When a loser wins

Have you heard about the Lonesome Loser?

Beaten by the Queen of Hearts every time.

Have you heard about the Lonesome Loser?

He’s a loser but he still keeps on trying. – Lonesome Loser by Little River Band

As we wait and hope for a new fantasy season to start, I thought I’d tell the story of how I became a fantasy player. Amazingly, it was just three years ago when my oldest son invited me to play in his fantasy football league. Frankly,  I knew very little about fantasy football, but I thought I’d give it a try. So, I put up my $25 and started a journey into a strange world of statistics and semantics. It was a world I didn’t know existed, but it was a world I soon found fascinating. Just a few months later, in a strange turn of events, I was crowned champion of the Negative Equity League. I won!

Know that I wasn’t accustom to winning. In six decades of life, I had grown accustom to losing – especially in sports and games, where I can point to a long litany of  losses. Take for instance the time when I was dealt pocket acces in Texas hold’em. I made a big bet, and the player across the table called. On the flop, I saw my hand improve to three of a kind.  I splashed my chips across the table to go all-in. Much to my surprise, my opponent flipped his over, indicating he was all-in, too. He had three jacks. A this point, most people in my shoes would have felt good. But someone accustom to losing always expects the worse. And they’re seldom surprised. On the river, the fourth jack popped up.

Sports were even worse. I was never a good basketball player, but I practiced for hours in my driveway until I perfected a 20-foot corner jump shot. This was before the three-point shot was part of the game, so no one would guard you that far out. With the clock winding down, our star player missed a shot in the lane. Unable to get his own rebound, he managed to slap the ball out to me, where I had been waiting patiently to take “my shot.” Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined a chance to win the game with a buzzer-beater. But here it was. I was standing in my spot, unguarded, and I took my shot. In my mind, I saw it clearly – nothing but net. In reality, it was nothing but air. Nothing but another dark, tear-stained page in the life of the lonesome loser.

Golf was a sport I spent a lot of time attempting to develop my skills. Golf was my father’s favorite sport, and he spent hours teaching me everything he knew. In his prime, Dad was a scratch golfer, but I was never that good. Still, I carried a five handicap when I was 16. That summer, I was on the verge of qualifying for the U.S Junior Golf Tournament before I knocked a ball out of bounds. Three years later, I lost I missed a short putt on the 18th hole and then lost a playoff to finish second in the club championship.

My dreams of being a football star in the NFL were dashed at my first high school football practice. I had a bad habit of shooting off my mouth in those days, and I recall bragging that I would be a starting wide receiver on the team as a freshman. I was already unpopular, an my boasting inspired my teammates to teach me a lesson. When I jumped up to receive a pass, one of the players put his helmet into my back. At that time, I was already experiencing some back problems, and this cheap shot ended my competitive football career.

In spite of my football injury, my love affair with the NFL has continued for more than 50 years. I followed the exploits of the game’s greatest players and had the privilege of watching many of them play in person. As a sportswriter and a sports editor, I met the likes of Roger Staubach and Boomer Esiason. I have always found this game to be fascinating. So, when the opportunity to play fantasy football was presented, I jumped at the chance. But my knowledge of football was not much help as I embarked upon my journey into the fantasy world.

After four games, my fantasy team’s record was 0-4. It was no surprise for the Lonesome Loser, who had a long tradition of losing. But I was having fun and learning about the game. What happened next was unprecedented. I won eight straight games and was in first place in my division, tied for the best record overall, entering the final week of the regular fantasy season.  In week 13, my son snapped my streak. However, my 8-5 record was still good enough for second place in the regular season and a first-week bye.

Things didn’t look good in the fantasy playoffs after my starting quarterback, Carson Wentz, was hurt during my bye week. Wentz, who finished the 2017 season second in the league with 33 TD passes, went down with a season-ending ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) injury. I had picked up Wentz off the waiver wire, and he had been a key to my long winning streak, When my first playoff game rolled around, I had my backup quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, in my starting lineup. Roethlisberger, along with my rookie running back Alvin Kamara, performed well enough. But Kamara’s teammate, Mark Ingram stole the show with 32.1 fantasy points.

The rest is history. Okay, my victory probably won’t go down in the annals of sports, but it was certainly edifying for me.  After winning the championship in my first try, and four more public league championships in baseball and football in the past three years, I believe I now have the credentials to write about fantasy sports.  I’m well aware of all the experts and pundits with far more impressive credentials than a guy who just finished his rookie season. There are plenty of books out there on the subject of fantasy football. Fantasy Football for Smart People, Fantasy Football for Dummies, Fantasy Football Basics, Fantasy Football Guidebook, Fantasy Football Tips and Fantasy Football for Winners, just to name a few. But there’s no book entitled Fantasy Football for Losers. Someday, I may wrote that book. For now, I write these columns for you.

If you have a long history of losing, I want these blogs to be more than  encouragementfrom a loser who finally won. I want it to be a primer of sorts to playing fantasy football and baseball. Perhaps you’re a casual football or baseball fan who is intrigued by the game. Or, youmight be a fantasy player’s spouse, girlfriend (or boyfriend) who wants to play, too. If you’re in the latter category, wouldn’t it be fun to beat your significant other at his/her own game? Keep reading, and I will show you how to do just that. You, too, can be a fantasy winner if you will only believe.





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