"Whatever you do, don't try to be funny!"
I was on the phone with my younger brother. He's one of those high-powered Hollywood managers who understands everything about show business -- and about me. All the negatives about me and whatever positives there might be. He is also, like me, a huge fan of "The League," the comedy about fantasy football that airs on FX on Thursday nights at 10:30 ET.
Episode 3 of Season 3 airs tonight, and I'm in it, playing a (hopefully!) slightly less awkward version of myself. It was filmed in August, and, as I was getting ready to leave my hotel room to go to the set, I was talking with my brother about it. And he had some advice.
"Look, these are some of the best comedians and improv actors in the business. They are all hilarious. Truly brilliant. You won't be able to keep up with them. I've seen you act. You're not a good actor. So just promise me, whatever you do, don't try to be funny!"
The reason he was saying that, other than, ahem, the obvious, was that the show is not scripted. The creators of the show are Jeff and Jackie Schaffer. The spouses have many famous credits, but among them, Jeff was a writer on "Seinfeld" for many seasons and an executive producer on the final two seasons. He's also an executive producer on "Curb Your Enthusiasm," and this show is shot in much the same way.
I wasn't going to read it.
As I skimmed the cover of the July 4 edition of Us Magazine, I looked at the headlines, figuring nothing in the issue appealed to me. "How Khloe lost 10 lbs!" (Uh, I assume it's from not having to eat arena food anymore since her husband, inconsistent Lamar, decided not to show up against the Mavericks, helping my Lakers get swept in the conference semis instead of playing in the NBA Finals despite having the best team in the league, talent-wise, as Kobe got a year older. But I'm totally over it, why do you ask?)
"Bachelorette shocker -- Bentley's Cruel Return" (I have no idea what this means). And "Hef's Heartache -- Dumped at the Altar" (I think Hef's gonna be OK).
Then I see the main headline.
"How Jen Stole Her Man."
Stop it. Seriously? I look again. Yes, seriously.
For those who are behind on their celebrity gossip -- and in fairness, this story has been fairly quiet -- actress Jennifer Aniston has been single for a while. As Kevin O'Leary breathlessly writes, "In the two years since her tortured love affair with John Mayer ended, her dating life had consisted of false starts with everyone from Bradley Cooper to Cougar Town's Josh Hopkins, so who could blame her for jumping in?"
I figured it was obvious, but who knows, maybe I was missing something. So I read on. Here are the details:
Lots and lots of people are funny. But very few are funny the way Leslie Nielsen was. Nielsen, best known for his roles in movies like "Airplane!" and the "Naked Gun" series, passed away Sunday at age 84.
Like many of you, I loved those movies and was a big fan of Leslie's work. When I heard the news of his passing, I reflected on his many great lines and moments. Always with great timing and impeccable deadpan delivery, the way Nielsen was funny was not only unique, it reminded me a lot of a fantasy football owner this season.
Go with me here for a sec. As insanity and ridiculousness swept around Nielsen, he always kept a straight face and stoic demeanor. His matter-of-fact reactions in the face of chaos were not only hilarious, but also exactly what fantasy owners need to do in a year in which Chris Johnson gets a zero in a Week 12 game in which he played the entire time, among a billion other crazy things that have happened.
There's just one week left in the regular season for fantasy football. So, in honor of the memory of the man who played Dr. Rumack in "Airplane!" and Lt. Frank Drebin of "Police Squad!" and "The Naked Gun" series -- plus for all of us who have survived this crazy, up-and-down year -- here's a reflection on both my favorite Nielsen quotes and the fantasy football storylines they invoke.
Season 2 of "Jersey Shore" on MTV starts Thursday, so if you are of legal drinking age, I say you do a shot every time
1. The Situation shows the abs. References the abs. Tries to use the abs to get girls and fails. Or succeeds. Look, bottom line, you see the abs? Glug, glug.
2. When Ronnie throws a punch, you drink some.
3. JWoww stars in another Cleavage Cabaret.
4. DJ Pauly D refers to himself in the third person, like so: Yo, I can't help it if chicks want to go home with DJ Pauly D. That's the power of playing music in a club. No one can do that like DJ Pauly D. I mean, DJ Pauly D picks the song all by himself and everything.
5. Any of them pump their fist. (Hint: The thing on top of Snooki's neck is not a fist.)
6. Three letters: GTL.
7. Snooki throws herself at a breathing mammal.
8. Reference is made to any of these relationships: Ronnie and Sammi's, JWoww and the dude back home, The Situation and a mirror.
9. When Ronnie drinks, you drink with the man.
10. Anyone in your group remembers that Vinny is on the show.
Can. Not. Wait.
Every year, I write about 100 columns. Here's how they usually break down, with a special nod to the most recent 100.
• 70 are about football.
• 2 are random, miscellaneous things I've been asked to write.
• No basketball columns. I'm sad about it, but I have no time left for fantasy hoops.
• 77 of them are funny or at least have attempted to be.
• 94 of them use lots of statistics and facts at their core.
• 85 of the 94 use jokes, slang and pop culture to disguise that fact.
• 6 of them involve crazy dating/girlfriend stories. I'm trying to cut down on those, both as a crutch and in my personal life.
• 23 of them involve my Twitter followers. You can follow me at @MatthewBerryTMR.
• 46 of them have a reference to me promoting something, usually ESPN-related. I'm a company man.
• 2 of them discuss my ex-father-in-law.
• 3 of them mention the ex-Mrs. Roto, but only in passing. I'll never say anything bad about her.
• 7 mention my dog, Macy. What can I say? Lost the wife, still have the dog. Dog gets more ink.
• 26 involve rankings of some sort.
I'm in a ranking mood. Just finished my new football ranks (which will be up Friday). Did a column two weeks ago in which I ranked my top 300 for the rest of the year. I also reviewed the ranks of the Maxim "Hot 100" and recently ranked what I thought would be the 10 top-grossing movies of the summer from Memorial Day until September for my friend's annual summer movie pool.
And so, as May flowers turn to I don't know, June powers? Sours? Cowhers? It's clearly time for another ten lists of 10. I asked the folks that follow me on Twitter (as @MatthewBerryTMR) for some suggestions, added a few of my own and here we are. At any point, if you see a number in parentheses, that's the player's ownership percentage in ESPN standard leagues and is, you know, a hint as to what you should be checking next.
THE 10 TOP-GROSSING MOVIES OF THE SUMMER
Every year, I do this movie pool. The goal is simple. Pick the ten highest-grossing movies of the summer with movies that open Memorial Day weekend or after (so "Shrek Forever After," "Iron Man 2," Sex and the City 2," etc. are ineligible) until Labor Day. Most box-office wins, and you get a $5 million bonus added to your box-office total for every movie you pick in the correct order. To win, you gotta take a few gambles, which I've done. Anyway, here's my list, with predicted highest-grossing at top.
1. "Toy Story 3"
2. "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse"
3. "Knight and Day"
5. "The A-Team"
6. "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time"
7. "Grown Ups"
8. "The Other Guys"
9. "The Sorcerer's Apprentice"
10. "The Karate Kid"
It's all a crock.
And anyone who tells you different is trying to sell you something.
Whether it's a fantasy baseball sleeper or a political agenda or just why Olivia Wilde is hotter than Joanna Krupa, it's all bunk and hooey, especially since Olivia went brunette. Look, you wanna go back to Olivia in blond hair making out with Mischa Barton on "The O.C."? Then we can talk. But right now, it's The Krupa and it's not close.
The point, and I'm pretty sure there is one, is that every single day, on blogs, cable networks, Web sites, podcasts, Twitter, talk radio and more -- in coffee shops, bars, dorms, office break rooms and everywhere else -- people spout numbers and facts, research and statistics, poll numbers and pie charts to convince you that their point, their analysis, their opinion is the correct one.
More specific to our little fantasy world, you have already read and heard many stats, numbers and research. Tons of analysis and opinion, sleepers and busts, rankings defended and mock drafts explained, all delivered with certainty because of the facts supporting it.
So not only is there a point, there's only one point and it's this: It's all a crock.
Everything that follows is absolutely true. They all are facts. Some are about baseball players and teams; some are just for fun; and not one of them tells the whole story. There are 50 in all. What you do with them is up to you.
It was a question I had never been asked.
Before I gave a recent talk at Boston College, my introduction ended with "Matthew's publicly talked about how much he hates the Yankees, so he expects a warm Boston welcome. " I am nothing if not a panderer to my audience (by the way, you look great today!), and the response was enthusiastic if not expected.
After I gave my talk, during the Q-and-A session a young man asked me, very simply, why I hated the Yankees.
It occurred to me that I had never been asked that question before. Yankees hatred is so commonplace that it is taken for granted. If they are not your beloved team, chances are you hate them.
But why, specifically, do I?
I gave a quick answer about their arrogance and how, unlike most major league teams, they have an unlimited payroll and can afford to make mistakes. Contracts such as those given to Kei Igawa, Jaret Wright, Jason Giambi and Carl Pavano (not to mention renting Roger Clemens for half a season) would cripple most other teams, not allow them to shrug it off and sign CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Mark Teixeira to a team already paying crazy money to Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera. Although I acknowledge it's not the Yankees' fault that baseball refuses to have a salary cap, they are an example of all the things that are wrong with baseball.
But the real reason I hate the Yankees is a long story, I continued.
So in between fantasy darlings Grady Sizemore and Matt Holliday swinging bats, just after the great Buster Olney says his Clio Award-worthy line "This is Buster" and before we get to the much-more-attractive-than-me Alyssa Milano, there is a one-second shot of me in the latest ESPN.com fantasy baseball commercial.
(Let's see, so I was in the commercial with Alyssa (1), Alyssa was in "Hugo Pool" with Sean Penn (2), Sean Penn was in "Mystic River" with Kevin Bacon (3), Bacon was in "Frost/Nixon" with Frank Langella (4) and Langella was in "Dracula" with Olivier (5). Not bad, and I even used Bacon. So cool.)
Anyway, "Mr. Roto's Mailbag" is the theme of my one second of fame, and it has been way too long since I've done one. That's changing right now as I dig through lots of e-mails that have collected over the past month. Here we go:
Jon (St. Cloud, Minn.): "The words were barely out of your mouth, lecturing us to always watch WHIP and ERA, not to draft any pitcher with a bad WHIP and ERA regardless of wins and losses and saves when you put up the graphic of Jonathan Papelbon, telling us to ignore his 0.95 WHIP and a 2.34 ERA, and instead draft the guy with a 1.50 WHIP and a 4.50 ERA. Which is it, genius????? Do you just talk for the sake of talking, or do you actually think about this double-talk bull, contradicting yourself before you spew it?????"
TMR: I think you mean genius sarcastically, but since you are using five question marks, you must clearly be wondering. You must be talking about the "blind résumé" that I did on the Baseball Tonight fantasy baseball draft special, in which I pointed out that Brian Wilson and Jonathan Papelbon had the same number of saves last year. I don't think I'm the only guy saying not to draft bad ERA and WHIP; that should pretty much be a given, right? The greater point is that you shouldn't "pay for saves." Papelbon is currently being drafted, on average, almost 130 picks ahead of Brian Wilson. The point is not specifically about those two players, but the theory itself. Obviously, Paps will have better ERA and WHIP numbers. But he'll also pitch only 70 innings. Considering your team likely will finish with somewhere between 1,500 and 2,000 innings (depending on strategy, league rules, etc.), the difference between Papelbon and Wilson's ERA and WHIP is nothing considering the difference in value between wasting a 5th-round pick on a closer rather than a 17th-round pick on saves. But thanks for watching ESPN!
Jimmy (Saskatoon): "I think many of us could use some clarification on Pablo Sandoval? Everyone is predicting this guy will break out, and they point to his catcher eligibility as the source of his value. But will he get catcher eligibility? He is listed only as a first baseman right now, and I can't find anywhere that says the Giants expect him to play 10 games at catcher quick enough to qualify him in time to be helpful. Any thoughts? Go Norsemen."
TMR: Go Norsemen indeed. They love me in Saskatoon. Anyway, the short answer is, barring injury, I don't think Sandoval gets 10 games at catcher this year. Bengie Molina played 145 games last year and is pretty durable, and Steve Holm is backing up "my favorite Molina."
John (NYC): "Matthew, what are the chances that your [recommendations] this spring to get 'Sexei Alexei' [work out like they did] this past fall with Joseph Addai? I'm going to say pretty good, because like with Addai, I drafted 'The Sexei' every chance I got. The real question is, who will be this baseball season's Frank Gore? I think you know what I'm talking about."
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Owen (NYC): "Only three teams in baseball scored more runs last year than the Minnesota Twins, yet only two stadiums yielded fewer runs per game last year than the Metrodome. Interesting pair of statistics. Play your Twins hitters on the road?"
TMR: No, what it means to me is that you start your Twins pitchers at home. Always. All of them.
TMR: I'm not worried about Ryan's decreased velocity this spring. From what I understand, he's working out some mechanical issues, and that's the reason. I've seen his stock decrease dramatically as a result, but I expect him to be fine. And no, I didn't get Downs. I wanted him, but he went for more than I wanted to pay. I agree, though, that Downs is the handcuff you want.
Ed (Raleigh, N.C.): "It's about 9:45 pm ET, and I see that you're pulling away from Sports Guy for the 'PodBlockers' championship. Well done, sir. I trust you'll be posting a photo of Fu Manchu Bill Simmons for the viewing pleasure of your loyal [fans] in short order."
TMR: We discuss Bill's impending facial hair on the most recent B.S. Report Check it out.
Tim (Boston): "Just had to give credit where credit is due. Me and my friends started playing fantasy basketball for the first time this year, and while I watch a decent number of NBA games, I had no idea which direction to turn when drafting a fantasy team. After reading your draft-day strategy of concentrating on point guards and power forwards, I decided that I would do my best to follow that advice and see how things ended up. Now, I will say, there were many trades during the season, including me turning Dwyane Wade and All Iverson into Dwight Howard and Brandon Roy, and then turning Howard into Lebron. But your advice led me to jump on guys such as Rajon Rondo and Antawn Jamison, and I ended up toppling the No. 1 seed and winning the whole league. Just want to throw some kudos your way. You hear it a lot when you lead people down the wrong path, so here's a TMR-influenced success story!"
TMR: Thanks, and congrats! You did it, not me, but glad to hear. You know, it's always great to get a note when I've helped someone out. Like Tom here:
|Where should they go?|
|Check out a new tool from ESPN Insider: the Draft Analyzer. With it, you can figure out where a player should go in your fantasy MLB draft, relative to value. Draft Analyzer|
TMR: Glad to hear the baseball draft special helped!
Jeff (Pittsburgh): "I am in a 12-team Roto keeper league. For our keepers, we get to keep them in the round we drafted them the previous year. With this in mind, would you draft A-Rod as high as the fourth round, thinking of next year and getting a potential MVP in the fourth round?"
TMR: Yeah, I have no problem with that. I've said he should be going in the fifth round in ESPN standard leagues, so the fourth round makes total sense for a keeper league. I'd pay up to $30 for him in a keeper auction league, but you should be able to get him for $20 to $25. All that said, I'm not touching him this year in non-keeper leagues. Way too many question marks for someone you'd have to use a high draft pick on.
Jeff (Palo Alto, Calif.): "Regarding your 50 facts and 25 things column, No. 3 compares Evan Longoria to Aramis Ramirez, and it sounds like you're suggesting that if you're considering Longoria [the higher draft pick], wait and take Ramirez instead. No. 62 compares Ramirez to Adrian Beltre, with what sounds like a similar suggestion. My question is this: By extension, does that mean that if I'm considering taking Longoria, I should just wait a few rounds and take Beltre instead? Some of the numbers you put up for Beltre look awfully similar to Longoria's full-season-projected numbers from last year."
TMR: Depends on who else you have the option to grab. I was using stats in both cases to illustrate that I think Longoria is a bit overvalued this year and that both Aramis and Beltre are undervalued. It's a contract year for Beltre, which is nice, but Ramirez is going to hit at least 20 points higher and that is significant over 500-plus at bats. Their power numbers are closer than folks realize, which was the primary point, but yeah, we play with numbers, not names. Make sure you pay attention to the numbers.
Speros Zanetos (Clearwater, Fla.): "Mr. Berry, we recently had our fantasy draft on [a competitor's site], and if you had a moment, could you go to the league and provide us with a power ranking of who has the strongest team to the weakest. We would greatly appreciate your opinion. Here is the link to our site "
TMR: Yeah, I'm gonna get right on that.
Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- hopes Megan Joy uses her free time from no longer being on "American Idol" to remove that ugly tattoo. He is a five-time award winner from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association, including a Writer of the Year award. He is also the creator of RotoPass.com, a Web site that combines a bunch of well-known fantasy sites, including ESPN Insider, for one low price. Use promo code ESPN for 10 percent off. Cyberstalk the TMR | Be his Cyberfriend
I get a lot of questions about the name of this blog. TRUM, in case you skipped the lead-in above, stands for "thoughts, ramblings, useless information and musings," and that description has probably never been more accurate than today, with a perfectly nutty Week 17 finishing off an insane year.
So here are a bunch of random thoughts as I watched today's games and, as a treat to you readers, I'll finish with what I believe is the first set of fantasy football rankings for next year.
So let's go back to one of my favorite catchphrases with a little
That Week 17 tends to be like a high school reunion. Or being on Facebook. There are a lot of old, familiar names you haven't thought about in years. Oh wow, you think, Michael Clayton is still alive?! He had 87 yards receiving, and I'm as surprised as you to report it was not in an Arena Football League (RIP) game.
Also, DeShawn Wynn, who was a trendy pickup for one week last season, had 122 total yards and a score for the Packers. Thanks to Pierre Thomas being scratched, Deuce McAllister had one last day of fantasy relevance, with 81 total yards. There was a Ryan Moats sighting; he had more than 50 total yards and a score. Moats plays for Houston these days, in case you were wondering. Or didn't know. Or, more than likely, didn't care. Najeh Davenport, a member of the Colts these days, had 80 total yards, and midseason darling Donnie Avery had 40 yards and a score while sitting on waiver wires.
That in a week in which a lot of studs didn't play much (both Mannings, Pierre Thomas, Marshawn Lynch, Chris Johnson, Brandon Jacobs, Anquan Boldin, Frank Gore) or didn't show up even though they did play (the Patriots' passing game, Larry Johnson, Matt Ryan, Tony Romo, Jason Witten, Tashard Choice, Brian Westbrook), we should applaud the studs who did show up, including: Andre Johnson, Adrian Peterson, Le'Ron McClain, Steve Smith, DeAngelo Williams, Drew Brees, Marques Colston, Aaron Rodgers, Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Turner, Clinton Portis, Greg Jennings and Calvin Johnson.
That Pacman Jones made it rain for the Eagles.
That I said on Fantasy Football Now this morning that Brett Favre is an overrated choke artist.
That Tony Romo is the new Brett Favre.
That I saw my first previews of the "new" "American Idol." You know how we have that "countdown to kickoff" clock on "Sunday NFL Countdown" and Fantasy Football Now? Well, having seen what the new female judge looks like, can we go ahead and start that clock on "Idol"? The countdown to Paula's last show, that is.
That the most surprising performance in an already-shocking day was Michael Bush's. The third-string running back, on the road against a Tampa Bay team that had yet to give up a rushing touchdown at home all year, ran for 177 yards and scored twice. He was started in 0.6 percent of ESPN.com leagues.
That for the third straight week, Michael Jenkins had more yards than Roddy White. White, however, got the score. Jenkins finishes the regular season with at least 50 yards in nine of his last 11 games.
That Bill Simmons wrote the following in his mailbag column Friday: " the Celtics' 19-game winning streak came to a screeching halt on Christmas Day, thanks to Kobe Bryant and a gritty 15-man Lakers team (I'm including the refs)."
That Bill and every other Celtics fan should note that after Game 2 of last year's NBA Finals, in which the Celtics had 38 free throws to the Lakers' 10 -- backup center Leon Powe had three free throws more than the entire Lakers team -- and the Celtics won by just six points, you are all banned from whining about ref calls in any Lakers-Celtics game from here 'til the end of time. And you're certainly banned from whining about the refs following a regular-season game in which Tony Allen and Rajon Rondo shot a combined 6-for-20 from the field. Seriously. The Lakers shot seven more free throws than the Celtics. Not something crazy like 28 -- in a Finals game.
That you should consider these numbers from the past three weeks:
Running back A: 462 total yards
Running back B: 360 total yards
Running back C: 377 total yards
Running back C is DeAngelo Williams. Running back B is Adrian Peterson. And running back A is Cedric Benson. This doesn't include touchdowns, but still
That Detroit's Kevin Smith scored in his last three games, and on Sunday, he finished 1 yard short of posting his third straight 100-yard game. Nice sleeper for next season.
That JaMarcus Russell finishes the year with two touchdown passes in each of the last three games, the last one coming on the road at Tampa Bay.
That second only to Michael Bush's performance in weirdness was Jamal Lewis'. On the road at Pittsburgh, he managed to run for 94 yards.
That I love that fantasy commercial with all the sad fantasy teams, promoting postseason fantasy football -- which we have for free right here on ESPN.com. Compete with me and all the other ESPN fantasy analysts in Gridiron Playoff Challenge. You can sign up to play here.
That it was a week too late for Donald Driver, DeShaun Foster, Lance Moore and Dwayne Bowe, among others, to help us. They had nice games, but we really could have used those last week. A lot of people got burned by Foster, especially, last week.
That it was nice to see Carnell Williams get two scores. Not as nice, though, was seeing him clutch his knee in pain. Again.
That despite all the crap I took when I called Frank Gore a second-rounder before the season, he will finish the year as no better than the 14th-best fantasy running back. And he once again killed owners down the stretch, with two goose eggs and three single-digit-fantasy-point games in his final six games.
That I'm sick of the commercial in which the crazy-hot blond bartender says, "Let's talk about commitment," and the guys freak out until she says something like, "Relax, I'm talking about the beer's commitment to excellence." And she proceeds to lecture them on how great the beer is. First off, I've never been lectured by a bartender in my life, at least not about how good a beer I've just ordered is. The guys just ordered it -- they're convinced it's good. Plus, not one guy in America would freak out if that girl started talking about commitment. These guys have "tool" written all over them. Trust me, they'd be thrilled to get attention from a girl like that.
That those who want to hear my preseason predictions -- what I nailed and what I whiffed on -- should tune in to an upcoming Fantasy Focus podcast Nate and I will do. Be sure to look for it.
That it has been a blast, a privilege and occasionally a pain in the butt (not gonna lie) to write for you every week. I appreciate all of you taking the time to read. Even the haters; your page clicks count the exact same as the nice folks! I'm taking a good long break and will see you back around these parts for baseball season.
But I will leave you with my top 10 at quarterback, running back and wide receiver for next season, just off the top of my head. It's never too soon to think about it:
2. Tom Brady (if healthy at the start of camp)
3. Kurt Warner
4. Peyton Manning
5. Tony Romo
6. Aaron Rodgers
7. Jay Cutler
8. Philip Rivers
9. Donovan McNabb
10. Tyler Thigpen (if he plays all 16 games, he'll run for 700-plus yards)
(Sorry, I just don't think DeAngelo Williams or Thomas Jones will score the way they did this year, and I think LT gets healthy and gets a true fullback and offensive line in the offseason.)
Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- has a birthday on Monday the 29th. He has always hated having a birthday this close to the holidays. He is the creator of RotoPass.com, a Web site that combines a bunch of well-known fantasy sites, including ESPN Insider, for one low price. Use promo code ESPN for 10 percent off. Cyberstalk the TMR | Be his Cyberfriend