Tim Whyte | Tales of a Fantasy Football Rookie

Tim Whyte

Back in a previous life as a rookie Signal reporter, I was introduced to something that, at the time, was called “rotisserie baseball.”

It was named after La Rotisserie Francaise, the restaurant frequented by the group of Néw York City journalists who invented modern fantasy baseball in the 1980s.

In our league, about a half-dozen reporters convened late during spring training, procured some beer and pizza, and held our draft. It was an auction-style draft, in which we each had a certain amount to spend. The bidding for some of the as-yet unknown steroid-juiced hitters could run on for an eternity. 

The draft ran for HOURS. If I remember correctly some of us who’d spent all of our draft points had to make a second beer run while the bidding was still going on. Our league was called the Margo Adams Baseball League, named after the former mistress of Red Sox third baseman Wade Boggs. 

Once the season was under way, and we’d set our lineups, our commissioner would toil for hours each week, all season long, over the printed box scores in each edition of The Signal, tallying runs, hits, walks, strikeouts, home runs, on-base percentages, slugging percentages, mistresses….

It was a LOT of nerd work, all done by hand. This was before the interwebs became a thing.

A few of us were also hockey fans, so we took the “rotisserie baseball” idea and applied it to hockey. I was the commissioner, and like my baseball counterpart, I spent a LOT of time tallying goals, assists, penalty minutes and the like, from the printed box scores in the paper.

Our hockey league was called the “Probert Anonymous League,” after Bob Probert, the former NHL enforcer and drug trafficker.

We had a thing for ironic names.

Fast forward many years, and this football season I’m struck by how so many things have changed about what we now call “fantasy” leagues — and some, not at all.

I was invited to join an office fantasy football league, which has been dubbed The Mighty Signal Callers. Cute. Wholesome. No mention of mistresses, brawlers or cocaine smugglers. Maybe we’ve evolved…

I’d never played fantasy football before, so I approached it with some trepidation. I really had no idea what to expect.

Here’s what else I learned:

First, modern fantasy sports are a LOT easier. No one has to spend hours poring over box scores anymore. It’s all online and the math is all done for you.

Second, the drafts are a lot more efficient — albeit with less beer and pizza. We finished our online draft for a 10-team league on a weeknight in about an hour.

Third, the smack talk has not died. And for that, I’m grateful.

Some of it, I have learned, is done through the naming of the teams. Some of the names are cute or whimsical. Some of them are just plain smack.

I’m old-fashioned. I named my team just once, and I’m sticking with it. We are the Saugus T-Bones, so named because when my kids were younger, somehow, a la George Costanza  in “Seinfeld,” a joke about  my nickname being “T-bone” gained traction with my kids and some of their pals.

The T-Bones are 3-1 heading into this weekend’s matchup with former Signal staffer Kev Kurdoghlian’s undefeated — for now — Glendale Kebabs.

This being the internet, some of the team names change on a weekly basis. Our sports writer Ryan Menzie has renamed his team almost every week. (Ryan, you should stop fiddling with the team name so much and focus on fixing that sorry-ass lineup. Just sayin’.)

Our accounting manager, Sue Springer, is a Raiders fan. She didn’t get Raider quarterback Derek Carr in the draft, so her team is named, “Dude, Where’s My Carr.”

See what she did there? Cute, right?

Also cute was the team name of reporter Emily Alvarenga. She’s a big dog lover. So she named her team the “Puppy Bowl Champs.” 

Cute. But it brought out the ugliness. Remember earlier when I said maybe we’ve evolved? I was wrong.

It all started in Week 1. Her opponent had named his team already, but when he found out he was playing against Emily’s Puppy Bowl Champs, he changed his team name to:

“The Michael Vick Fan Club.”

Michael Vick, you may recall, is the former NFL quarterback who did time in the slammer for his role in a dogfighting ring.

You think that’s dark??? A few weeks later, another of her opponents took it up about a thousand notches, when his team played Emily’s Puppy Bowl Champs. His team was renamed for the week:

“Drowning Puppies in a Bucket.”

I promise you, neither of those guys hates animals. They’re just trying to get Emily’s goat. But I’m still not going to identify them here because, you know, PETA might be reading.

Then there are the many teams originally known by one name: Team Lunetta.

I lost count of how many teams reporter Caleb Lunetta had in the draft. I originally thought it was some kind of collusion to “fix” the league, but Caleb drafted three awful teams, so that couldn’t be it.

Turns out, Caleb was drafting one team for himself, which he later renamed The Real Lunetta Squad. (Strangely, it’s the worst of the three.) The others were teams he drafted for other people who, apparently, chickened out at the last minute.

I’m not going to say who they were, but one of them rhymes with Richard Budman.

So, we ended up with a league absolutely littered with crappy teams bearing the Lunetta name. I know Caleb’s dad. He’d be embarrassed by what his son was doing to the family’s good name.

I fixed that. I got my kids to take over the extra teams. My son and my daughter made a few roster moves to fix Caleb’s drafting mistakes, and now the former Team Lunettas are competitive. 

And, operating under new names.

My daughter, Brooke, has a wry sense of humor. She doesn’t know Caleb. So she called hers, “What’s a Lunetta?”

My son, Luc, is in law school. He called his, “OJ Did It.”

Back to crime and punishment. Mistresses must be next. 

But, a warning to all the puppies, puppy haters, the army of mediocrity bearing the Lunetta name, and yes, even my own kids:

Watch out. The T-Bones are coming for you.

Tim Whyte is editor of The Signal.

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