27 December 2013

A season of wēijī: (1/3) Bizarro Protest Staging

The graphic above shows the Mandarin word wēijī, which translates into English as "crisis."  In a famous 1959 speech, John F. Kennedy propagated an old, inaccurate American meme, correctly identifying the left-hand character (wēi, in pinyin spelling) as a symbol of "danger," only to then mistake the right-side character (jī) as "opportunity."  A more accurate translation of  would render something closer to "turning point."  No knowledge of any Chinese words is needed to view a dangerous turning point as a crisis.

When I won my first fantasy-football championship last week, my first thought was that I deserved it.  Time and Again, which started its second season as my 'C' team, averaged 113 points over its 15-1 season.  At season's end, the Timers were so deep at wide receiver and running back, top-flight players like A.J. Green, Zac Stacy, LeVeon Bell and Alshon Jeffery were fighting for three starting spots.  Their only loss came when their starting quarterback sustained a season-ending injury early in his game.

On further reflection, though, Time and Again didn't start out with such power.  In fact, it was only through a completely silly origin, followed by several turning points that could have easily doomed them to oblivion, that the Timers gave me what may be the best fantasy-football season I'll ever have.

Join me, then, on a trip through this season of wēijī.

As miserably as the Timers struggled in their debut season on the NFL site (missing the playoffs before dropping two consolation-bracket games), I decided to use them as an experimental team for 2013.  I wasn't sure what the experiment would be, but the Timers would be the platform.

Enter the Trayvon Martin fiasco.

It would've been possible to form a fantasy-football team as a protest against the Martin-Zimmerman case, which had ended just weeks before the fantasy drafts.  I would punish the entire State of Florida by excluding from my team any player who (a) played for the Buccaneers, Dolphins or Jaguars; or (b) entered the NFL from a Florida college.

Let me start counting the reasons why this protest proposal was stupid.

  • Why wait for a racially-charged murder trial?  Botching a Presidential election, electing Lex Luthor's evil twin, and just being Florida hadn't already provided excuses?
  • A serious "protest" would also exclude players who grew up in Florida.  [But as I'll show presently, that additional exclusion would have made almost no difference.]
  • Many, if not most, of the excluded players would be African Americans.  I'm not sure how that helps anyone.  A case could be made that exclusion could hurt the affected players -- but said players would have to care in the first place.
  • Even setting those aside, an effective protest has to at least inconvenience the protester.  Moving player names around on a smart phone every week is not an inconvenience.

On these bases, a 15-1 championship team constitutes -- how do they say it in 2013?

Oh yeah: EPIC FAIL.1

But still...

Blowing away the pretext for a no-Floridan team was a satisfying exercise, but it didn't actually affect the idea of a team without Floridians.  Why not exclude Florida-based players for its own sake?  Whatever the merits and faults of Floridans as a whole, there's no denying that Florida (a) has e NFL teams2 and (b) sends many, many players from its colleges into the NFL.  Theoretically, a fantasy-football team without Floridians should struggle.

Having already created a custom draft list for my 'A' and 'B' teams, I copied it for Time and Again, then removed all Dolphins, Buccaneers, Jaguars and Florida college players from the copy.  Finally, I submitted the reduced draft list to NFL.com for an autopick draft.

When draft day finally came, NFL.com gave me the following team, in draft order:

  1. LeSean McCoy, RB1, Philadelphia
  2. A.J. Green, WR1, Cincinnati
  3. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay
  4. Dwayne Bowe, WR2, Kansas City
  5. Danny Amendola, WR3, New England
  6. Vernon Davis, TE, San Francisco
  7. Ahmad Bradshaw, RB2, Indianapolis
  8. Green Bay defense/special teams (DST)
  9. Justin Tucker, K, Baltimore
  10. James Jones, WR4, Green Bay
  11. Tavon Austin, WR5, St. Louis
  12. Kenny Britt, WR6, Tennessee
  13. Ben Roethlisburger, QB2, Pittsburgh
  14. Isaiah Pead, RB3, St. Louis,
  15. Shonn Greene, RB4, Tennessee

As a Bear fan, I wasn't happy to have this many Packers on the team.  Also, past versions of The Ghost-Grey Cats, my 'B' team, had taught that Packer players could give a team enough points to reach the fantasy playoffs, but not enough to advance.

Of course, my previous Packer experience hadn't included Rodgers.  Perhaps things would improve with him at quarterback.  Then again, after Davis, the team looked about as appetizing as a plate of week-old garlic fries.  As constructed, Time and Again would struggle to reach the playoffs.

I had to keep reminding myself that, with no nominal Floridans allowed on the team, the result no weaker than expected.  The only individual player with any connection at all to Florida was Bowe, who grew up in Miami.  He lasted only three weeks, and no native Floridian would replace him all season long.  Even if the Timers didn't win a single game, I had achieved my primary objective.

Next time:  Let the wēijī begin!

1.  Well, I had to use the phrase 'epic fail' soon, before the Internet outlaws it.
2.  Miami and Tampa Bay account for one team apiece, but Jacksonville contributes only about 78.18% of a team.  That's 2.718 teams.

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