Last year, Patrick Wensink drank too much at his fantasy football draft. He wound up with a team full of Cleveland Browns.
Fantasy football season has returned. Like so many other imaginary Tom Landrys, it is time for me to organize my draft strategy. This season’s keys to victory are avoiding Robert Griffin’s taffy knee, stealing Montee Ball early and, above all else, never drafting Anthony Romeemo again.
Romeemo’s boozy tale is giving me a wicked case of pre-draft anxiety. So powerful is this fear that I ended up pestering some of the greatest minds in fantasy football about him. This is important stuff. Because, when we talk about Romeemo, we are asking fantasy football’s biggest question:
How much should one drink at a fantasy football draft?
Fantasy drafts usually involve alcohol, but last year’s draft was an inebriated spectacle for the ages. Held in one owner’s living room, it was first class all the way: hip lighting, soft couches, he even opened his massive liquor cabinet and hired a bartender! The walls were covered in poster board to hand-write draft picks.
Good times, right? Sure, except I am a man of poor self-control and worse penmanship.
Roughly six bourbons into the evening, I finally Sharpied a quarterback onto my roster. My team, The Saxophone Soloes, wanted Tony Romo. However, my pickled frontal lobe didn’t cooperate and I scratched something closer to “Anthony Romeemo” on my assigned poster board.
By the draft’s halfway point, I was out, sawing logs on the couch. As punishment, for my last eight picks our commissioner chose all Cleveland Browns. Staffing your fantasy team with eight Browns is about as good an idea as staffing your ballet company with eight Browns. Thanks to my irresponsibility, I awoke the next morning with a hangover, a mild case of embarrassment and the nightmare realization that my season was already sunk.
Sixteen weeks later—via savvy trades, waiver wire acquisitions and wholesale expunging of anyone wearing brown and orange—The Saxophone Soloes stumbled into the championship and won. I took home our modest trophy, $150, and a proud, fatherly glow.
That pride lasted until about the first week of August when preparation began for 2013’s draft. Like an estimated 24 million others, I am following training camp reports, fantasy updates and cramming once-productive workday hours with mock drafts.
But all this prep work is worthless if I return to the scene of the crime of last year’s draft and commit it again. I need to avoid another Romeemo-gate. Does that mean I should avoid drinking at all this year? If I do drink, how much should I drink? How much, exactly, should anyone drink at a fantasy football draft?
This question is destroying my ability to prepare a title defense. So, I sought the drinking and drafting advice of men with hundreds of fantasy seasons among them. Men who obsess over PPR details the way I obsess over free bourbon. Men who fill the OCCUPATION box of their taxes with “Fantasy Football Geek.”
That’s right. I asked Matthew Berry, Evan Silva and Eric Mack whether I should drink.
Berry, ESPN’s fantasy expert, quickly puts my sobriety questions to rest. “There’s a story in my book where the guys were pre-gaming before their draft in a big way. Then at the draft, the guy gets up, takes a sticker off the sheet and puts it on the draft board, saying ‘Buffalo Bills Bombsquad selects Adrian Peterson.’ Then, the next guy gets up, grabs a sticker and says ‘Music City Mayhem selects THE VIKINGS’ Adrian Peterson.’ Yes! In the first guy’s drunken stupor, he had selected the wrong Adrian Peterson with his first round selection, grabbing the then back-up on the Bears. Well, the second guy says too bad, you took your hand off the sticker, first guys says oh yeah? And well. . . a full on brawl ensues. Uppercuts, left hooks, broken tables. . . two best friends going at it all over the floor, something that wouldn’t happen if they were sober.”
Yikes. A tale like that from a fantasy football titan is enough to steer me toward the wagon. As if I needed more convincing, it turns out Berry isn’t the only fan of fantasy temperance.
“Don’t drink before or during the draft. At all,” agrees Rotoworld’s Evan Silva. “I did it once five years ago, during my live draft with college buddies. We had a keg at the draft. Let’s just say my draft didn’t turn out well.”
But what about all my buddies? They’ll certainly be drinking and drafting. Avoiding another booze-soaked breakdown is good form, but I’m not sure it’s worth my opponents’ heckling me as I sip diet soda.
Silva continues: “Let your competitors drink during the draft and make bad picks. Drink after the draft. I’m serious about this. Be smarter than your opposition.”
This sober sentiment is echoed by Berry: “I’m more of the buy drinks and get the other guys toasted kind of drafter. Your buddy sees it as you being generous. I see it as an investment in my team.”
Hello, light at the end of the tunnel!
Clearly, at last year’s draft, my competitors were exploiting my weakness, building a mousetrap made of free booze. Not this time. There is no way all my hours of research and planning will go down like the Titanic this year. Teetotaling, here I come! Actually, sobriety is a brilliant counterstrategy. My opponents will expect another night of drunken buffoonery, so I will sneak up as undetected as Russell Wilson last season.
I begin realizing clear-eyed me will be unstoppable!
But then Sports Illustrated’s Eric Mack storms into my fantasy football life like John Belushi with his fists on his cheeks and a mouthful of whipped cream. The minute I am ready to convert to straight-laced drafting, Mack reminds me that fantasy football is, after all, supposed to be fun.
“I don’t think you have to set a limit,” says Mack. “I’m a big dude, so I might even have enough tolerance to do a drink a round. That would be some pace to keep up! I wouldn’t suggest anyone do that, though.”
Mack is speaking my slurred language. Perhaps I can drink, but just take it easy this year. Limit myself to something sensible like, maybe, half of Andre the Giant’s afternoon intake.
Mack then goes on to shatter whatever willpower I have left: “In the fantasy football league with my softball buddies I stayed in the pool the whole time and made Jamey Eisenberg of CBSSports.com toss me beers. I think almost every pick of that draft was spot on. I scored Ray Rice in Round 1 and Adrian Peterson in Round 2. I should have won that league, but I lost in the semifinals. I am thinking about swimming, drinking and drafting in all my leagues going forward. Just gotta keep my IPad dry!”
God, that sounds like fun. Suddenly I feel like Michael Corleone with the mob or Braylon Edwards with the Jets: I try and get out, but keep getting pulled back in.
So here I am on the eve of my championship defense and my crisis of conscience returns. I am essentially back to square one. How much should one drink at a fantasy football draft?
Obviously, sobriety is the sensible approach. But drinking sounds like more fun. I want to be good and stay sharp, but, as previously mentioned, I am a man of little self-control. The angel on my shoulder says to be more like Brad Pitt in Moneyball, but the hiccupping Winston Churchill on the other shoulder tells me to aim more for Dudley Moore in Arthur.
What is a man to do?
I suspect there’s a reason fantasy experts can’t agree. Because, like alcohol consumption itself, drinking and drafting is a personal decision. This year’s draft will be less an exercise in knowing how much to drink and more an exercising in knowing oneself. There are some of us who can turn down free booze, while others, clearly, can’t. It’s time to get comfortable with that.
Something tells me I’m not alone here. The best thing anyone can do is continue to study fantasy advice from these three gridiron geniuses. No matter your draft day blood alcohol level, you had better have done the prep work to succeed. And in doing that, everything should be fine.
Just be prepared when you have to dig yourself out of a Brandon Weeden-shaped hole the next morning.
No matter how this year’s draft board fills up, there is one fantasy football question that won’t be nagging me this year. As everyone else struggles to choose the right team name, mine has never been clearer. This season’s squad, The Anthony Romeemos, are ready for blood and have decided to put last year’s prize money to good use.
Photo: AP/Michael Prengler
Earlier we ran Travis Timmons on fantasy baseball. You can check it out here.