Monday, August 27, 2012

The Fantasy Football Bum Bus 2012

Last year the fantasy football Bum Bus was loaded up with has-been running backs rolling along the countryside just waiting for someone to get hurt, arrested, or convert to Mormonism and decide to go on a mission to The Sudan. It looked a little bit like this...

Clinton Portis was driving, Larry Johnson was navigating, Brian Westbrook was riding shotgun, and every running back that had retired from Beattie Feathers on seemed to be jamming the seats. 

I envision the 2012 version of the fantasy football bum bus will have a lot of over-the-hill wide receivers, and maybe one kicker whose errant foot sent an entire 53 man squad home for the holidays instead of to the Superbowl. In my mind the 2012 Fantasy Football Bum Bus looks a little bit like this....

Fantasy football bum bus 2012
There's still room on the Bum Bus. Who will be the next to get on?

Busts, sleepers, and bums

Who will be on the Fantasy Football Bum Bus in 2013? Maybe the crew at Fantasy Football Folio knows.

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Sunday, August 26, 2012

Lessons Learned From My First Fantasy Football Draft of 2012

I didn't start playing fantasy football until four years ago. I knew how addictive it was and I was running a business and I just didn't want to get obsessed with anything, which I knew I would. But my brother came to me and said there was a last minute opening in the league he played in composed mostly of bus drivers. It was all for fun and no one really took it that seriously. So, I joined. And I was instantly hooked. Fortunately I was the boss so I could afford to follow "my team" at work. 

And I stunk. I went 4-10. I traded Ben Roethlesberger for Jamaal Lewis. I traded Tony Gonzalez for Earnest Graham. I drafted every over-the-hill wide receiver in the league. In short, what I did is what a lot of new fantasy players probably do: I reacted to what had happened LAST year. I drafted names I had heard of and didn't really have a good strategy. I hadn't even watched football the year before. There's a lot to be said for just watching the players and taking that into consideration with their numbers. I don't have a television, so I rarely watch football games even now, and I feel this a real detriment to drafting a fantasy football team.

Alright, you're not here to listen to me relive my history, so I'll just say second year I played the same league and it was my only league, and I stunk again. Then two years ago I decided to play six leagues because I was tired of listening to the radio for my players' names to be called and seeing nothing happen. I won two championships and had a second. I thought I was the greatest fantasy football player of all time.

Until last year. My teams opened with a dud. No rhyme or reason. I hadn't drafted all that badly, I was just losing. Players like Felix Jones and Percy Harvin were murdering me. I wasn't the lucky guy like I had been the previous year who went in for Arian Foster before everyone else. Instead, I was the guy who didn't go in for Cam Newton or Jimmie Graham. Even getting Darren Sproles and Willis McGahee off the waiver wire early didn't save my season in most of the leagues. Fortunately, I salvaged one championship and considered myself lucky.

This year I wanted to do one early draft. I just couldn't wait. So I signed up for a ten dollar, twelve team league on CDM sports. I did the draft last night, and...

I blew it. I mean, I blew it in a way that I don't even have to wait for the season to begin to know this team is a dog. But I learned a few things that I won't be repeating in my bigger money drafts. Here's a rundown...

I dreaw number 11, and I've been having a trouble with this spot in mocks because there is no real solid running back to go for at this point, Calvin Johnson and the top three quartebacks are gone, and it's probably too early to reach for one of the two Tight End studs. It's a no man's land. So i decided to try the first round quarterback, second round tight end strategy a lot of people are recommending and that has worked a lot of times in mock drafts because you panic early, but after you see how many running backs and wide receivers you can pile up later you relax.

That didn't happen here. I won't go round by round because I'm already wordy today. I took Matt Stafford in the 1st with the 11th pick and Rob Gronkowski in the second with the 14th pick. My other proposed strategy, which I abandoned, was to take a running back like Marshawn Lynch then Julio Jones. If this were a money draft I probably would have, but more on that later in my conclusions.

The 1st round quarteback, second round tight end strategy is the rage this year. So I tried it. With disastrous results. 

My trouble began right away when I realized I wasn't going to get anything like a number one running back. I settled for Fred Jackson in round three, then came back with Marquez Colston in the fourth as my first wide receiver. Still not a disaster. In fact, rather similar to most of the mocks I've done this way. But....

Kevin Smith can't be a number two running back. I knew this this, and it was affirmed when I learned he already was injured in the pre season game. In this slot I had Willis McGahee, Donald Brown, and Kevin Smith targeted, and they were all that remained in this tier. Probably should have taken one of the other two. Came back with...
Jeremy Maclin. Because he's had big games against me in the past and I feel like he will be inconsistent, but have some  huge games. Now I have my QB/TE, and two running backs and two wide receivers.
This is the point in mock drafts where I had been able to wrack up a lot of good running backs and wide receivers because everyone else had to take a tight end and a quarterback. But it didn't happen in this draft. The players I had leaned on in mock drafts were gone. Unlike mocks, when the chips are down, a lot of drafters go up a round or two to take someone you had planned to take later. I got burned waiting and melted down. These guys don't all deserve pictures so let me detail what went wrong and what you shouldn't emulate.

Rule number 1: No running backs from Green Bay, Washington, New England, Detroit, Carolina etc. Broke this one early when I panicked and took Stevan Ridley as my third running back. Mostly I was overreacting to the preseason game he had just played and gotten 16 carries. Bill Belichick is here to ruin life. And your fantasy team. He's insane. And I'm convinced he wakes up every Sunday morning and devises a plan to ruin my fantasy day. It was a doubly bad pick because Kevin Smith was an iffy pick, and a triply bad pick because Fred Jackson is also suspect in terms of injuries.

It didn't get better. I was knocked off my game and I made a grave error: I decided to wing. The point of this strategy is you HAVE to wrack up quality running backs and wide receivers in rounds 5-8. Then gamble if you want because your team will be set. Nope.

Out of nowhere I took Fred Davis with the following reasoning: I'd be taking him away from another team who had waited for him at tight end, and I can play him at flex. What I ignored is what has to be a rule this fantasy year... no Redskins. But the Redskin carnage didn't stop, because...

Why, Thomas? Why. I'll tell you why. Cam Newton. I didn't need a quarterback here. There were still quarterbacks who would have been fine backups if Stafford (more later) does what he usually does and gets injured. But all those games last year where someone beat me with Cam Newton and not much else came flooding back. I needed to right my ship here and take aa solid running back, even it was DeAngelo Williams or someone dull and dependable. But I didn't. And at this point not much I could have done would have saved this draft.

I added several old wide receivers like Anquan Boldin, Randy Moss, and Sidney Rice. 

But my final and probably fatal mistakes were taking Evan Royster and Alex Green as my longshot running backs.

It was a very bad draft and I knew it right away. I also exhaled in relief because I learned some things to avoid in a ten dollar draft. here's a bullet list in no particular order of how i messed them up.

-Word is wide receiver is insanely deep this year. Don't use that as a crutch not to get a solid tandem early. Then you can wait, but you need two wide receivers that are ready to start week one. Or else be prepared to get your brains beat out by the teams that did take Julio Jones/AJ Green. I did ok with Colston/Maclin, but I feel really weak at WR and don't think my QB/TE will make up for it.

-If you choose the QB/TE combo in rounds 1 and 2 you don't have room to improvise later. You have to pile up wide receivers and running backs and keep piling them up. Then take some shots in the later rounds.

-No running backs from Green Bay, New England, Carolina, Washington, and I'll add Pittsburgh etc. Let someone else go down on this ship.

-If you feel like you have a player slotted and everyone else has him slotted lower than that, and even the ADP had him far lower, don't be afraid to take that player where you want to. These guys were like vultures last night. I got scooped every round on players I didn't even think were on other peoples' radar, like Cedric Benson. (Yes, I know). My dead rounds taking Fred Davis and RG3 were brought on because the players I were looking for were gone. No matter how many times you mock, you're still susceptible to that freeze that happens when the two guys in front of you snipe the only players you have any interest in. In that case I advise drop down that damn list and take that player you think you're taking too high that excites you. I didn't and I regret it.

Those are few lessons learned from an early draft. My conclusion is if you want to try the QB/TE gambit you're starting your draft on thin ice. It can be done. Much better than I did it, for sure, but it sure will cause a knot in your stomach when you look up and see everyone else is stacked at running back and receiver and you don't have one yet. 

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Monday, August 20, 2012

What If Paul Williams Were the National Currency of Poland

Last week I was at Goodwill with Jenny. And out of nowhere I became obsessed with Paul Williams. Recently I re-watched Phantom of the Ritz, so it wasn't totally out of nowhere, but in one of those freakishly rare chicken-or-egg mystical moments that happen a few times in the course of a year or so, a dead ringer for Paul Williams burst out of the dressing room. Had I seen this ersatz Paul Williams out of the corner of my eye earlier. Was is a case of Jungian synchronicity? I'm not sure, but I couldn't stop myself from singing Randy Newman's song "Short People," but as soon as I did I noticed to my horror one of the Goodwill volunteers was a small person. I don't remember having seen her before I started singing. Had my singing called her from the aether and into being in this new Universe where everytime I imagined or sang about someone they spontaneously appeared. I'm not sure, but today I can't think about anything buy what the Universe would be like if Paul Williams appeared on all Polish currency. I may be an idiot. 

What if singer Paul Williams were on a coin?
The Polish Mint announced recently that diminutive 70's relic Paul Williams will  henceforth appear on all Polish currency. 

January 25, 2015: I have no idea what I was writing about here, or why, but it would be cool if a nation put Paul Williams on their currency. 

And yet, no one has done it.

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The Turd That Killed Elvis

From my series of Poopsicle paintings, I humbly present... The Turd That Killed Elvis

Poopsicle by Outsider artist Thomas L. Vaultonburg
The Turd That Killed Elvis

Other paintings in the Poopsicle series
Vic Tayback Was the Zodiac Killer

Oprah Winfrey's Pussy


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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Excedrin Headache 2012

I got my first migraine the day I left MCRD in San Diego. I'd been there for months for reasons I won't go into here, but I was on my way to Denver. Now, there was obviously sun in San Diego, even at MCRD, but the second I left those gates the sun seemed a million times more intense. I was being driven by two huge Marines to the airport with nothing but a pocketful of money, a change of clothes, and a folder that read Top Secret. You have to understand I was still 17 and this was going to be only the second time I was getting on a plane, so after months at the recruit depot in a very regimented routine, the moment they dropped me off at my gate real life took over. And it was overwhelming. The last thing I remember was ordering a burger at one of the local chains we don't have here in the Midwest and buying some yogurt-covered raisins for the flight. As soon as I sat on the plane I knew I was going to vomit. Then I couldn't see. Literally, I went blind with an array of sparkly whirligigs of light in my periphery no matter where I looked. By the time we reached cruising altitude I had vomited twice, all the while the guy next to me was asking me a million questions. He never shut up. I thought I was having a stroke. When we landed in Denver most of the worst of it was over, but it remains the most virulent migraine I have ever had. 

This is a tablet of Excedrin, the best and greatest remedy for a migraine. Or just a run of the mill headache. The best way to use an Excedrin is get the uncoated tablet, then hold it under your tongue while it dissolves. It's a little much to take at first, but after a few times you'll get used to it and much prefer to do it this way. Why does Excedrin work so well, even better than other brands with exactly the same formula? I don't know. I just know it does. After twenty-five years of dealing with migraines one becomes an expert. You learn to weed out those things in your life that trigger migraines, and create a highly idiosyncratic calculus of how much of each factor is allowable before you can expect to set off a headache. For me it's sun, changing my sleep pattern, and beer and wine. Stomach acid seems to be a key factor. I often feel like my migraines have more to do with my stomach than my head. The Greeks and many other cultures have believed the stomach is something like a second heart, and it certainly is an integral switchboard in the Central nervous System. So, why is Excedrin one of the few concoctions in the Universe that offers any relief for migraine-type headaches?

Drawing of an Excedrin bottle
Is it the green bottle? There seems to be a faintly glowing, arcane power to that green bottle. Perhaps. But I think it's the combination of 250 mg each of aspirin and acetaminophen, but just as importantly the 65 milligrams of caffeine, or about the caffeine found in two 12 ounce cans of Coca Cola. I used to use caffeine to regulate my headaches, but as I've grown older I find caffeine may be the main cause of the headaches. It's sort of a devil's bargain. But once a migraine is in progress, I want those 65 milligrams of caffeine pronto.

It's a formula that hasn't changed much. I assume in this version it was an aspirin/caffeine combination. Do you remember your first migraine headache? If you didn't know what was happening did it scare you? For the first ten years or so at the very onset of a migraine I'd shut down and seek out the quietest, darkest place I could find for the twenty or so minutes it takes the visual occlusions to pass. But as I started working in the service industry I could no longer do that and my policy became that no matter what I was doing I just continued to do it and pretended like nothing was happening. This has served me well. It obviously doesn't make the migraine go away, as anyone who suffers knows, once a migraine starts nothing can be done until it runs its course. Only one time did I ever talk myself out of a migraine. Not sure how. If I knew I'd do it every time.

Enjoy Dick Cavett in these classic Excedrin commercials until Excedrin returns from recall. 

March 1, 2013 update: After all that waiting Excedrin did finally return a couple of months ago. And do you know what? It's not the same. First of all, the coated tablet just won't melt under your tongue. I suppose one could grind it up like a headache powder, but the formula has changed and it's just not the same. So, I tried something different.

Anacin. This is a huge 350 tablet bottle. Just aspirin and caffeine here, but who am I kidding, all my head really cares about is the caffeine. If you always got relief from Excedrin, give Anacin a try. 

April 2015: After heart surgery I'm no longer allowed to take Excedrin. Only a baby aspirin every day. Which is alright, because the classic formula never returned in the tablet form after the recall, and I never like the caplet. 

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Seven Doors of Death Is The Beyond

In the early 1990's there was still a thing called video stores. They had videos. On VHS. I know, I know. It was insane. You could get a hernia carrying four or five of those boxes to the car for a weekend horror fest. And if you were a zombie fan there wasn't much of a selection. There were Romero's movies, probably Zombie, and on occasion one or two others. So when you did see a new box on the shelf it was an exciting event. For instance, one night I saw this box on the shelf at Blockbuster Video on Riverside...

Thriller Video
7 Doors of Death from Thriller Video
I flipped out. What a box. Problem was there was no movie next to the box, which meant some dastardly dingus was hoarding the movie. I'll just wait, I though, life is long. Two years later that movie re-appeared on the shelf at Blockbuster Video. Two years. Had one person kept it all that time, then stricken with a pang of guilt, brought it back so other zombie fans could enjoy it? Had a series of people rented that movie only moments before I arrived at Blockbuster Video in one of the greatest series of coincidences in history? I don't know. At this point I'll never know. What I do know is this...

Seven Doors of Death is The Beyond. Is it a good movie? Pafunda. After two years there was nothing that would have been sufficient to meet my expectations. Twenty years later I have almost instantaneous access to almost every zombie movie ever made, including the seventy-eight that were just released within the last hour, but none of it will ever have much meaning to me anymore. The hunt is what it's all about, and there's just not much to look for anymore. 

P.S. Oasis of the Zombies and Bloodsucking Nazi Zombies are the same movie. It took me over two years to learn that. Because I'm stupid. 

FEBRUARY 21, 2013 UPDATE: I've come to the conclusion after these many years of writing about zombies that I don't enjoy Fulci or Jess Franco very much. In the past if you wanted to watch zombie movies you almost had to watch their movies because there wasn't as much choice as there is now. But the misogyny and outright cruelty of their movies isn't something zombie fans have to endure anymore. 

January 25, 2015: I saw City of the Walking Dead was on El Rey network earlier in the week, and I got excited because everyone was in bed, and I thought I'd watch it instead of Night Gallery, and when I turned it on I realized to my horror that it was actually Fulci's Gates of Hell. I'm not a big Fulci fan, and the maggots didn't help at all, so I turned it back to Night Gallery. Still don't like Fulci.

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Thursday, August 9, 2012

Ten Football Players That Have Broken Every Fantasy Owner's Heart

This is my fourth fantasy football season. Before that, like many, I watched with mild curiosity wondering what all the obsession was about. Until I was invited to join a league as a last minute replacement. I was hooked. I'm one of those suckers who develops attachments to various players for idiosyncratic reasons, and consequently has been burned repeatedly by certain players I always believe will either overcome injury, maturity issues, or what just seems like endless bad luck. But the fact is in most cases it's just better to cut bait with these players. Something is holding them back. And after they burn you the second or even the third time it should be irrelevant to you what that something is. Will some of these players come back to burn me by having great years for other people after I have given up on them... that's what this list of players is best at. But this year in order to beat me they'll at least have to be on someone else's team.

1) Kenny Britt. Before anyone goes back and makes sure to remind me I also included Kenny Britt in my top 10 list of great values for this year, let me be the first to admit you got me. Kenny Britt has made me a fantasy fool. Every year of his damn career, including the first one, where I insisted he was THE player to have from that Rutgers team. I'll let you look up who the other player was that you might consider fantasy relevant. Once again this year Kenny Britt hasn't even bothered to wait for the season to start to begin disappointing people. Hopefully what Britt has done is finally do all of us who were waiting for him to grow up the favor of removing himself from our fantasy radar so we can move on to the next lost cause. Who might very well be...

2) Dwayne Bowe. There are going to be a lot of wide receivers on this list. And with good reason... they're nuts. They're flighty. They're prima donnas. Two years ago Dwayne Bowe almost single-handedly took me to a championship. He had some monster weeks that allowed me the luxury of getting insanely over-wrought about my other five fantasy teams. But he did what Dwayne Bowe does... he disappeared in the championship weeks. I think this year I'll let someone else worry about whether or not Dwayne Bowe is concerned with playing football and move on to other problems. Like...

3) Joe Flacco. Yes, that is a picture of Joe Flacco. Like someone in every league in America, I have been waiting for Joe Flacco to "take the next step" every year. Last year I felt especially clever and decided to wait on taking a quarterback in a few leagues so I could pair up the tandem of Joe Flacco and Jay Cutler in later rounds, freeing me to load up on wide receivers and running backs in the earlier rounds. I may have a similarly stupid strategy this year, but none of my strategies will ever involve Joe Flacco again. 

4) Felix Jones seems happy here. Probably because he didn't waste an early round draft pick on himself last year. Players, especially players with talent, have a habit of coming back again and again to bite you in fantasy football. I'm sure Felix Jones is one of those players for many of us. And he may be again even this year, but I'm going to make someone else beat me with him rather than beating myself with him. 

5) Jermichael Finley. There was a feeding frenzy for Jermichael Finley last year. In every league someone was sure he was about to be the next Antonio Gates. People were taking him in the 3rd round. Although this show of faith in his abilities did presage a trend for the move tight end in fantasy football, it did not presage a great year for Finley, who promptly got hurt. Because most fantasy owners considered the season a wash, and could not stop salivating at the prospect of a reciver this big and fast in an offense this prolific, Finley was drafted highly again last year. And he bit. Outside of his two two touchdown games versus the Bears, owning Finley was next to worthless. This year the tight end position is deep, so let Finley disappoint someone else. 

6) I remember when Miles Austin broke out. I remember the game when the announcer gleefully proclaimed "Miles Austin, you are a star." And seemingly overnight he was. I remember all of this because in the league I care most about we acquire free agents not like everyone else in the Universe by reverse order of the owners record, but by predicting the weeks' Illinois lottery numbers. In four years in that league Miles Austin is the only player I've ever been lucky enough to win in this fashion. And I was elated. And he had some monster games. But I now believe Miles Austin will never consistently put up big numbers in the NFL. I'm avoiding him this year. 

7) Shonn Greene is one of those players who I had filed away after his last season in Iowa and intended to remember at my next fantasy draft. I didn't. And he had a good year. And then another good year. Until finally last year I drafted him. And he had a good year. A good year. The problem is when the Jets get anywhere near a goal line Shonn Greene might as well be Lorne Greene. And now with touchdown scoring Jesus Tim tebow on the mean green, there's almost no chance Shonn Greene will get the ball anywhere near the end zone. And since he doesn't break off long runs, what kind of fantasy value can he possibly have. He'll probably have another good year, wrack up 75 yards a game, not fumble, and be completely useless to your fantasy team.

8) Brandon Marshall appears to have firm abs. He catches a lot of footballs every year. I know because I seem to be stuck with him every year. I'm a Bears fan and I've been having a blast taking Marshall as my number one wide receiver in mock drafts, but when the real drafts start I think I'd have a real queasy feeling about investing a third or fourth round pick to get him. He catches footballs. But what he doesn't do is catch touchdowns. And in fantasy football, touchdowns matter. Will he catch touchdowns for the Bears? I haven't a clue. And that's not good enough to make him a number one wide receiver (again). 

9) Beanie Wells is the first player I ever drafted in a fantasy draft. I inherited the worst team in a league my brother was playing in, but because I actually chose the roster I liked better the other new owner got the first pick. I forgot who he picked, but it wasn't a rookie, leaving me free to select Beanie Wells with my first ever fantasy football pick. And like the Arizona Cardinals, I now believe he'll never be the player I envisioned he could be. Unless I'm forced to I won't be taking Beanie Wells this year.

10) Yes, that is Antonio Gates, the player who revolutionized the tight end position. A sure Hall of Famer. But keep in mind I've only been playing fantasy football for three years, and Antonio Gates is one of the players that has caused me as much heartbreak as any of the others listed. Now with reports of good health he's creeping up the draft boards again this year. All I can tell anyone who is hell bent on using a high draft pick to get him is that you do so at your own risk. 

There are ten fantasy football players who have broken my heart. In the main my disappointment is not a moral judgement of their character, merely the result of them repeatedly not producing numbers when needed. I trust none of these players based on past results. Some of them are going to have great years. But I don't know which ones. Do you? And if you don't, hard-earned experience leads me to recommend you let someone else go too high to get these players while you play it more conservatively, or just draft a less sexy but more dependable alternative. 

Top Ten Fantasy Busts
Top Ten Fantasy Steals Pin It

Bear Haiku Tiny Drawing

A new Tiny Drawing Poem collaboration between artist Jenny Mathews and poet Thomas L. Vaultonburg

Haiku by Thomas L. Vaultonburg of Rockford, Illinois
Bear Haiku by Thomas L. Vaultonburg

Winter, my love, does
Slowing the bear's mighty heart
Make you less lonely?

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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

August 15th Is National Reginald "The Crusher" Lisowski Day

When I was a kid one of my favorite wrestlers was AWA Champion Reginald "The Crusher" Lisowski. I loved watching his matches on Sunday mornings. I am naming August 15th Crusher Day. I recommend everyone celebrate with a keg of Old Milwaukee and some turkey neck. 

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Monday, August 6, 2012

August 7th Is Nick Bockwinkel Day

August 7th is henceforth and forever Nick Bockwinkel Day. 

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