyup! On the flip side, you own a marginal player who starts scorching-hot, but you know he'll pull a Deion Branch. Dump him before he cools off. It's a marathon, people, not a sprint.

2. Target anyone who utters the magical phrase, "I want to shake up my team." Translation: Pillage me. In fact, don't wait for the words. Find out through the grapevine who's unhappy, call him and say, "I'm not happy with my team, I feel like shaking things up." When he replies, "Really? Me too!", you're in.

3. Honesty is the best policy. Earlier this year, I told my buddy Jim: "The Falcons are my ESPN.com sleeper. I love Mike Vick ... what will it take to get him?" Jim replied, "Make me an offer, I feel like shaking up my team." I got off the phone and did a backflip.

4. Focus on the guys who turn irrational when offered anyone from their real-life favorite team. Like my buddy Stoner, a huge Bucs fan-you can offer him Alstott and Dilger for McAllister and he'll say, "Hmmm ... intriguing!" These owners can be bamboozled if they aren't in love with their Roto team.

5. Drag your buddy to play pool or watch a game, throw back a few, casually start to discuss your league, then give him the old wouldn't-it-be-fun-to-make-a-trade-tonight routine. Little does he know, you worked out 20 potential scenarios earlier in the day.

6. Don't make a trade that's too one-sided, if only because the victim will never trade with you again. Bleed 'em, don't kill 'em. (Don't you love Roto talk?)

7. Find some team with a gaping hole, then torment them relentlessly until they break. I'm doing this as we speak with my pals Joe and Anthony -- I have depth at center, they have Todd MacCulloch; he's such a stiff the Sixers drive him to games in a hearse. I e-mail them MacCulloch's stat line whenever he stinks up the joint ... which is almost every night. Eventually, they'll snap and swap me Jefferson for Vlade. I can feel it.

Hearse
Mr. MacCulloch, your car is here.

8. Speaking of Joe and Anthony, if you're swinging a trade with partners, never approach them separately. Get them together so they feel like they have equal say in the deal. They're already sensitive about the fact that they weren't man enough to field their own teams.

9. Think megadeal, even when you're "allegedly" talking smaller numbers. Draw out the negotiating, then off-handedly say, "Screw it, we're both unhappy with our team, let's expand this baby to 10 players!" Of course, you have the exact dynamics in mind. Your buddy, meanwhile, is too busy thinking, "Cool, a 10-player trade!" and loses all perspective.

10. Badger your buddies during their work day. It's the best time to swindle someone. Either they'll make a snap decision (they don't have tons of time, so they'll agree to anything), or they're so bored, they'll jump at something more interesting to think about. ("Hey, at least I did one productive thing at work today!")

Oh, I forgot one. If you do manage to pull a swindle, wait for the perfect time to taunt the sucker about it. For one thing, you don't want to jinx the trade, even if it already looks good. Plus, the silence alone can be deafening. For instance, after Week 3, Jim and I swung an 11-player trade that got me Vick in the midst of his "MJ in '84/Tiger in '97" breakout season. Now it's killing poor Jim. I know it is. And I've stayed quiet for weeks. And weeks. And weeks.

Until NOW!

Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine.




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