Fantasy Football Part 1

Standing in the grocery store line, my eyes perused the headlines on the usual magazines.

Alien sightings; lovesick stars; foolproof diets that I will fail; perfectly decorated, immaculate houses that I will never own; size-0, 20-year-old, half-naked women who have never nursed a child OR cleaned up throw-up OR waited all day for a repairman who never came!

Then I saw it: “Fantasy Football Season To Begin Soon.”

I snatched up the publication and subtly stuffed it under the large carton of eggs in my shopping cart.

I glanced nervously at my husband, Tom, and watched as he sneaked “The 2007 Fantasy Football Guide” into his back pocket and surreptitiously entered a faraway checkout line.

The season was underway.

It didn’t start this way.

Last year, knowing that everyone in my family is an avid football fan, a young friend of ours approached us about being in a free Yahoo fantasy football league. My daughter, son and I decided we would play. Tom informed me that he would be my general manager.

The draft was an informal affair. The good-natured team owners arrived at our house with little or not preparation. We talked and laughed and ate cheap pizza off Styrofoam plates and used mismatched paper napkins. Rarely did I know whose pick it was, but I enjoyed the evening. The one exception was my husband, who constantly badgered me about running backs while holding on to mysterious printouts. He disagreed with all of my picks.

I chose players I liked–players whose mothers I liked, players whose coaches I liked. My disgruntled GM lowered his head in his hands and moaned.

My son won last year’s Super Bowl for our league. His trophies: a light-up pen and child-size Nerf football.

I didn’t even make it to the playoffs, and consequently fired my GM.

This year, the mood was much more formal. First, my cocky ex-manager got his own team, the Leviathens, (a biblical term for sea monster), and suggested we meet after church a few weeks ahead of the draft to draw our picking order.

“That way, we can decide our players ahead of time,” he said. “Isn’t that great?!”

I scowled.

Draft day arrived and so did the team owners. This year they were serious and informed; they carried cheat-sheets and clipboards and tucked pencils behind their ears.

Traitorous Tom (who by lot got first pick) also had studied up. We even had spectators, and beautiful girls recruited to write our picks on super-sized sticky notes plastered all over the three TV’s in our family room. we served hamburgers, hot dogs and fresh salsa.

My napkins matched.

Our picks were well-thought-out and time-consuming. Finally, more than three pressure-packed ours later, we finished.

And I’m ready. I’ve cleared a space on my desk for the light-up pen, Nerf football and the new trophy, a regulations-size football with the previous Fantasy Football Super Bowl winners signature on it.

You see, I want it all. The trophies, my signature on the football, the other owners’ respect.

I’ve got fantasy football fever.

And I really, really want to beat my husband.

Part 1 of 2 published in The Tampa Tribune, September 08′