Reality check: Fretting over fantasy football

Morten Andersen is a god.

After all, with five field goals and an extra point, he almost single-handedly er, single-footedly kept me from getting blown out last week against the Grande Schnabels. And this was after Troy Aikman went down with a strained calf, giving me exactly no points from my starting quarterback.

And to top it off, he's my leading scorer going into week 7 of the season, and may very well be my most valuable player. A kicker as my MVP go figure.

I am, of course, referring to my fantasy football team, the Arizona Montsters of the Skinny Post League, on ESPNet's Fantasy Football '95. It has consumed my thoughts since the beginning of the football season, forcing intense scrutiny of the weekly NFL statistics and whether I should start Pittsburgh's Yancey Thigpen over Arizona's Larry Centers, or scrap them both in favor of Chicago's Rashaan Salaam.

These are the kind of tough, thought-provoking decisions four co-workers and I have faced since the season's beginning, when we let a computer draft our teams. Shouts of "All right, I got Steve Young!" and "Who the hell is Carlester Crumpler?" filled the newsroom.

Fantasy Football has made the "Monday morning quarterback" an insult, for the five of us are now "Saturday night general managers," orchestrating last-minute blockbuster trades and scrutinizing the injury reports to see if New York running back Rodney Hampton's broken hand and the Cardinals' inability to stop the run means Tyrone Wheatley will have a big day.

I, however, did not care about Rodney Hampton he is Patrick's problem, or was Patrick's problem, but Patrick decided to cut him two days before he scored four touchdowns against New Orleans. Patrick lost that week.

No, my dilemma was Troy Aikman, who went from being "injured 2-3 weeks" to "perhaps playing in Sunday's game" to "starting but being highly immobile" to "Hey, I just threw my best game of the season." I didn't predict the best game part. I went with backup Stan Humphries instead. If he doesn't play well, I've threatened to fire someone.

The great thing is, all we have to do is pick who starts. The computer does the rest. It's a lot better than our baseball fantasy league, which had to be compiled by hand, and which everyone lost interest in after about a week. Now we do everything over the computer and through e-mail, including trades and picking up free agents. Ah, technology.

The funny thing is, I used to think I was above all this talk about numbers and predictions and the foreign language people seem to speak when engaged in heated conversations about sports. Sure, I thought, it may be my job right now, but it doesn't have to be my life. And as soon as I decided this, Arlie said to me, "You didn't start Aikman? What are you, an idiot?"

And I get sucked right back in.

In fact, we are all sucked in all five of us. We are all in our fantasy football universe, a small faction apart from the other members of the newsroom, who live in a world of department cuts and tuition raises. We like it better here.

So if you'll excuse me, I'm going to root for Stan Humphries now.

Monty Phan is sports editor of the Arizona Daily Wildcat. His column appears Tuesdays.

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