Just Don’t Lose

In fantasy football, winning is often less important than merely avoiding a last-place finish.

Nathan Anderson, Sports Editor

Fantasy football has taken the sports world by storm since the internet revolutionized the format, making it more convenient and accessible for everyone. In a standard league, members, or “managers”, draft NFL football players who then score for their manager’s roster every week based on their statistics. It is fast paced as well, good managers need to take advantage of trades, claim rising stars off the waiver wires, and make substitutions to maximize their team’s potential. Many leagues have prizes for the winner, and just as many leagues have punishments for the last-place finisher. These punishments are almost always humiliating, creative, and wildly entertaining for all except one. As the dust settles on the fantasy season, it is now time to laugh at all the negligent, naive, or first time* managers who are now subject to public humiliation for our entertainment. 

JHS has plenty of leagues within the school’s population, and plenty of last-place finishers to go along with them. AP Psychology teacher Jesse Dowell finished last place in the teacher’s league, but fortunately did not have to face a punishment. “I’m gonna go self serving bias, it was not me,” Dowell said. “I drafted really well but I had several injuries. I had Derrick Henry… Calvin Ridley [both players’ seasons ended prematurely only weeks into the season] … I kept getting hit with guys who were gone for COVID… it just kind of fell apart.” Despite his team’s slow death by the injury bug, Dowell got away scott free. “We talked about doing a punishment for the end, where the worst record had to buy drinks or whatever, but we haven’t really talked much.” Despite the down season, Dowell remains confident in his ability as a fantasy manager. “Over the long haul, I win more than I lose so I feel pretty good.” 

Other managers were not so lucky. Nick Bechtel ‘22 put on a show for the whole school on Tuesday, January 18 by sporting a sparkling dark green dress and children’s sneakers with the toe cut out. “Lucas Gorsh was the winner of it and he got to choose what I wear, and he made me wear these slipper shoes that were for four year olds and my toes were sticking out,” Bechtel said.  “They were just uncomfortable to walk in all day. That was definitely the worst part.” This pain was ultimately self inflicted, as this punishment was originally dreamt up by Bechtel. “The funny thing is, the day of the draft we all sat down to decide the punishment and it was actually my idea to have the loser wear a dress to school. Coincidentally, I was the one who ended up losing and had to do it.” 

Bechtel made some extremely unfortunate roster decisions early in the season, passing on multiple players who ended the season as some of football’s top performers. “Jared Meyer offered me Deebo Samuel (WR 2)** and Austin Ekeler (RB 2) for Chris Godwin (WR 15) and Nick Chubb (RB 14), and it was a week after both of my guys put up really good stats so I wasn’t looking to do that.” This did not work out for Bechtel. “But then later, we found out that Deebo and Ekeler are both top three in their positions. I really should have taken that trade.” Despite the embarrassment that came along with his punishment, Bechtel maintains a positive outlook on fantasy. “If it’s like our [league], it’s just supposed to be funny.” Fantasy football is not just fun, it makes the rest of the league more interesting according to Bechtel. “I actually first started fantasy not really knowing what it was, my friends talked me into it. Now I do it because it’s a lot of fun, especially during the draft. It’s the most important part of the whole season, a lot of nerves, but it’s an exciting time. The NFL’s always fun to watch and it gives you more of a reason to watch different teams.”

Mason Cornwell ‘22 also faced the wrath of the fantasy football gods this season. “I was 5-0 in the first five weeks and I got kinda cocky. I stopped managing it and stopped doing trades, stopped taking out injured players. By the time I kinda realized I needed to get myself together, it was a little too late.” Cornwell and Bechtel both probably regret their own creativity. “Yeah, I actually made the punishment myself… You have to put on a bikini and [everyone else] takes your picture and they put it on T-shirts and everybody wears them to school.” Cornwell believes this season’s L bears future implications, and this season may come back to haunt him. When asked what part of the punishment he’s dreading the most, he responded: “Probably the fact that once they wear the shirt, it’s not gonna be just a one time thing, I know I’m gonna see that shirt multiple times in the future.” Cornwell also sees a line punishments should not cross. “I’ve seen some pretty brutal ones, I’ve seen a kid wearing a dress at school about last week (Bechtel), and I’ve also seen people locking kids in cages and throwing things at them. I think that’s a bit much for a punishment.” Cornwell still enjoys fantasy though, for similar reasons to Bechtel. “It keeps me busy during the wintertime, it keeps me interested in sports and it’s just a fun thing to do with my friends.”

Fantasy punishments, aside from brightening up an otherwise boring January, also create stakes for their league. That brings intrigue to seemingly meaningless games, and makes an already popular sport more fun to follow. Between free and paid leagues, different sized leagues, custom rulebooks and more, there really is a way to play for everybody. Punishments can seem daunting or even extreme at times, but even for the punished, the pros outweigh the cons. If, next year, you decide fantasy football is your thing, I leave you with one piece of advice: do not spend your first round pick on Christian McCaffrey or Saquan Barkley.

*This is a common stereotype, however this writer played fantasy for the first time this year and won his league.

**Position rankings per FantasyPros PPR Rankings.