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This one will be short and sweet. (Relatively. I can ramble with the best of ‘em.) After all, we’ve reached the Darwinian stage of the event. The herd has been thinned (fewer entries this week). The Strong, presumably, are surviving and perhaps even getting stronger by feeding on the flesh of the Weak and guzzling their blood like so much Red Bull. And those same Weak? They’re limping and whimpering across the football field-slash-Seregnetti, just a pack of whimpering, wounded impalas who might not be so cognitive as to know they’re about to die, but are just human enough to pray that, when sweet, sweeeeet darkness comes, it’s swift and painless versus Theisman-esque bone-cracky, followed by marrow-sucky.

Or something like that.

Anywho, our guest judge, Rotoworld’s Chris Wesseling, had some very keen insight into general issues:

“The two takeaways I had after reading all nine submissions: 1. Introductions should be either brief or interesting — preferably both. 2. Poop-can the pop culture references. You’re not an unholy amalgam of Bill Simmons and Chuck Klosterman. They can get away with; you can’t. And, seriously, I lived through the lockout. It sucked. I certainly don’t need a recap of the entire offseason.

He’s got a point. Lots of folks felt the need to give us play-by-play of the pre-season and the entire lockout drama (which, in most cases, led to articles about how the lockout was the biggest offseason change). And while that may be partially true – not every season begins with a work stoppage and labor dispute featuring wayyyy too much ESPN footage of large, obviously uncomfortable, neckless humanish mammals packed into $5,000 athletic cut suits — it’s also like being forced to re-watch a shitty iPhoto slideshow of some buddy’s shitty trip to some shitty bed & breakfast in wine country with his shitty girlfriend: i.e. you know that the shitty event took place, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have to/want to be reminded of it again. Because it was, after all, shitty.

And this round, I will say that peoples’ intros did run a tad on the long side. Some I enjoyed. Like, for example, Rick Thomas’ intro and overall approach, because it was (A) original and (B) ballsy to inject something not considered, shall we say, overly masculine (poetry) into this most masculine of worlds (NFL football) . . . even if said poetry injection did cause horrible PTSD-level flashbacks to a Milton poetry seminar I once took in college, taught by a skeezy, bearded, beret-wearing, clove cigarette-smoking, hobbity little Frenchified gummy worm of a professor who not only hit on all the young lasses in class, but also gave me a D on one paper because — and no one can convince me otherwise — he was jealous that the one girl he wanted most, and who rebuffed him the most publicly, was a good friend of mine. Yet some long intros I did not like, e.g. many others whom I won’t mention because, some of the time, anyway, I am not a complete a-hole.

But to quote legendary commercial director Marty DiBergi, “Enough of my yappin’ . . . let’s boogie!” On to our runners-up and winner.

SECOND RUNNER-UP: RICK THOMAS

Wesseling summed Rick up best: “The first couple of lines had me thinking poetry and fantasy football go together like Felix and Oscar. How would I let a creative writer down easily? By the end of the article I was giving a talented writer credit for making a challenging approach work. He did a nice job of assessing the impact of one signing for multiple players on different teams while also standing out from the crowd. Extra credit for pointing out a Dynasty league deep sleeper [editor’s note: this was Jeremiah Johnson].  And has anyone described the DeAngelo re-signing better than this:

But lo! Do the summer nights bring infernal tempests fierce
This one ravaging all but a few
Only in the Valley of Sir Raleigh did they rejoice
Where the gallant prince returned anew

But outside this happy valley did they weep
Did they gnash their teeth, tear clothes and hair
For deep into their souls did a darkness creep
Building harbor for pain and despair”

Tears, Rick . . . there are tears streaming down my face . . . and it’s not because I’m laughing and crying at the same time like any good sociopath does while burying the severed pieces of that Milton seminar professor in a shallow grave near my former college campus. It’s because you literally turned fantasy writing into poetry. While also getting legions of Jonathan Stewart’s dynasty owners re-pissed off. Nice effort, well executed, a tad risky but it paid off.

FIRST RUNNER-UP: JEFF BRUBACH

My notes verbatim at the top of Jeff’s article were: “Good take/twist on topic: talking about a change that never happened. Some amusing bits, not knee-slap funny, but entertaining enough to make me want to read more, and his facts/reasoning on RB situation in CAR were sound.” Didn’t swing for the fences, but didn’t play it too safe, either. His topic: DeAngelo Williams not signing anywhere else. Clearly, as these runners-up prove, some of you used DeAngelo as a protagonist. But none did so more (seemingly) effortlessly as Jeff did. Not flashy, pretty straightforward with the facts, which could have gotten preachy or dull but didn’t because he added enough humor and lighter tone to end up with a nice faux-pigskin bouillabaisse of business and pleasure. Well done, sir.

Wesseling had a similar take on Jeff: “[Brubach] kind of hammered the reader over the head with his point that running backs are the bees knees in fantasy football. Would have preferred a more interesting intro, but at least he provided excellent background on the DeAngelo/Stewart history and ramifications. At least he didn’t try to get too cute. And loved this quote: ‘Late July was a special time for NFL fans and especially the world of fantasy, as NFL owners and the NFL Players Association finally struck a deal. Jets fans were hugging Pats fans. Bears fans were high-fiving cheese heads, and members of the Raider Nation attended Sunday Mass.’” We both liked this because that was it about the lockout: no laborious re-cap or play-by-play. Just “There was a lockout. It got solved. Now, on to the fantasy shit.” Simple.

And now our Round 3 winner . . .

WINNER: JOSH VITALE

First, the one complaint…I agree with Wesseling (and Chet, who felt the same way) that Josh’s intro rambled a bit. So I almost dinged him there. But we were willing to overlook it because (A) his was an unexpected call on Matt Moore, mostly because (B) as Chris writes: “Choosing Matt Moore as the biggest impact move was a stretch to say the least, but he made all of his points work with strong and opinionated analysis.” And we both loved this turn of phrase: “A great man once said ‘A tiny drop in the fantasy football sea can create a tsunami in the ADP landscape.’” Philosophical. Weird. Fantasy-related. And true. So it worked. Our writing advice, however: tighten up, lose the excess . . . because you don’t want to risk losing people in the muck of the “fun” intro before they get to your very sound, very well-written football stuff. But in this round, we felt Josh’s was the most complete package, combined with his strong showings in previous weeks. So, congrats, Josh. Well done.

Before we get to the championship round topic – after which we’ll pick our overall champion who’ll win a season-long writing gig on Razzball and FanDuel, not to mention cold hard cash and the adulation/bitter resentment of the fantasy community – here are a few random thoughts/comments:

• Really appreciated Shawn Siegele’s attempt at being totally unconventional and unexpected with the dialogue, back-and-forth character thing. (And Shawn, I could easily have put you in as a Tied-for-Second-Runner-Up, as there were parts I really enjoyed). But at the same time, I found it simply too farfetched to think that someone who just wants some fantasy advice would invest the time into reading the back-and-forth and figuring out these characters, your scoring system for your debate, etc. And as someone whose “day job” is writing scripts, even I was lost in this sometimes confusing dialogue between the bizarre Benetton cast of Britta, Jeff, Abed, Troy and Senor Chang. As Chris put it: “I hate to ding a guy who tried something creative and different, but this just went in too many different directions. It actually took away from solid analysis and good points. The Jeff-Britta exchange probably sounded better in his head than it looks on paper as a way of explaining a fantasy football debate.” But I hope you can take solace in the fact that your approach was original, very funny at times, an interesting way to work in stats and player debates, etc…was just…..well, too much. And I imagined – as I often try to when evaluating these pieces — seeing this on ESPN or Razzball or Rotoworld or wherever, seeing how much of an investment it might be, and not printing it out to read it in the can.

• A couple of you seemed to flail and flounder a bit trying to find your ONE biggest off-season change, instead opting to tap dance around the issue with a few “maybe possibly these could kinda be” the biggest changes. Pick one. Confidently. And then go for it. Again, you may not agree from a football/fantasy standpoint that Matt Moore was the biggest change, but that’s what Josh did well. He said, “Fuck you people, I’m going with Matt Moore, and just you try to stop me.” And then he backed it up.

• While he didn’t finish in the top 3, Matthew Kanter had a strong final, wrap-up paragraph, and an interesting choice in 70-zillion-year-old Tom Moore as the single biggest change : “Remember, sometimes it’s the smallest of things that can change the course of the future.  There was even a movie on it with mega Twitter star Ashton Kutcher.  The Butterfly Effect of Tom Moore’s signing with the Jets has caused an arrow to point upward for the offense from a fantasy perspective.  One small hiring can affect an entire offense that has been lackluster in the fantasy realm for some time. Finally, these ain’t your same old Jets.”

• Some of you missed the mark on the subject entirely, opting to focus the majority of your article on more of a “Which RB has the most value?” premise. And you often did so with unoriginal constructs and devices, like the Player A (followed by stats) vs. Player B (followed by stats). Matthew Berry uses that all the time, as do lots of the ESPN guys. That’s well-trodden territory, and they do it better. So stay away, I’d say. And if you do feel the urge to veer off-topic, don’t stray for too long, and always make sure you bring that bitch back around. Taking the reader on a one-way hellride to Confusingville, USA is a death sentence.

• Some head-slapping grammar mistakes and spelling – e.g.  writing “…better then vs. “…better than,” or spelling “vulture” vulcher. Vulcher? Seriously? Is the “ch” hard making the word “vul-kare”? Google is your friend people. Use it. Please.

Now, to the topic for the fourth and final round . . .

Along with writing the football books and the fantasy columns, my day job (as I mentioned earlier) has been in advertising. A creative director. Been conceiving, writing, producing commercials for a wide range of clients — ESPN, McDonald’s, Microsoft, etc. — for more than twenty years. So, I’m a big fan of marketing. Branding. Positioning one product or service (for which good people such as yourselves will hand over their hard-earned money) as being better, and more purchase-worthy, than another. Which is why for this final round, we’ll move away from the stats, strategies and theories around fantasy football and NFL players, and speed toward the final phase of watering your nascent fantasy writing empire and watching it grow strong like bull.

And that final phase is the branding of your column.

See, there are scads and scads of fantasy columns out there. Some great. Some awful. And gazillions in between. And the consumer – i.e. the folks who simply want to read something informative and fun to help them dominate their draft/win their week/win their league/taunt their friends/kill time while doing some important business in the handicapped stall at work – has an infinite number of columns to choose from in these days of the FaceWeb and the RotoNets. So . . .what’s going to make him/her choose yours? Hence, our official final round topic:

If given the opportunity to write for Razzball/FanDuel, what would the name of your column be? How would you “brand or market” it as being different/better than others? And what will make people want to make your column a go-to read every week?

By now, you’ve proven the football/fantasy stuff. You’ve (mostly) proven that you can write with minimal handholding or editing, and have the chops to break out on your own. So it’s time to see what other kind of savvy ideas you have when it comes to breaking through a VERY cluttered landscape.

Doesn’t have to be 1,500 words. As many or few as you’d like. This is your freestyle round. Articles due Friday, Sept 2, 5pm EDT.  Send word docs – no articles in the body of emails, please — to [email protected] and [email protected]. Guest judges to be announced.

Good luck.

  1. Josh Vitale says:
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    Thanks for picking me as the winner this round. Really enjoyed trying to convince myself that Matt Moore actually had fantasy impact.

    And is the final article due Friday, September 2?

  2. Yes, sorry, forgot to add: final articles due Friday, Sept 2, 5pm EDT. Thanks.

  3. And we’ll announce grand poobah dragonslayer champion writer of the fantasy football universe on that Tuesday after Labor Day…on 9/6.

  4. Shippity says:
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    Will you do this again next year?

  5. Shawn Siegele

    Shawn Siegele says:
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    Rick, spectacular stuff with the poetry. Would love to read your entire piece.

    Mark, thanks for the optimistic take on my entry. I think you may have omitted the ‘way’ between ‘was’ and ‘too much,’ which I appreciate.

    Not sure I get Wesseling’s comment though. Joel McHale and Gillian Jacobs should sound the same in anybody’s head.

  6. No worries, Shawn. Again, some really nice/funny stuff in your piece. I can only assume you’ll be back at it for the final round. And Chet will post Josh’s winning entry, but it’s good that you guys want to see the others, too; can never hurt to see how your competition approached it. So, by all means, start becoming creepy pen pals and email your entries to one another.

  7. I, for one, hope to do this again, Shippity. Maybe for baseball season, too.

  8. Rick says:
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  9. Get off my Ditka says:
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    how can i enter this contest? I wrote an article the other day that i think would be perfect for razzball. Let me know if this is something that can still be joined. Thanks.

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