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.
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.