A different kind of hate
If this were a show and not a column, you would be able to see it.
But it's not, so you can't.
See the eye roll, I mean. The slumping of my shoulders, the heavy sigh, the "dammit," I muttered under my breath.
"@DeAngeloRB Dear upset fantasy owners with the bad language you are a fantasy owner for a reason because you can't play or apparently fantasy coach!"
As of this writing, it had been re-tweeted 3,409 times.
I am one of those 3,409. And as I hit "RT" on my account, I got depressed.
So we're all results of our upbringing, environments and experiences, right? Life, in its many different forms, shapes our opinions, attitudes and actions.
And deeply ingrained in my DNA is fantasy football. I've been playing fantasy sports for 28 years, writing about it professionally for about half that time and, sadly, fighting for it for as long as I can remember.
When I started in the industry, the fight was that fantasy wasn't gambling but rather a game of skill, and that leagues such as the NFL, MLB and NBA needed to embrace us, not keep us at arm's length.
Then the fight became that fantasy was actually popular. Can't tell you how many meetings the owners of start-up fantasy companies, including myself, were in over the years with graphs, charts and proposals to media companies, advertisers and anyone else who would listen, trying to explain that, trust us, there's a huge audience here!
Then it became, "Well, yeah, it's popular, but it ruins work productivity." Then Challenger, Gray & Christmas proved it actually did the opposite.
And then it was that fantasy was just for nerds -- it was a big but totally niche audience. But now everyone plays. Grandmothers and kids, housewives and rock stars, models and even pro athletes themselves. According to Twitter analytics, 28 percent of my followers are female and I'm guessing they're not all following for the pictures of my washboard abs that I'm always posting.
I've spent the majority of my life fighting for fantasy sports, in one way or another. And we'd finally won. It's a popular game of skill played by everyone, embraced (craved, even) by advertisers and you can't watch a game these days without someone, somehow mentioning fantasy.
But now this.
This isn't the first incident. Arian Foster famously came out against fantasy players last year when they went nuts on him after his early-season injury. Jamaal Charles spoke on our Fantasy Focus podcast about some of the cruel things folks said to him on social media after his early season-ending injury last year.
But for some reason, this seemed to get more play. Maybe because of the way Williams worded the tweet, maybe because fantasy is more popular than ever, maybe because the reaction seemed very over the top considering it was just a poor game as one half of a platoon against the third-best rushing defense in the league. Most people expected Williams to struggle. How could you start him? Anyways, who knows why?
The part I do know, however, is Williams was completely justified in his tweet. If I had a criticism, it was that he was too polite. You can search tweets written at anybody by using the search function on Twitter, and among the tweets I found directed at DeAngelo?
"you [bad adjective] [bad word] thanks for the -2 points [different bad word]"
"get better at your job. #fantasyfootballpaysyourBills"
"ur a [bad word] shut up, u suck. Jonathan Stewart is better than u"
"maybe if you didn't [bad verb] so much [bad word] you'd do good in fantasy"
"I'm taking you off my team and trading you for a kicker you [BAD WORD] SUCK YOU CLOWN [BAD WORD]"
I've removed the names because I am not giving anyone the publicity, but they are all direct quotes. And not the worst ones. And on and on they went.
And my reaction was one of sheer, utter embarrassment. Shame, even.
Because now I'm looped in with people like that. That there will be some people, many of them professional athletes, that when asked about fantasy sports, will think of these cretins and associate me with them.
And not just me. All of us. The 90 percent of rational, intelligent, decent human beings who play. These freaks make all of us look like a lunatic fringe, unhinged with incoherent thought, tons of anger and poor grammar.
And that thought depressed me. Depresses me to this day.
On behalf of everyone associated with fantasy sports, I'll offer a public apology to DeAngelo Williams. And Arian Foster. And Jamaal Charles. And any professional athlete who's been trolled by some pathetic coward.
If the weekly comments section on any of my columns are any indication, DeAngelo, some of the pathetic trolls that tweeted at you also read me, so allow me to address them right now: We don't want you.
I've spent most of my adult life trying to convince anyone who would listen to play fantasy sports. And now I'm saying the opposite.
Get the hell out.
Seriously, this is a game for fun. Fun. It's a hobby. It is designed to further enhance your enjoyment of football or whatever sport you are playing a fantasy version of. It brings people together, it fuels the competitive spirit, but most of all it's fun.
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And if it makes you so angry that you feel the need to go to Twitter to curse out another human being, this is not for you. You have severe emotional and maturity issues. You have a lot of inner anger and you gotta get that worked out. Fantasy sports is not for you. Quit. Quit now. Never come back. You are not welcome here. At least not in any of my columns, podcasts, Twitter, etc.
I assume that won't happen, sadly. The kind of person who would write those things won't have the courage to quit, or even recognize these flaws in themselves, and you know why I know that? They don't have the courage to do anything. Because these tweets, along with Facebook posts, article comments, blogs, Tumblr, Instagram, plain old email, you name it; they are almost always anonymous.
If any of these people met DeAngelo Williams in person, they'd be begging for a photo or autograph. They don't even have the guts to put their own name on a tweet; of course they wouldn't say anything in public. I'm certainly not perfect, but say this for me: I not only own everything I write, I would say it to a person's face. In fact, I wrote about just such an experience earlier this year when I had to explain to Michael Vick, in person, in front of an audience, why I had him below the elite tier of quarterbacks this preseason.
So I don't shy away from it. I also don't say anything that I would be embarrassed to say to a person's face, mostly because I don't want to put that out there. If you read last week, you know I'm a believer in karma. Huge believer in what you put out in the world comes back at you in some form or fashion. I guarantee you, the people who sent hate tweets to DeAngelo have unpleasant lives, just as I am sure those unpleasant lives are much of their own fault.
Unfortunately, they'll still play fantasy, they'll still make what is an amazingly fun game a little less so for the rest of us, they'll still troll on and there's nothing we can do.
Or is there?
I've thought a lot about this because I deal with this all the time as well. In addition to people unhappy with my writing, podcast, picks I get insults about my appearance or about my religion, and I have legitimately gotten multiple death threats or wishes. Here's a recent email: "you virgin [bad word] [bad verb] loser. I hope you die on your way home."
According to Twitter analytics, last month I got 82,257 mentions. If stupid little me got that many, I can only imagine what a famous person or athlete gets. Must be insane. I certainly feel overwhelmed by it. I try to answer as many as I can but there's only so many hours in the day and often a question I get can be answered by looking at my ranks or by looking at my timeline.
You know, the vast majority of my interactions in social media is comprised of either fantasy advice questions or kind words and compliments. Almost all of my audience is awesome. Smart, kind, funny, they get it. I feel very lucky to have 99 percent of them. But almost all is not everyone. Like, my guess is it's not even this many, but let's say I get 1,000 "hate tweets" a month. That's barely 1 percent of my interactions.
And yet, try reading 1,000 tweets telling you things like "I hope you die on your way home" and other hateful things and, well, it's a lot. Seriously, if you ever want to feel a lot better about yourself, search "@matthewberrytmr" on Twitter some Sunday afternoon. Or frankly, anytime of the day. I struggle for a solution. Can I just ignore? Of course, and I do somewhat. I never read my column comments anymore, for example. But if I ignore, that means I'm not interacting with my audience and that's no fun because, like I said, most of them are great. They give me good feedback; they tell me what topics are helpful to them. I pride myself on being as open and accessible as possible. So that's not really a solution.
And sometimes I block. Which then leads to emails like this one.
Adam (Chicago): Dear Mr. Berry, last year I was very upset with your ranking of Mike Vick. I took to twitter to tell you how upset I was. Quite frankly I have no recollection of what I tweeted you, but, you blocked me. I miss seeing your daily opinions on my timeline. Please help an avid fantasy football fan out and hit that unblock button?
Now what do I do? A very kind, respectful note. I believe the guy is sincere. That said, it was a ranking. I wrote 10,000 words on why Vick was No. 1 in my rankings and had a lot of data to back it up. You clearly agreed with the conclusion and made your own choice. It didn't work out for either of us. It happens; you can't predict the future. And I'd like to think a follower of mine is intelligent enough to know that, and/or is in control enough to not lash out publicly at someone he doesn't know because that person had an opinion about the future.
I don't know specifically what you tweeted, Adam. Sometimes people say I block too quickly and I'm too thin-skinned. Entirely possible. But you read 20 in a row, and you're much less forgiving on No. 20 than on No. 1, you know?
So my response to Adam is the same one I put in this column last year. If you would like to be unblocked by me on Twitter, make a donation of any amount to the Jimmy V fund, send me a copy of the receipt and your Twitter name to MatthewBerryTMR@gmail.com with "TWITTER" in the title. I don't answer email from that address, so if you need advice, Twitter and Facebook are still the way to go to get a hold of me.
And truthfully, maybe I'm to blame somewhat. I give publicity to the trolls all the time, by retweeting some of the hate comments or publishing emails in a column. They are always among my most popular. So I'll take some responsibility here. Sometimes, the troll just wants a little bit of fame. I'll never forget. One time this guy went insane on me, sending me like five different emails, all more hate-filled than the one before, wishing I would die, telling me about all the physical harm he would do to me, on and on it went. Pure insanity. I printed it, with his name, in part of a column, thinking that, well, once he sees this in print, he'll be embarrassed and other people will look at him like what a jerk.
Instead, he writes me back the next week thanking me for using it in the column. He's like, "Yeah, I'm kind of a minor celebrity now around these parts." People are so desperate for any attention, positive or negative, he didn't care he was known for a death threat to a fantasy football columnist.
There's a reason so many people love what Jay and Silent Bob do at the end of the "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back" movie, using their newfound wealth to fly all over the country to confront and beat the living daylights out of everyone who said bad things about them on the Internet. And I also loved this very thoughtful article about a guy, Leo, dealing with and confronting his own troll.
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But until we all get super-techy IT hacker friends like Leo had, or there are some laws enacted about hate speech on social media (and/or Twitter helps out by not allowing it), we're left with doing our best to muddle through the cowardly and pathetic. And sometimes, someone such as DeAngelo or Arian or any of the other hundreds of athletes who make themselves available -- and therefore vulnerable -- via social media will have a reaction that you think may be inappropriate. Just understand that it probably wasn't just one thing said to them that set them off. Or even 10. Or a hundred. Let them vent. Or let them know not everybody out there is a total cowardly punk by sending them positive energy of your own. Look, I'm blessed to have way more supporters than I do haters, and that's why I keep doing what I do. The day that isn't true is the day I'll stop. But until that day, if nothing else, I ask you to try, try, try to live by the wise words of Bill S. Preston, Esquire, and Ted "Theodore" Logan: "Be excellent to each other and party on, dudes!"
In the meantime, if you read some of the tweets I get, you'd also realize why I need this paragraph: Understand that the premise of Love/Hate is analysis of players I like more or less than others for this week. Just because I love one guy and hate someone else does not mean I would automatically start the Love over the Hate. Please see my weekly rankings for whom I would start between two players of the same position; I would play the higher-ranked guy.
With a shout out and thanks to a guy I would never troll, John Parolin, and the great gang at ESPN Stats & Information for their always kind help, here we go.
Quarterbacks I love for Week 6
Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers: Here's my in-depth analysis: Titans = bad. Seriously, Ben's played well, three straight games without an interception, top 10 in the NFL in passing yards and now he's got a running game to help set up play-action. Only three teams in the NFL have fewer sacks than the Titans, who are allowing more than 36 points a game, worst in the NFL. Seriously: Titans = bad.
Joe Flacco, Ravens: Still on Flacco, even after last week. He's great at home (career 30-5 record, averaging 369 yards a game there this season) and you know about the deep targets, right? He's the only NFL quarterback whose average pass is traveling more than 10 yards downfield. Right, we get that, it's why I've loved Torrey Smith since the preseason. But did you know Flacco is also improving on the shorter stuff? Last year, he completed 66 percent of passes 10 yards or fewer downfield. This year? 72.6 percent. Oh, and then there's the whole "you gave up 275 yards and two scores to Jay Cutler so hard to really respect you" thing with the Dallas defense.
Christian Ponder, Vikings: At least 15 points in three of his past four; you may think this is a great matchup with the Redskins' 31st-ranked pass defense up, but it's even better than you think. Washington allows 9.0 yards per pass attempt outside the numbers this year, second worst in the NFL. Ponder has completed 69.0 percent of his passes outside the numbers, second BEST among qualified quarterbacks.
Tony Romo, Cowboys: Bringing him up just because I still believe in him, despite how terrible he's been recently. Think he's a good buy-low candidate. The Ravens are not nearly as intimidating a defense as they used to be (tied for 22nd against the pass) and Dallas will have to throw to keep up in this game. Plus, look at the Cowboys' upcoming schedule: Panthers, Giants, Falcons, Eagles, Browns and Redskins are the next six. Only Philly should give you any pause.
If you're desperate Off a bye and needing to throw to keep up, I bet Carson Palmer (averaging almost 15 points a game) will put up some solid, if junk-time, stats. There are only two quarterbacks in the top five for Total QBR against both a standard four-man pass rush and with an added pass-rusher. Peyton Manning you expect, but Alex Smith? Extra time for Kevin Kolb to prepare after last Thursday's game, and how much do you think he enjoyed watching the Bills game film from last week? More than I enjoyed "The Grey," that's for sure. And fine, I'll say it. I think Brady Quinn is actually decent in a game against a bad secondary and a defense that will be geared up to try to stop Jamaal Charles.
Quarterbacks I hate for Week 6
Matthew Stafford, Lions: Hope I'm wrong. I really do. But the Eagles are top-10 in pass defense, scoring defense, top-five in fewest fantasy points allowed to opposing quarterbacks, and Stafford has eight fewer scores and one more interception through four games this year than he did last year in the same number of games. Plus, the Eagles are allowing opponents to complete just 28.0 percent of their throws more than 10 yards downfield this season, best in the NFL. But here is one category that he and his teammates are tied for the league lead in: dropped passes. Ultimately, I feel he'll be OK, but this week, I have him outside my top 10.
Philip Rivers, Chargers: The Chargers are 31st in the NFL in yards per attempt, and the only quarterbacks with more interceptions on throws outside the numbers than Rivers are Ryan Fitzpatrick, Matt Cassel and Brandon Weeden. The Broncos have allowed quarterbacks to complete only 50.0 percent of their throws outside the numbers, seventh best in the league. I have him outside my top 10 this week as well.
Andy Dalton, Bengals: Not to get all Next Level on you or anything, but the story the stats tell on Dalton's play-action passing isn't a good one. His yards per attempt on such plays are down from 8.5 in 2011 to 6.4 this season. He's thrown one TD off play-action this season, with one interception, after throwing for seven with a single interception last season. He's got zero 30-yard completions after having had seven last year, and he's been sacked once for every seven drop backs (it was once every 14.3 drop backs last season). He's just not fooling anyone, and while the Browns aren't great, they are a better defense than you think. And one that gets Joe Haden back this week. I have Dalton outside my top 15.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Bills: The Cardinals are angry birds. (Pause) What? OK, fine, that one you can hate tweet me on.
Running backs I love for Week 6
Ryan Mathews, Chargers: Not convinced he stays healthy all year, but he makes the love list for the second week in a row. Did you know Rivers' average pass is traveling just 6.7 yards downfield this season? Lotta check downs to Mr. Mathews in this game, which will add up against a Denver defense that has allowed more than 20 points a game to opposing running backs the past three weeks.
Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers: Thought he looked great last week. Plus, Titans = bad. You'll never guess who I have in the wide receiver section of "love" this week.
DeMarco Murray, Cowboys: Sensing a theme? I mean, other than the whole "Titans = bad" thing? The Cowboys are a better team than they've showed and, despite his lack of fantasy production, Murray has averaged 2.0 yards after contact this season, ranking sixth in the league among qualified rushers.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Bengals: In three wins, the Law Firm has averaged 23 touches. In two losses this year, he's averaged 14. And remember the stats on how bad the Bengals were at play-action? They're gonna try to correct that, especially against a team that gives up more than 142 rushing yards a game, and that means establishing the run, early and often. I know he's been frustrating, but I'm not bailing.
Doug Martin, Buccaneers: Coming out of the bye, they get back to basics. And by that, I mean trying to take opponents' knees out on kneel-down plays. Ha! Just trolling you, Bucs fans. Don't fall for the bait. They want and need to run the ball, and against the Chiefs, I believe they will be able to. The Chiefs' defense is allowing a staggering 8.87 yards per rush attempt outside the tackles, worst in the league by a good margin. Doug Martin is averaging 5.8 yards per rush outside the tackles, (as compared to 3.1 yards per rush inside the tackles). A solid RB2 this week.
Vick Ballard, Colts: Not much to look at so far this year, but Ballard did have six touchdown runs of at least 20 yards at Mississippi State, which was the most of any SEC running back, a pool which included a guy named Trent Richardson. Ballard is a solid between-the-tackles kind of guy and the Jets have allowed seven rushing touchdowns inside the tackles through five games this season, tied for most in the league, and they've allowed 4.68 yards per rush inside the tackles, which is sixth worse. A solid flex, especially in a bye week.
If you're desperate: Gut feeling here as it's impossible to tell what the Patriots will do, but with the Seahawks' run defense so strong, I could see Danny Woodhead getting more run than normal here and being in on a lot of short passing as they try to go more up-tempo in Seattle. It doesn't get much easier for a running back than against Buffalo, even with the Cardinals' offensive line. Could see both William Powell and LaRod Stephens-Howling having flex-worthy stats this week. Even though he didn't play very much last week, I still wouldn't be surprised if Jackie Battle gets a goal-line carry or two.
Running backs I hate for Week 6
Alfred Morris, Redskins: If you have him, you have to start him, but the Vikings have yet to allow a running back to score against them this year and teams are rushing for only 78.6 yards per game against them, ranking sixth in the league. I have Morris outside my top 10.
Ahmad Bradshaw, Giants: Insert joke about insert running back facing the 49ers here. Yes, even after a 200-yard performance. It was Cleveland, after all.
Mikel Leshoure, Lions: Still very much believe in his talent, just don't see him doing much against the Eagles, especially as it seems that it's way too easy to get Detroit to abandon the run.
Chris Johnson, Titans: I know, it's getting obvious and redundant. But he's killing my long-term 12-team dynasty league where I can't get rid of him. So he stays on this list every week. Mind you, I'm not tweeting crazy, expletive-laced rants at him, but to say I'm disappointed in his performance so far is an understatement.
Steven Jackson, Rams: Lot of matchup-based hates this week, but honestly, there's not much else to pick from. With Maurice Jones-Drew, Matt Forte and Darren Sproles on byes, a couple of guys banged up, and certain teams' backfields unusable (go ahead, you start a Jet; I dare you), it's fairly hard to dislike anyone getting regular touches. But Jackson has gone six straight games with fewer than 80 yards rushing and has yet to score. Don't have high hopes it turns around against the Dolphins' No. 1-ranked run defense (61.4 yards allowed per game).
Wide receivers I love for Week 6
DeSean Jackson, Eagles: Jackson has the second-deepest average target depth this season among receivers with at least 20 targets (18.3 yards downfield). The Lions are allowing 16.2 yards per pass attempt on throws at least 15 yards downfield, third worst in the league. Detroit doesn't have an interception this year and is tied for 10th-fewest sacks. Think Vick gets enough time to find Jackson for one deep in this game. Solid WR2 this week.
Bonus stat to impress the ladies, who, um, are impressed with bonus stats: There are 29 wide receivers with at least 35 targets this season. Of those, only three have zero drops: Percy Harvin, Vincent Jackson, and DeSean Jackson.
Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs: You know what has two thumbs and isn't worried about Brady Quinn killing Bowe's fantasy value? The Bucs are still a bad secondary and, in what limited time he played, Quinn wasn't, well, horrific. And it's not like he's replacing Joe Montana, you know? Bowe remains a solid high-end No. 2 wide receiver, or even a low-end No. 1.
Randall Cobb, Packers: More a gut call than anything, but with Cedric Benson out I could see more touches for Cobb out of the backfield in this game. And Brian Cushing is out for Houston, which means the middle of the field is more exploitable, and that's where Cobb can do some damage.
If you're desperate: Andrew Hawkins is averaging 10.9 yards after the catch per reception, most of any receiver with at least 20 catches. The Browns have allowed 196 completions this season, ranking second in the league. Only Victor Cruz (12) has more catches on third down than Kendall Wright (11 on 14 targets). Wright's 78.6 reception percentage on third-down targets is the best of any player with at least 11 targets. You know I think Carson Palmer will put up some nice junk-time stats, and the guy he'll team up with is Denarius Moore.
Wide receivers I hate for Week 6
Andre Johnson, Texans: Fair warning. The one week I was down on him was his best game of the year. So he may be about to go off. But he's played five games now and he still has only one -- count it, one -- red zone target. They just don't throw downfield enough, and against the Packers, I don't expect that to change as they try to keep Aaron Rodgers off the field. Five points or fewer in three of his past four games and now he has the drops, too? Low-end WR2 for me this week.
Dez Bryant, Cowboys: Had a nice game last week but still so inconsistent. It was only his second 100-yard game in 31 career games. The Ravens have allowed just two scores to opposing wideouts all season long. Mental mistakes, drops did you know Dez has dropped 12.1 percent of his targets, second most in the NFL of players with at least 30 targets? Unfortunately for Romo, Jason Witten is the worst, at 19.1. All of which is to say that Miles Austin is the better bet to me in this game, so I have Dez outside of my top 20 this week.
Tight ends I love for Week 6
Owen Daniels, Texans: We've talked about him on the podcast for a few weeks now. And not in a "he's gonna get angry with us" kind of way. Daniels has scored in three straight, has at least eight points in four of five and leads the Texans in targets. In fact, he has 14 third-down targets, the same amount as Johnson and Foster combined. When Schaub is in trouble and needs to move the chains, who does he look for? Exactly. Opposing quarterbacks have targeted tight ends eight times against the Packers in the red zone, most in the league.
Heath Miller, Steelers: His name being on here, against the Titans, was the lock of the century. Still available in 60 percent of leagues, he has four scores in five games. The Titans have given up eight touchdowns to opposing tight ends and allow the most points to opposing tight ends, by more than a full touchdown per game.
Kyle Rudolph, Vikings: Another sweet matchup. The Redskins have allowed 35 completions to tight ends and four touchdowns, both tied for second in the league. And among tight ends, only Miller and Martellus Bennett have been targeted more than Rudolph in the red zone.
If you're desperate: The Lions are allowing 9.0 yards per attempt to tight ends, third highest in the league, so Brent Celek could be a decent second-tier option. Hard to give Dennis Pitta a go after two straight bad games, but the Cowboys are top-10 in fantasy points allowed to opposing tight ends and you know I like Flacco here.
Tight ends I hate in Week 6
Brandon Pettigrew, Lions: The Eagles are allowing just 4.9 yards per attempt to tight ends this season, second fewest in the league. Plus, Pettigrew has dropped 11.4 percent of his targets this year, third worst of the 52 players with 30 targets on the season.
Jermichael Finley, Packers: Six fantasy points or fewer in four straight games, he's banged up, and frankly, watching him drives me nuts. He's like Dez Bryant but with worse hands. A TE2 this week. Ugh.
Defense/special teams I love in Week 6
Atlanta Falcons: At least eight points in four of five games and here comes Carson Palmer. I forget, does he throw interceptions?
Philadelphia Eagles: The Lions' special teams are the Titans of special teams.
Miami Dolphins: Available in 90 percent of leagues, they've scored 28 points the past two weeks, and even though the Rams are improved, it's still a banged up offensive line with no Danny Amendola on offense and no consistent run game.
If you're desperate: I kinda like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at home, off a bye, getting to face a quarterback making his first start. The Minnesota Vikings have 49 points over the past three weeks and get a Redskins team that could potentially be without RG3. The St. Louis Rams showed me a little something against the Cardinals, and I don't think Miami's offense is any better than Arizona's, do you?
Defense/special teams I hate in Week 6
Green Bay Packers: The Texans are gonna run, run, run. Seems like that would be a good song. A combined minus-3 points over the past two weeks, this team will be hard-pressed to generate turnovers against the Texans.
New York Jets: Remember when they were the Jets? They looked OK on Monday night, actually, but coming off a short week against a very confident offense isn't an ideal scenario. Not a top-10 defense.
That's all I have this week. Thanks for still being here. Unless you're a troll. In which case, seriously, I thought I asked you to leave. Good day. I said good day, sir!
Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- realizes that, by even writing about this topic, he will bring out even more trolls. Sigh. Berry is the creator of RotoPass.com, a website that combines a bunch of well-known fantasy sites, including ESPN Insider, for one low price. Use promo code ESPN for 10 percent off.
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