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Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Updated: September 12, 11:34 AM ET
My idea of real fantasy football

By Scoop Jackson
Page 2

Fan•ta•sy [FAN-tuh-see]: imagination, esp. when extravagant and unrestrained; the forming of mental images, esp. wondrous or strange fancies; imaginative conceptualizing; a mental image; an imagined or conjured-up sequence fulfilling a psychological need; a supposition based on no solid foundation; a visionary idea; a caprice; a whim; an ingenious thought.

Fantasy football is for suckas.

I never understood the point in fantasy football. It's not that I have a problem with the theory of "fantasy" football, I just have a problem with calling millions of people doing imitations of Charlie Casserly "fantasy."

Where's the "fantasy" in drafting Donovan McNabb or Tony Romo, or hoping that Adrian Peterson breaks 200 yards or Devin Hester runs one back, all while not really caring about any of the other nuances of what make the game beautiful?

Having Bill Gates money is a fantasy. Owning a condo on the top of Jumeirah in Dubai is a fantasy. Spending the opening day of the NFL season with a collection of beautiful and intelligent women who love football, buying them drinks and food at your friend's bar, talking rosters, routes and Raiders with them for hours and you are the only man around … that's a fantasy.

So I gathered five women I've known over the years who happen to be sexy football aficionettes. They're John Claytons in Taraji Henson and Scarlett Johansson shells. None of them knew each other, but for years in many separate discussions, games, events and occasions, I've learned the level at which they love the game. But they've never been in the same room at the same time until now.

Alone with them? Me? Three hours? Talking nothing but football?

So to all you "fantasy" football fanatics, you can have your fantasy. I got mine.

Brandon Jacobs
Our fantasy football panel doesn't think Brandon Jacobs and the Giants can repeat, despite winning their opener.

Me: First off, will the Giants repeat this year?

Lindsay Sikula (studio technician, Team Works Media): No. With them losing [Michael] Strahan and then [Osi] Umenyiora going down for the season, their defense is through. And once you get past their defense …

Veronica Clemons (vice president, Hill and Knowlton public marketing): Yeah, their defense is busted.

Lindsay: And that's what won it for them last year. It wasn't Eli -- the Giants just got hot last year at the right time.

Note: Everyone's second round of drinks arrives. For the record, none of these women are sippin' on Chardonnay. It's Effen Black Cherry vodka, 10 Cane rum, Bombay Sapphire, etc. In short glasses. Real drinks! A request is made for Patron shots at the end.

So who's going to win it all?

Kari Fitzgerald (restaurant manager, Park 52 -- where the fantasy took place): I don't know, there are a lot of teams this year that really could --

Claudine Randolph (teacher, University of Chicago Urban Education Institute): I think it's up for grabs. I'm kinda extra excited about the football season this year. But I'm really thinking the Colts.

Veronica: Dal --

Lindsay: (loud) Minnesota's going to win it!

Everyone looks at her.

Lindsay: I'm just saying if you listen to like these so-called experts on the radio, that's all you hear. Look, their defense is good, but I don't think Tarvaris Jackson is good enough at QB to take them. Now Adrian Peterson can run, but if you stop the run on the Vikings, I don't think they have enough receivers --

Kari: But they have Bernard Berrian there --

Lindsay: Yeah, but keep going. Who else? So you stop the run and cover Berrian, then what? Tarvaris Jackson and whoever else can't do it.

What about San Diego? I been saying for the past three years that they are going to break through.

Lindsay: I think their defense will struggle and Shawne Merriman's knee will not hold up. [Editor's note: She was right. Merriman has elected to undergo reconstructive knee surgery and is out for the season.] He can play today, but don't tell me come Week 9 that's he's going to be able to play. Side-to-side, sideline-to-sideline, I don't think he's going to be quick like he is. He's going to be hurt. I mean, two torn ligaments …

Veronica: Dallas.

Everyone looks at her.

Veronica: It's going to be interesting to see what happens with Dallas and all of the personalities they have there. I mean, Pacman Jones. I saw him over the summer and I'm like, "This is the same kid that was in trouble all of the time?" He's Adam now and he's behaving like an Adam. Tank's [Johnson] down there. Terrell [Owens] is still around. They have a lot of opportunities [to win], but a lot of [potential] distractions.

They have players at every position. They are pretty complete, like the NFC version of the Chargers. My biggest thing with the Cowboys is the consistency in their running game.

Kari: Well, now they have Marion [Barber] back there who proved himself last year --

Lindsay: But you can't run one running back all of the time --

True, but it all depends on how you feature that runner. If you have a strong QB and some decent receivers --

Jason Witten
Our panel likes what Jason Witten brings to the table for the Cowboys.

Kari: And they do have Jason Witten.

Whole table: "Oooh yeah!"

Lindsay: So with all of that said, why won't they win it all?

Veronica and Kari: Past experience (laugh).

Veronica: They've been a play away! Twice! Two years in a row! A play away! To me, that's a choke. When you are a play away, you don't get beat, you fall [expletive] apart.

Whole table: (laugh)

Claudine: Tony Romo said it is "Super Bowl or bust" for them this year, and I actually think this year he could take them to the Super Bowl. I think he got so much grief last year that this year he'll actually do something [special] and they will not choke as badly as they did last year. Now I don't think he can carry it out and win the Super Bowl, but I do think he will get them close.

So Veronica, why are you picking them to win the Super Bowl?

Veronica: Look, I've been a Cowboys fan since I was little, since Tony Dorsett. I'll always have love for Dallas. But they be makin' me mad.

So does everyone have a favorite team? One that you pull for year after year, week in, week out, no matter what?

Claudine: No, but I was a Patriots fan for a long time and that's because I went to school in Boston [Boston College]. But I'm a fan of where BC players go when they get to the NFL. So for a long time it was New England, but now it's the Falcons. Matt Ryan.

Lindsay: Sadly, I'm a Bears fan.

Kari: Me too. The Bears.

Lindsay: Walter Payton, [Jim] McMahon, [Mike] Singletary, that whole 1985 team … They've been horrendous many times since, but still --

Kari: Tom Thayer was a right guard for the Bears on that team when I grew up. He's a good friend of my family. So during the whole height of 1984, '85, '86, my dad was a cop, so Tom would come down to the house and sign autographs and everything for us while he'd help my Dad out with things around the house. And with my Dad being a cop, Tom would use my father as his "security" on places he'd have to go. I used to hang out with Neal Anderson, Keith Van Horne. Those guys became like brothers to me, and I don't have any brothers. So when I grew up and was able to form my own opinion … I'll just say this: It's really hard for me to pull for another team.

Terri Evans (sales associate, Tiffany's) walks in, joins in. She's introduced to everyone. A promo for next week's Jets game comes on the television. Round three of drinks is ordered.

Terri: I love watching the Chicago Bears, but that's because I'm in Chicago. But that's not my team. I don't have a team. Back in the '80s Dallas was my team. [Veronica reaches across the table and gives Terri five.] They had the coach, they had Tony Dorsett --

Veronica: Ed "Too Tall" Jones, Randy White --

Terri: Yeah … the Cowboys.

Are you all tired of the whole Brett Favre thing?

Terri: Oh, yes!

Lindsay: I was there for it. I sat through press conferences. I was just like, "Why don't they just bring him back?" If he wants to play with them, let him play. Make him earn his spot back or tell Aaron Rodgers to take a seat until next year. But in the end, when the Packers were like, "We're going to offer you $25 million to be our marketing partner? We're going to give you hush-hush money?" Then at one point Brett was like, "I'm showing up anyway." I think the whole thing is ridiculous. I'm a Bears fan. I'm not a Packers or a Jets fan, so …

Kari: They let him get away with everything. The coaches, the team. But when you're that good -- as good as Brett Favre is -- everything is supposed to go your way. What he did, it's like he did it for attention. The crying? What was that?

Terri: There's no crying in retirement.

Whole table: (laugh)

Kari: If you are going to cry, leave. Stay gone.

As a man, I had a problem with that.

Kari: As a woman, I had a problem with it. (laugh)

Veronica: What he did had nothing to do with the team, and he's supposed to be the ultimate team player.

Brett Favre
Brett Favre = diva, according to our panel.

Lindsay: Brett's a diva.

Why football? I know it's a sexist question -- I wouldn't ask a bunch of dudes this question if the genders were reversed --- but why such a love for the game for you all?

Terri: Defense. I love seeing guys get hit off the line and in pass coverage. I can't lie, I love the contact. I like the violence. (laugh)

Kari: I grew up in Joliet, Ill., and Joliet is a big football town, So it was a community thing with me. The whole town would gather and rally around football. Everyone could put aside his or her personal differences for the Friday night football game. You just get so invested in it. And for me, it grew from there. It was the sport that just brought everyone together. Plus, my dad was a big football fan.

Veronica: Where I'm from, we were called the "biggest little football town in the world." I'm from Maiden, N.C. Our team was the Maiden Blue Devils. We had guys that didn't do well once they got to college, but they'd be at the top of the state in rushing and all types of categories. They were really good, but couldn't go to that next level. So that's how I developed my love for football. And what Kari is talking about with her dad, my dad was the same way. My dad was a really big football fan, and on Sundays that's what we did. But the only thing was, my brother and I would be pulling for the Cowboys and he'd be pulling for the Redskins.

Claudine: I just grew up watching football. I watch and love all sports, but football I love because it's a full-contact sport. I always had friends that played football, and they were the ones that got me into it. When I was a sophomore in college, I really started watching the NFL as my friends were getting drafted. That's when it really became interesting to me.

Lindsay: My dad was a huge football fan. When I was little and it was Sunday, I'd be sitting in the house, and in the wintertime you didn't go out and play. It was too cold. So we watched football. We always watched. And I grew to love it. It's so intense, so physical, you know. I mean, baseball's OK, but the intensity in football. Man. And I'm like [Terri] -- a big defensive person, too. I'm the girl that would rather watch someone's defense shut another team down on the 1[-yard line] than watch someone run it in with five seconds left on the clock to win the game.

Kari [getting back to the sexist issue]: People think that because we don't play [football] that there's not going to be an interest with us for the game. There are a lot of guys that don't play, and they love football.

Veronica: There are a lot of guys that are surprised that you can talk X's and O's. The fact that you know the difference between a 46 and a Cover 2 intimidates them.

Terri: The fact that you could talk to them about the game instead of asking them to tell you about the game …

Lindsay: I'm not -- and I don't think any of us here are -- that type of woman that's like, "Oh, that team has cute uniforms!" Like some dude the other day in fantasy football tried to get me to draft Ricky Williams and I was like, "I'm not stupid. I'm not that girl."

Veronica: When you meet a guy at a bar, they are leery of you until you say something intelligent about the game. Then it's like, "Oh, you in!" Then it's a whole different dynamic once they figure out you know what you are talking about.

Jessica Simpson
Jessica Simpson probably wouldn't fit in at our gathering.

Lindsay: Or they expect you to be one of those girls who show up in a pink football jersey --

All: Ugh!!!

Kari: With the pink baseball cap --

Terri and Veronica: [We] hate those kinda girls!

Kari: I went out with this guy, we went out for years, and he was a die-hard Giants fan. Die-hard. And here's the thing that's funny to me about guys: He'd always say things about the Giants, like 'Yo, we did this" and "We did that," and I'm like, "You aren't on the team! What are you taking about 'we?' They don't know you."

Terri: I dated one guy that didn't like football and I told him once we started dating, "Look, on Sundays we're going to have to shut it down. It's football season. If you're not with me on Sunday then you're probably not going to see me on Sundays. He didn't get that. He couldn't understand.

Kari: Guys say they want a girl that watches football, but once they find out that you know the game better than them, it becomes a problem.

Veronica: Yeah, you become better friends with their boys than they are and they can't handle it.

Kari: Most of my ex-boyfriends get jealous because …

All (loud): We end up having more fun with their friends than them!

Has that become a problem with all of you all?

Kari: I grew up with guys all of my life. And I think when there's a guy that is a little intimidated, a little insecure, or not strong, they are taken aback by the fact that you are into sports. Especially football. And you become one of the guys -- they don't like that. It's not gonna work.

Claudine: Most men are intimidated by my sports knowledge. They don't want to engage in sports conversations with me. And it's mostly once they find out I know what I'm talking about, then they're not interested anymore. (laugh)

Isn't there a sort of isolation to that? I mean, most women don't connect to football the way that you all do. For an example, aren't you all most of the time the only women in the room or the sports bar when a football game is on?

Terri: A lot of the time.

Veronica: Yeah, it's usually a bunch of guys.

Claudine: Not me. I have a roommate that will watch every game with me. We trade off. We're both huge football fans, but I'm a big basketball fan and she's a big baseball fan, so we'll watch all sports together. But often we'll go to bars and usually we're the only girls that are requesting they put on sports. My theory is -- and it drives my mother crazy -- if I can find a guy that can actually talk sports with me and actually wants to watch all of the same sports, then I don't have to go with my roommate all of the time anymore. I'd want to go with him. But I haven't met anyone like that yet.

Kari: It's not easy. (To Veronica) Are you seeing anyone? (To Lindsay) Are you seeing anyone? (To Claudine) Are you? (To Terri) Are you?

All answer "No."

How did I get so lucky? (laugh)

Kari: Because it's your fantasy. (laugh) What I'm saying is that collectively, women that love football like we do are very strong women. And I think it takes a very special person to even understand.

So honestly, do you all think it's your deep love for football that may be the reason none of you are seeing anyone?

Lindsay: When it comes to football, we're not trying to take away from [men], we're not trying to be smarter than them -- we're just trying to be part of it with them.

Kari: I think I can say this for everyone at the table: I think because we are a certain type of woman, being a part of that certain type of [female] profile, ones who really love football, I think we probably share a lot of things in common. Like we're all probably very independent, personable, sociable, outgoing, and we can adapt to any situation. That is intimidating to a lot of men who don't know how to be with strong women. They want somebody that will stay home while they go out with the guys and watch a football game. That doesn't make them bad guys, and it doesn't make them good guys. It just doesn't make them the right guy. Most men need something totally different than what we are. We know who we are. We know what we like. We know the game of football and we aren't the ones you'll ever catch wearing pink jerseys.

Scoop Jackson is a columnist for ESPN.com.