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Thursday, August 30, 2001
Updated: August 31, 12:45 PM ET
How to win at fantasy
... and annoy people


By Bill Simmons
Page 2 columnist

Here are 25 tips for winning your fantasy football draft ... even if they could potentially cost you some friends in the process:

1. Do your homework
Buy at least two books and magazines ... make lists of the top 30 players at each position ... read the USA Today's football reports every day during camp ... check the Sporting News' comprehensive team reports every week for potential "sleepers" ... devour everything written by ESPN.com's John Clayton, Chris Mortensen, Len Pasquarelli and SI's Peter King ... watch as much exhibition football as possible ... and trust your buddy Sports Guy (I posted my sleepers/players-to-avoid in Thursday's mailbag column).

GET IN THE GAME
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Sure, the previous paragraph makes it seem like you can't have a life and win a fantasy football league, but, well... you can't have a life and win a fantasy football league. Understand this, accept this and act accordingly.

2. The forced hangover
On the night before your draft, drag the other team owners out for a pre-draft drinking binge -- you want everyone as hung-over as possible on Draft Day. If they're puking by midnight, that's a good thing.

Three of my favorite bar tactics:

  • Make sure you keep your buddies upright long enough for a late-night run to a greasy diner before they pass out; that diner food will sit in their stomach for at least 12-18 hours and submarine their Draft Day. They'll be popping Tums like Life Savers by the second round.

    Marshall Faulk
    It's a no-brainer, folks: Running backs like Marshall Faulk win fantasy leagues.
  • Study everyone's drinking tendencies/deficiencies. For instance, let's say that your buddy Murph can't handle Jagermeister shots -- every time he does more than one, he invariably yanks off his shirt, climbs on top of a bar, starts calling himself "Richard Williams" and screams "It's Venus's party, and no one else is invited!" over and over again before getting pummelled by bouncers. How do you handle Murph on the night before Draft Day? Take a guess.

  • If one of your buddies enters the dreaded "beer goggles" stage and starts checking out some dubious-looking females, encourage him to make a move, even if he's asking you "Whaddya think?" about a chick who looks like Tony Siragusa in drag. An especially egregious lapse of judgement will leave him making the Troy Aikman Face for the entire Draft Day.

    3. Malodorous warfare
    After that night of boozing and carousing, show up for the draft without having showered or even having changed your clothes. This only works to your advantage, especially if you reek of stale booze, cigarette smoke and overwhelming B.O. and it's killing everyone else in the room and affecting their picks. Your ultimate goal is to smell like a cross between Shooter from "Hoosiers" and Vlade Divac after a Triple-OT game.

    4. Appearance is everything
    Bring at least five football books and magazines to the draft, even if you haven't read any of them. Just makes you seem more intimidating. Loads of needless website printouts work as well -- just print out 200 pages of Yahoo stats and throw them in a manila folder, just for effect. The more the merrier.

    (It's all about perception. You want the other owners thinking, "Good God, look at this guy! I don't have a chance!")

    5. Introduce porn as early as possible
    Bring at least two porno mags with you. At every draft, there are always one or two guys who become distracted by the porno mags and lose their focus. At least two roto owners will be done for an hour. You might even start a "Hey, I was looking at that!" fight.

    6. Bring beer
    At least a case of something that isn't too extravagant. Every draft has the one guy who decides that it's a good idea to "get back on the horse" with his hangover and ends up throwing down five or six cold ones during the draft, irrevocably killing his own chances in the process.

    (One drawback here: this guy usually doubles as the guy who doesn't pay attention and keeps selecting players who have already been picked. I hate that guy.)

    7. Make sure you have a creative team name
    Very important ... I would even call this one crucial. If you can fit a joke about somebody else's Mom or sister in the team name, do so. Just make sure it's perverted and/or incendiary.

    For instance, I haven't decided on a team name this year, but I think I'm doing something involving my buddy Camper's sister and the word "Lewinsky."

    8. Mindless head games
    Emmitt Smith
    Aging veterans like Emmitt Smith are very risky picks.
    Even on the night before the draft, start playing head games with the other owners and keep playing them until the draft kicks off. For instance, turn to your buddy 20 minutes before the draft and say, "What do you think of Charlie Garner this year? I don't like him in Oakland at all."

    Your buddy will immediately be confused and wonder for the next 10 minutes why you brought Charlie Garner up. Does that mean you don't like him? Or do you really like him and you're just trying to pretend you don't like him?

    (Ahhh... head games!)

    9. Stay cool
    No matter which pick you draw before the draft -- when everyone picks cards or numbers to determine the draft selection -- pretend you drew the pick you wanted:

    If you draw a high number (1, 2 or 3), yell out loud, "All right! All I wanted was to be in the top three!" If you draw a low number (9 or 10), say "Yippee! This is a deep draft! I wanted a low pick! Now I have two of the top 12!" If you draw a middle pick, say confidently, "Right where I wanted to be, in the middle! I hate making two quick picks and then waiting for it to come all the way back for me two rounds later!" Never show any signs of weakness.

    10. Even if porn has already been introduced, introduce it again
    If you're holding the draft at someone's house and the TV is running in the background, wait until your buddy goes to the bathroom and quickly order a three-hour block of the Spice Channel on his TV. Odds are, your buddy won't be upset -- he'll probably even stick a tape in so he can record some of the action. And with porn constantly blaring in the background, at least two owners will be done for the day ... especially if they're married.

    (Sometimes this is too easy.)

    11. Al Bundy warfare
    During the actual draft, keep your hands nestled inside your pants as much as possible ... then, periodically, stick your hand into the big bowl of Doritos or Ruffles and bum everyone else out. The room will be surly and distracted within a matter of minutes.

    Also, try to use other people's pens and pencils. Ask to borrow other people's magazines even if you don't want to read them. And "mistakenly" drink from everyone else's sodas while saying things like, "That's all right, my cold sore went away last week." Remember, it's a psychological game.

    12. Bring up past triumphs
    If you happened to have won the previous year's league, remember to remind everyone else about this fact at least 400-500 times during the draft. You can't emphasize this one enough. Also, refer to yourself in the third person as "The Champ" as much as possible:

  • "When does The Champ get to pick again?"

  • "Does anyone want to get another beer for The Champ?"

  • "With the third pick in the fourth round, The Champ will take Elvis Grbac."

  • "The Champ's getting hungry ... does anyone want to get some food?"

    (This will drive people CRAZY. Just trust me.)

    13. Target the friend with a gambling problem
    Most drafts feature an owner who enjoys gambling a little too much. If that's the case and you're holding the draft on a Saturday or Sunday, always bring along a sports section with lines for that day's football games. Then, whenever, there's a lull before the draft, pull out the paper and say something like, "I can't believe USC's only favored by three. Yo, (friend with the gambling problem), did you see that?"

    Odds are, your buddy was avoiding newspapers all morning ... but his curiosity will get the better of him. Within 10 minutes, he'll take the paper into the bathroom "just for some reading" ... within 20 minutes, you'll find him hiding in the guest room and talking on his cell phone in hushed tones. Never fails. And every time the 10-minute ticker sounds for the rest of the day, this guy's head will fly around like Linda Blair in "The Exorcist."

    14. The sarcastic, self-indulgent smile
    When you announce your picks every round, always remember to smile as if you couldn't believe this guy was still sitting there. Don't ever glance around the room searching for approval ... just smile to yourself, like you're in on some private joke that nobody else knows about.

    (Remember how Andy Dufresne looked during the scene in "Shawshank" when they're sitting on the roof and everyone's drinking his beer? That's how you should look.)

    15. Peer Pressure always works
    There's always someone at every draft who takes way too long to make every pick. Your task is to identify this person immediately and start badgering him from Round One on -- just a constant barrage of little digs. Invariably he'll get flustered and make a panic pick.

    Some of my favorite pick-prodder-along-ers:

  • "Can we hurry this along? I have to go to work in 16 hours."

  • "Instead of taking another 10 minutes to make this pick, could you just shoot me in the head?"

  • "Uh-oh, guess who's up again? Guys I'm going down to my health club to get a quick workout in between picks."

    (And the old standby...)

  • "Come on, hurry up, your sister's waiting for me to come home."

    16. Bodily functions
    Sorry to get gross here, but belching and flatuence isn't just suggested, it's mandatory. Anything that will draw attention to you and offend everyone else in the room ... well, it's a good thing.

    17. Avoid the phone at all costs
    Jake Plummer
    If someone takes Jake Plummer in the early rounds, make sure to mock them accordingly.
    It's a little-known fantasy football rule that no draft can have everyone in the league in attendance at the same time -- hence, you always have The Guy Who Calls In By Phone, a k a the turd in the punch bowl at any draft. This guy recently moved away, he got stuck home with the baby, his company scheduled him for a last-minute business trip ... it's always something and he's always killing you, year after year.

    Since he's on the phone for 3-4 hours, somebody has to talk to him, right? So the phone gets passed around like a gun in a Russian Roulette game, as people take turns letting The Guy know who has been picked, who's on the clock and who's left.

    Here's my point: avoid the phone until the later rounds. Once you're on the phone, you invariably start shooting the Alexei Zhitnik with your buddy, you lose focus and suddenly somebody's telling you, "Hey, you're on the clock." Boom! Now you're unprepared, you're totally flustered, you're frantically sifting through your lists ... basically, you're a disaster waiting to happen.

    And these are the precise moments when people say things like "I'll go with Vinny Testaverde."

    18. Don't praise anyone else's picks
    If someone else grabs a player you were looking at right before you, never say something like, "That was my next pick! Dammit!" or "I was gonna take him!" Makes you look weak and incompetent.

    (The "Gosh darn it!" routine is something Pete Carroll would have done in the Pats' War Room a few years ago. Don't forget this. Not for a second.)

    19. Keep up the draft heckling
    Heckling everyone else's picks isn't just suggested, it's mandatory. Two or three times per round, make sure you let out some sarcastic cackles after someone makes a selection, just because. And drop in an occasional one-liner from time to time to ruin everyone's confidence. For instance ...

  • If someone takes Jake Plummer in the second round: "Are we in the sixth round? I think I just blacked out."

  • If someone takes LaDainian Tomlinson: "Too bad you can't draft him an offensive line."

  • If someone takes J.R. Redmond: "Will you get to count his CFL stats as well?"

  • If someone drafts Tyrone Wheatley: "It's always good to have an actual backup as one of your backups."

  • If someone takes Jamal Anderson: "Hey, the first guy with a limp has been taken!"

  • If someone takes Morten Andersen: "Is he still in the league?"

  • If someone drafts David Boston: "Well, at least Arizona's No. 1 wideout is still available."

  • If someone takes Kordell Stewart: "In other words, 'Pass.' "

  • If someone takes Terrell Davis: "Bring in the Gimp!"

    20. Plant the Pizza Bug
    Right around Round Six, randomly yell out, "When are we ordering pizza?" At least two hung-over, hungry roto owners will just start thinking "Pizza ... pizza ... pizza" over and over again for the next half-hour and become complete non-factors.

    (This doesn't sound that important, but I'm telling you ... don't underestimate the force of the Pizza Bug. Hunger affects a hung-over person in strange ways.)

    21. Target the Whipped Guy
    There's always one guy at every roto draft who is completely, utterly whipped by his girlfriend/spouse ... and it's usually someone who was a "Guy's Guy" before he met the girlfriend and she ruined his life. Just make sure you ride him intermittently throughout the draft with little barbs like "Did your girlfriend make that pick for you?" or "I thought you were coming out last night ... but then I remembered you died two years ago."

    My personal favorite: "Should we have a break after Round Six so (the whipped guy) can call (the whipped guy's girlfriend/spouse)? I think his electronic tracking bracelet is going off ..."

    Your buddy will be flustered for the whole day. And he probably deserves it.

    22. Encourage the sentimental pick
    As the draft rolls along into the last few rounds, that's always when your buddies can be persuaded to select players from their favorite teams.

    For instance, my buddy Stoner is a huge Tampa Bay Bucs fan. Every year, right around the eighth round, I'll start throwing out questions like "How is Mike Alstott still on the board?" I might even imitate WWF announcer Jim Ross and start screaming, "Wait a second! What's that? Good God! That ... that's Martin Gramatica's music!"

    And it always works. Stoner always grabs at least a couple Bucs every year. Never fails.

    (Note: this actually was played on me to perfection last season, when it appeared as if Tony Simmons might become the No. 2 receiver on the Patriots. Given that he has my last name and he plays for my favorite team, my buddies started floating those "Come on, you gotta take him!" vibes and I caved. One of my all-time roto nadirs -- I actually selected Tony Simmons in a roto draft that wasn't for World League players. See, even the greatest roto minds can slip occasionally.)

    23. The Albatross
    If somebody misfires in the early rounds with a shaky pick, keep reminding them of that mistake for the rest of the draft. Eventually it will haunt them, and they'll start making quick picks just to finish the draft as fast as possible.

    For instance, two years ago in my draft, my buddy Wiker took Bubby Brister in the fourth round. Bubby Brister! We gave him so much abuse that Wiker lost the will to live around the ninth round ... eventually we found him hanging from a belt in the shower like David Keith at the end of "Officer and a Gentleman."

    Hey, at least we got his entry fee first.

    24. Remember why you're here
    While you're doing your draft sabotaging, remember that you actually have to pick a good team, too. Follow these quick guidelines:

  • Don't worry about defenses, kickers and tight ends because they never win fantasy leagues. Running backs and QBs win fantasy leagues. Don't forget this.

    LaDainian Tomlinson
    One rookie running back breaks out every year, and San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson is a good candidate for this season.
  • Grab at least one quality RB in the first two rounds. As Joe Theismann once said, "Great players make great plays" ... and quality running backs win quality roto leagues. You need at least two good backs to even think about being in the hunt.

  • Examine the rookie running backs, determine which one will have a breakout season and act accordingly. Rookie RBs are the best value on the board -- everyone's afraid of them, yet every season, one of them rushes for 1,200-plus yards and 10-plus TD's (this year's candidates are Michael Bennett and LaDainian Tomlinson). Think I'm kidding? Look up the past six seasons: Jamal Lewis (2000), Edgerrin James (1999), Fred Taylor (1998), Corey Dillon (1997), Eddie George (1996), Curtis Martin and Terrell Davis (1995). This isn't rocket science.

  • Don't worry about landing quality receivers early on because there are always a ton of them, and they all end up with the same stats -- something in the "1000 yards, 70 catches, 7 TDs" range. Plus, you can always find a few late-round WR's that pan out, like Joe Horn and Sly Morris last season, or Brandon Stokley and Snoop Minnis this year (hint).

  • Once the second-tier QBs start getting snapped up, examine your list of QB's, remove the best two names remaining and ask yourself one question: "Could I live with anyone else on this list?" If not, take one with your next pick. There's nothing worse than being saddled with a crappy QB like Kordell Stewart or Jay Fiedler for an entire season -- it's like driving a four-cylinder car.

  • Stay away from the old guys. Guys like Emmitt Smith, Shannon Sharpe or Rich Gannon will be puttering along this season and suddenly break down like the BluesBrothers Mobile ... only it will happen when they're on your roster. You never want to have someone in their "I lost it" year.

  • Don't choose someone from your favorite team unless a.) it's absolutely warranted and b.) he's a second-tier player. You don't want to double the agony if you're a Bengals fan and Corey Dillon's right knee does a 360 in Week 3.

    25. Don't ease up after the draft ends
    At the conclusion of your draft, strut around the room confidentally muttering to yourself, "I love my team. I love my team." Even if you hate your team and you feel like shooting yourself, don't let this on to the other guys. And make sure you go over everyone else's team while snickering and making comments like, "Fred Taylor should be good for about three games ... until that hammy starts acting up again ..."

    Also, during the week following the draft, send out as many e-mails as possible to the other owners with subject headings like "FROM THE 2001 CHAMP" or "WHEN DO I GET MY 1ST-PLACE PRIZE MONEY?" and load the emails with insults about everyone else's team. Comes with the territory.

    Remember, if you're going to become a champion, you need to start acting like one. As Martin Kove told Billy Zabka in The Karate Kid, "No mercy ... no mercy ... no mercy ..."

    Bill Simmons writes three columns a week for Page 2.