Mile-high flub: A fantasy football disaster

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Mile-high flub: A fantasy football disaster

I originally planned to start this morning with a Thanksgiving-themed column. Most likely one of those Stuff Were Thankful For or Who Are This Years Biggest Turkeys? or Would It Be That Hard To Come Up With A New Idea? type of posts.

But that was before fate and fantasy football intervened.

And now we're left with this story:

Last night, I boarded a cross country flight to Boston that may very well scar me for life. But not for any reason that you typically associate with airline horror stories. There were no delays. There were no crying babies. There was no seat next to the bathroom or between the two contestants from The Biggest Loser.

In fact, I had one of the best seats on the plane an Exit Row aisle. Or as I like to call it, The Royal Throne of the Main Cabin. (Both exit rows make up the Royal Family, but regardless of your preference theres no question that the aisles are King and Queen. Think about it: In case of an actual emergency, whos going to end up doing all the work? And whos more likely to stand back and bark out orders?)

Anyway, like I said, I was in the throne, and life was good. All things considered, I couldn't complain. But believe me: The extra legroom was of little comfort once everything started to unravel.

About two hours into the trip, somewhere high above the border of Kansas and Nebraska, I ponied up the 15 for in-flight Internet and spent some time with my fantasy team. And by that, I mean I spent about 10 minutes sitting in awe of the most legendary week of my fantasy sports career. I realize that no one cares about the details, so I wont even bother, except to say that on Sunday I became the first owner in my leagues eight-year history to break 200 points in a week. It was the performance of a lifetime. And I couldn't get enough.

After all, with all the pain and suffering that fantasy football inflicts over the course of a season, you cant help but bask in the glow of that kind of achievement. Or any kind of achievement. In the days after a big win whether Im in a bad mood or just flat out bored I constantly find myself re-visiting previous victories, soaking in the positive vibes and wondering how my team will ever lose again.

Thats exactly where I was at this particular moment, somewhere over Kansbraska, when a flight attendant swooped in over my shoulder.

So, hows your team doing this year? she asked. And this was followed by a few more questions: Did you win last week? Are you going to make the playoffs? Who are your best players?

I know. This conversation sounds like torture. But I swear it wasnt that bad.

First of all, because in the days after a monster week, theres no such thing as an annoying fantasy conversation. Youll talk to anyone who wants to listen.

And second of all, because this flight attendant happened to be a genuinely, nice and interesting person. I'd say she was probably in her mid-twenties, with shoulder-length blond hair, black-rimmed glasses and a demeanor that couldn't have been more wholesome. Without knowing for sure, Id almost guarantee that she grew up in a suburb of Cleveland.

But one thing I do know for sure is that this flight attendant whose name I never got, and at this point thats probably a good thing really loves fantasy football. I know that shes currently in second place in her own league. I know that shes still a little upset with Matt Ryan for those five interceptions. I know that while she cant quite put her finger on the reason, she truly believes that "this is her year."

Just so Im being clear: SHE REALLY LOVED FANTASY FOOTBALL!

And did so in the purest, most refreshing way possible.

As our conversation continued, she also gave me another excuse to brag about my record-setting weekend. After all, what fantasy football junkie wouldnt appreciate that kind of greatness?

Hey. Check this out, I said, probably sounding like a guy who was about whip out a rare Picasso or a mint condition Mickey Mantle rookie card.

I clicked on my match-up . . . she leaned over . . .

And thats when everything fell apart.

QUICK DISCLAIMERYou know, fantasy football names are a funny thing. From time to time, they can also be an offensive thing, or a borderline psychotic thing or just about the weirdest, most random thing youve ever seen.
I'm not exactly sure how we got here, but at this point, fantasy football names have carved out a pretty unique and twisted role in our society. Theyve essentially become a consequence free outlet for fans to be as messed up and crazy as they've ever dreamed. To let out all sorts of weird demons without being judged. For most guys, Id say their fantasy football name is the darkest, strangest andor most scandalous thing about them.And you know what? I don't think it's a big deal. Its not a big deal. In fact, Id argue that demented fantasy names actually make this country a safer place to live. Can you imagine how many more crazy and awful things would happen in real life if guys weren't wasting all their evil coming up with team names?
Sure, some of them might cross the line. Many of them definitely cross the line. But at the end of the day, it's still fantasy football. It's all just a joke.

END DISCLAIMER
Unfortunately, I never got a chance to explain this to the flight attendant.

Instead, she took one look at my computer screen and it was already too late. There was nothing I could do.

"Woah," she said. "Is your team really called Feline AIDS?"

To this day, I can vividly remember the most disappointed look that I've ever seen on my father's face. It was in the summer of 2000, when I told him that New York State had suspended my license for getting too many tickets on the Thruway. I can picture my mother's most disappointed look, too. (A four-way tie between the viewings of my first four college report cards.) And after last night, I can add a third face to my disappointment Hall of Fame.

I wish I was kidding, but I don't think I'll ever forget that look of absolute confusion, horror and disgust as the flight attendant quickly stood up and made her way down the aisle. I assumed, to find an air marshal and have me removed from the flight. And you know what? At that point, I felt like I deserved it. I felt awful. And I still do right now.

But at the end of the day, maybe there's a lesson to be learned from my mistake. Maybe we can work something out so that her mind wasn't corrupted in vain. Starting today, I say we all make a pledge to stop showing our fantasy teams to flight attendants. No matter how interested they might be. And regardless of how badly we feel like bragging about our team.

Together, we can make a difference.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Haggerty: Good, but not good enough, again the story for Bruins

Haggerty: Good, but not good enough, again the story for Bruins

BOSTON – The all-important results continue to elude the Bruins at the time when they need them most.

The Black and Gold lost their third game in a row, 1-0, to the Chicago Blackhawks at TD Garden Friday night when they allowed the game-winning goal with less than 90 seconds remaining in regulation. It was a simple defensive breakdown and some great tic-tac-toe passing with Marian Hossa finishing things off, but it also felt like a game where the Blackhawks coasted against a wounded Bruins team for 58 minutes before turning it on when it was winning time.

The winning goal was a cross-ice pass from Tanner Kero to Hossa, with the puck sliding right between the legs of Adam McQuaid in the slot, and Hossa picking a corner while giving Tuukka Rask zero time to react side to side.

“We had a game plan in place and our guys executed well, they were ready to play,” said Claude Julien. “One little mistake and it’s in our net, and you lose yourself a pretty important hockey game.”

So, now the Bruins have taken only one point in their past three games, have dropped behind the Ottawa Senators in the Atlantic Division standings and continue to skate around like they’re wearing the weight of the entire organization on their shoulders.

“At the end of the night it is another loss and that’s the biggest thing. Did your team play fairly well? I think so. I think we competed hard, but then again you’re dealing with some growing pains. We had an icing late in the game so that’s not necessary, but the winning goal that goes through three of our guys and in our net with a minute-and- a-half left,” said Julien. “We have to stand there again, and take the responsibility for our own actions. It’s unfortunate because that minute-and-a-half that was left in the game kind of tarnished everything we had done for the first 58 minutes.

“I thought we played pretty well against a good team. We had contained the guys that we needed to contain. We didn’t score any goals – I don’t think we did a good enough job there - we had some chances but again you got to find ways to score goals. That’s where we are at.”

Clearly, the Bruins didn’t give up a ton defensively and Rask had been solid for the first two-plus periods, but there was also a sense Chicago didn’t bring its best game either when Boston outshot the Blackhawks 17-6 in the opening period. It was also clear that, aside from a couple of good, early chances from Tim Schaller and Brad Marchand, along with a Joe Morrow breakaway chance, the Bruins offense wasn’t doing enough work to get closer to the Chicago net for any sustained pressure.

So, instead of a solid result with dark clouds swirling over Causeway Street that a big change is needed to jolt a stagnant team, the Bruins hang up another loss where they outshot their opponent and end up with nothing to show for it.

These are the kinds of losses that test morale and togetherness and could either be taken as a sign of things tightening up for the Bruins or of things continuing to spiral away from a team that just needs wins at this point.

“I’m sure everybody’s feeling down right now because we lost, but you can’t start pouting too much. You’ve got to move on,” said Rask, who allowed one goal on 22 shots in the loss. “[There’s a] big game coming up Sunday, and next week, so it’s a loss and we have to move on. [We have to] get ready for the next one. I’m sure guys are pissed today, but tomorrow’s a new day.”

Tomorrow is a new day for everybody on the Black and Gold including Julien, who is scheduled to still run practice on Saturday as the B’s bench boss before speaking to the media prior to the team leaving for Pittsburgh. So, it’s business as usual after another loss on Friday night in a classic Original Six matchup that’s clearly most of the luster from where it was at four years ago, but one can only sit and wonder how much longer business as usual cuts it for a hockey club that continues to flounder. 
 

Julien sidesteps job security question with "shock journalism" comment

Julien sidesteps job security question with "shock journalism" comment

BOSTON -- With three crushing losses in a row at a time when results are really all that matters, the Boston Bruins are reeling at the wrong time during the regular season. The B’s tried their best to win a game 0-0 with strong defense against a sleepy Chicago Blackhawks bunch on Friday night, but ultimately coughed up a Marian Hossa goal in the final minutes for a 1-0 regulation loss at TD Garden.

The defeat continued a swirl downward for the Black and Gold over the last week, and was a second straight shutout loss on home ice for the first time in almost 15 years. The losing stretch has also kicked up the chatter that Claude Julien is in trouble as head coach of the Bruins, and the hockey club’s underperformance up and down the lineup is ultimately going to cost the NHL’s longest tenured bench boss his job.

The Ottawa Senators have passed the Bruins in the Atlantic Division, and it’s only a matter of time before the Toronto Maple Leafs move by them as well with both Toronto and Ottawa holding six games in hand on Boston. Combine all of this with the B’s having missed the playoffs in each of the previous two seasons leading into this one, and it shouldn’t be at all surprising that Julien is squarely on the coaching hot seat.

The B’s bench boss was asked about his job security after the Chicago loss, and clearly didn’t appreciate the tough, but appropriate question.

“Well, I’m not into shock-journalism,” said Julien in a prideful tone. “So I’ll stay away from that question if you don’t mind.”

The Bruins posted their Saturday schedule shortly after Julien and the B’s players had addressed the media following the loss, and sure enough the embattled coach is scheduled to address the media post-practice as part of the regular practice day routine. So it doesn’t seem that a move with Julien is imminent this weekend despite another loss, but both the coach and the players know something is going to happen to shake things up with this team if they continue to struggle.

“Right now it’s a results based situation, so if you’re going to keep losing games then probably something’s going to happen,” said Torey Krug. “But right now we’re just pretty down emotionally after this game, so I don’t want to look at the big picture. I just [want to] focus on what’s going on in this room, and hopefully we can come back with a good effort the next game.”

A good effort might help Julien’s standing with the Bruins in the short term, but it’s impossible to imagine the B’s bench boss making it through the rest of the Bruins regular season given all of things working against him right now.