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Fantasy league draft more fun in person

Monday, August 27, 2007 | 1:51 a.m. CDT; updated 3:00 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The draft room is in chaos.

Loud chatter hums like Wall Street as 12 MU students cram inside a townhouse living room. Empty beer cans, crumpled McDonald’s bags and hundreds of old sports magazines litter the coffee table centered in the room. The scent of rancid salsa mixed with stale beer burns the nostrils.

The conditions are ripe for a live fantasy football draft.

“Fantasy football is the cultural phenomenon,” says Mike Klos, the residing commissioner and owner of fantasy team PhillyPhanaticV.20. “All red-blooded American males participate in it. I can’t walk down the street without hearing at least two people a day talk about fantasy football or their fantasy team.”

Before the Internet boom in the mid-90s, fantasy drafts were always live. Now, with Web sites devoted to fantasy sports, most drafts are done online, and live drafts are things of the past. But the members of this league wanted something more personal, more fun. They wanted an excuse to party.

“We had done fantasy football in the past on Yahoo.com or Fox.com,” Klos says. “But sometimes it wasn’t the best. We wanted a time where we could get together, have a little camaraderie and drink a little bit.”

The league participants were secretly notified of Saturday’s 3 p.m. draft via Facebook. It is an exclusive group; only the closest of friends with an unparalleled passion for football, stats and beer were invited. A quick scan of the room reveals how dedicated they are.

Squeezed three or four at a time into modest-sized couches, most team owners are wearing their favorite players’ jerseys: Carson Palmer, Terrell Owens and Brett Favre, to name a few. As the countdown to the first selection draws near, members frantically study their personal fantasy football guides, complete with player stats, depth charts and a list of hidden sleepers.

The clock strikes three, and all at once there is silence. Klos notifies the owners that the draft has started. The draft order was selected at random, and senior Julius Kerschinske drew the first pick.

Each participant is allotted five minutes to make his selection. But Kerschinske doesn’t waste his time.

He walks to the large draft board, grabs the thick black permanent marker dangling from a stream of blue masking tape and begins to fill in the first square.

“With the first pick of the 2007 fantasy football draft, (team) Chocolate Thunder selects running back LaDainian Tomlinson!” he boasts.

It is the most obvious pick in the draft. For the past three years, Tomlinson has been a fantasy god. Last year, he broke the single-season touchdown record, scoring 31 times and rushing for 1,815 yards.

The rest of the participants follow suit. Kansas City’s Larry Johnson and St. Louis’ Stephen Jackson are both taken in the first round. Michael Vick is not.

As the draft goes on, crude jokes and quasi-original insults become a frequent currency of entertainment. Matt Martin, owner of team Mitch Martin Inc., casually asks Kerschinske who he selected with his latest pick.

“Your mom,” Kerschinske replies.

Andy Paschen, owner of team Optimus Crime, selects Tom Brady late in the second round and triumphantly exclaims that his quarterback has the best facial stubble in the NFL.

And so it goes for the next hour and a half. An owner selects a player, which is either followed by boos, congratulations or a crack at Vick, who was suspended indefinitely by the NFL after he entered a plea agreement with federal prosecutors in which he admitted to bankrolling a dogfighting operation.

“Anyone who tries to pick a player who has already been taken has to pick Vick — and his dog team instead,” Paschen says.

By the eighth round, hunger holds the room captive. Sean Clark-Weis, host of the draft, retreats to the refrigerator and comes back with a six-layer bean dip. The savory spread rests comfortably on the kitchen countertop, right next to a candy jar filled with beer caps.

There is a new focus in the room now.

“I’m so deep into this bean dip,” Clark-Weis says as he scoops a glob of beans, guacamole, and sour cream onto a Tostitos chip. “I don’t even care about my draft board.”

The dip isn’t enough for Kerschinske, though, who, between bites, complains that he’s still hungry.

“You’re eating and you’re still hungry?” asks Ryan Oswald, owner of team Hibachi.

“Uh, yeah,” Kerschinske replies with a mouth full of dip.

“God, you’re fat,” Oswald spits.

“Uh, yeah,” Kerschinske replies.

Oswald isn’t the only one getting antsy. The draft has dragged on for two and a half hours now, and the clamor that brought the room to life earlier in the day has died down. Moments of prolonged silence are often broken by the earth-shattering belches of Joe Lose, owner of team Laser Cats!!!!!, who seems to be more amused by his unique talent than anyone else.

“Did something just die?” Oswald asks.

Finally, after 3 hours and 15 minutes of pranks, insults, pizza and beer, the draft concludes when Klos selects Texans quarterback Matt Schaub — “Mr. Irrelevant” — with the 204th pick.

As soon as it’s over, owners run to the draft board to ponder trades and argue about who has the best team. More insults ensue.

The fantasy season has begun.


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