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Monday, March 4, 2024
The Observer

Sports Authority: Fantasy football advice from my Grandma

“Are you ready for the draft tonight?”

I whispered a quiet expletive under my breath as I read the text. I’d forgotten all about it. But I wasn’t about to let my rival — the most formidable player in the league — know that.

I typed a quick response. “Yes, of course!” I lied. “It’s at eight, right, Grandma?”

My family’s intense dedication to sports starts all the way at the top with our matriarch, Mrs. Faye Boyle. The 81-year-old former teacher always says she “grew up on sports” and has, for example, religiously followed the New York Yankees since the late 1940s. So when we established a familial fantasy football league, perhaps it is no surprise she ended up the top dog.

Every year, the draft ends the exact same way. Once all of the picks have been registered Grandma always drops the following phrase of matriarchal wisdom in the family group chat: “As always, my team stinks!”

In a recent interview, she recalled some of the apparent lowlights of her purportedly terrible career at the helm of “Teacher Creature,” named in honor of her 37 years of service to the New Jersey public school system.

“Let’s see, I won once, came in second once, came in third once, and last year I came in fourth,” she remembered.

An envious track record for a seven-year-old, 12-person league. She personally picks her team every year—let’s be real, auto draft is for suckers (I say as I just switched on auto draft for my other league) — and has utilized a variety of strategies over the years, always trying to fine tune her edge as she seeks to vanquish her family fantasy football foes.

“The running back is a very important position,” she advises. “It’s probably the first player who should be picked. Then a wide receiver. Then look at the quarterbacks. Then another running back, a wide receiver, a tight end, then look at your kickers and defense. The running backs end up being the most important. I initially thought it was the quarterback. The first few years I picked the quarterback first. But it worked for me.”

While acknowledging the importance of the draft, Grandma cannot stress enough the significance of the waiver wire. She’s already dropped four players she just drafted. For help on this front, she does take outside counsel from an array of sports commentators. A frequent ESPN and Fox Sports viewer, her favorites include Mike Golic and Mike Greenberg (RIP “Mike & Mike”), Colin Cowherd and Stephen A. Smith. She does, however, humbly acknowledge that retirement is an advantage she holds over her progeny.

“I’m very lucky with the waiver wire,” she said. “I can really study it and watch the commentators during the day. Most people are working.”

Though we are a competitive bunch, I would, of course, be remiss if I didn’t note that she takes her grandmotherly role far more seriously than her fantasy football hobby. “Hi Tom,” she texted me once last season on a Thursday afternoon. “I just wanted to let you know two of your starters have byes this week. You might want to look at that. Love you.” Nevertheless, she gets into the zone on Sunday.

“I get very competitive on Sunday afternoons, I’ll be honest with you,” she said. “I watch all the teams that are playing. I keep close tabs on who is giving me points and who’s disappointing me,” she says, somewhat ominously for any and all players on her team.

Regarding her thoughts on her recently-drafted squad, Grandma is sticking to the traditional line. “That’s a loaded question,” she said tersely when I asked how her team — headlined by Matt Ryan and Josh Gordon — was going to fare this year. The problem? The cosmic injustice that is the twelfth pick in a snake draft.

“Here’s the thing, Tom, you pick twice right away,” she lamented. “I couldn’t pick fast enough. I didn’t put any players in my queue. I made fast judgements. Accordingly, my team is not looking too good,” she declares.

Then she pauses. “Though, of course,” she continues, her voice assuming the mischievous tone of a teacher who has caught two students passing notes in class, “the last time I had the twelfth pick, I won.”

Challenge accepted. See you on the field, Grandma.