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Fantasy football, and a word on Favre

For middle-aged, goateed men such as myself-- and an increasing number of women and other guys -- Christmas is coming in the next couple of weeks.

It's fantasy football time.

Before I go too far, I want to help the uninitiated understand what fantasy football is. It's not some online role-playing game, it's not a camp where you hang out with former big leaguers, it's not a bunch of former football players trying to reclaim their glory days. It's, more or less, a numbers game based on real NFL players. People hold a draft, and like the schoolyard picking process, select one player at a time and build their own "team" on paper of NFL players. Then, when the games are played, if your real NFL player scores points, your "fantasy" football team also gets points. It's why your husband/granddaughter/cousin jumps out of their seat when a third-string running back from Dallas breaks off a long run while you're trying to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner. They have that player on their fantasy team.

I've been in a few leagues for a few years, and it's a lot of fun. I don't devote nearly the time today I used to devote to it, but modern technologies have made it easier to keep up.

For instance, back when I started with fantasy football, we held drafts by shouting out players we could think of, and had no list to draft from. When we made trades, the person who accepted the trade could be heard saying, "yeah, I've heard of that guy. It's a deal!" I remember gaining an edge on the competition by reading local newspaper reports over the Web about my players. Going to the St. Louis Post Dispatch's Web site to read about Marshall Faulk's knee seemed like total overkill at the time. Now such information is disseminated within minutes on Twitter.

One of the best parts about fantasy football is the camaraderie. And by "camaraderie," I mean the mean and ugly trash-talk we use to get under each other's skin. Finding new and interesting ways to tell your opponent how badly you're going to thrash them in this weekend's games is what fantasy football is all about. Oddly enough, it's poor form, however, to rub it in if you actually do beat them. That's why trash talk is so fun -- it's all just talk. There's no salt in the wound.

This year, I've had almost no time to prepare for my upcoming drafts, so I'll probably draft a bad team. But the trash talk will be excellent, especially in the biggest league I'm in. I was pretty quiet during last year's draft, because I was coming off one of my worst seasons ever. I tried to mostly keep my head down. But this year -- this year is different. I'm coming in as the league champion, having dominated the whole year. I plan to do a lot of talking this year. I'll probably have a horrible draft, but who cares? I won't have to deal with having a futile team until NEXT year.

Favre is back

A lot of people still ride me about a column I ran more than a year ago, shortly before Brett Favre landed with the New York Jets. It laid out a vast, deep conspiracy about how Favre would land with the Minnesota Vikings. OK, so I was a year late, but it looks like Favre is soon to be in Vikings purple.

I still have people telling me that's a bad idea. Ahem, did you watch any Vikings games last year? We have a top-notch defense, the top running back in football, a good offensive line, some good receivers, and an awful QB who looks utterly lost all the time. And we did nothing in the playoffs, and barely got there. I don't know why people are so adamant about having a mediocre team. If you have a Ferrari with a flat tire, do you keep the flat tire out of loyalty, or do you get a new tire and drive away?

As a long-suffering Vikings fan, I'd prefer to actually win games with whatever players can get us there than have players we like and lose games. We can be picky when we have our first SuperBowl ring. Until then, maybe we should worry more about how guys perform on the field than how feelings are hurt off the field.