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Fantasy Life, Episode 10: Jimmy wins the championship in a squeaker

Jimmy wins on the (almost) final play of the fantasy season. Brad ponders whether you should upgrade your league if you are winning too much.

This one's for you, Jimmy!
This one's for you, Jimmy!
Stephen Brashear

The Saving Private Buddy Ryan League season is over and it ended in dramatic fashion. In his last year as Commissioner, Jimmy ousted Dave by a single point.

When you think about it, there are many reasons why the NFL should love fantasy football. Why else would anyone other than Seahawk and Niner fans have stayed up to watch the end of that disaster of a Sunday night game? You have to figure that a significant percentage of the east coast viewership after 10 p.m. were people not just watching, but at the edge of their seat with their fantasy championship riding on every play.

That was certainly true of the SPBRL. Going into Sunday night, Jimmy held a 19 point lead over Dave. Jimmy's players were done and Dave had nothing but the Seahawks Defense/Special Teams to go. A long shot, but by no means could Jimmy call the win. A sack, a couple of turnovers, and a blocked field goal returned for a touchdown later along with only six points allowed, and Dave had tied the championship. However, the fourth quarter started with the Niners driving. Even a field goal would give Jimmy back the lead as the Seahawks D/ST would lose fantasy points. Instead, Colin Kaepernick started the fourth by throwing an end-zone pick and giving the Seahawks D their 20th and 21st points - and Dave a two point lead.

Only a Niners score could save the day for Jimmy. Time ticked by, and the 49ers were down by so much that any field goal tries were out of the question. Finally, the play of the fantasy season for our league ended up being perhaps the most meaningless touchdown of the actual NFL season. 1 minute and 40 seconds left in the game. Niners down 36 points. Fourth and 17 from the Seahawks 18. And Kaepernick throws the touchdown! Kaepernick throws the touchdown! Actual NFL Win Probability added: Zero. Effect on the NFL playoff race: Zero. Effect on the Saving Private Buddy Ryan League? The Seahawks Defense/Special Teams lost three fantasy points and Dave went from a two-point win to a one-point loss, giving Jimmy the championship.

It's a crazy way to end a fantasy season, but clearly not as crazy as I initially thought. Because, I kid you not, when I walked into work the day after Christmas, my colleague, Brent, stopped me to say, "you're never going to believe this." He then regaled me with the story of how he won his fantasy league championship the same exact way (his starting with a 20 point lead instead of 19 being the only difference).

It leads me to wonder just how many fantasy seasons turned on that one play. I also wonder, in general, how many fantasy championship games have been won or lost on the last or close to last play of the Week 16 Sunday night game. Feel free to share your story.

As we close this year, Brent's story brings up a final topic and question: how competitive should your fantasy football league be? For instance, if you keep winning your league, is there any point at which you should stop feeling good about it, and instead, question the skill level of your opponents? Brent's victory gave him his third straight championship in that league. In a 12-team, non-keeper league, all owners and all other things being equal, you would have a 1 in 1,728 chance of winning your league three times in a row (in any given three year period). Random chance also gives you a 1 in 20,736 chance of winning four straight times.

I'm not suggesting that all 12 owners in a league could ever be equal. Or that they should be. In fact, it could be argued that to have a really good dynamic among the owners, you need a few weaker players in the mix. That being said, I like a challenge. I like knowing that I am competing against some really good fantasy owners. This declaration isn't sour grapes because I've never won a league three times in a row. And, I know that given the tens of thousands of fantasy leagues out there, even random chance would produce a decent handful of owners around the country winning leagues three years in a row. There's also the basic fact that someone has to be the best fantasy owner in each league, so, I'm not discounting that there is going to be some tiny percentage of fantasy owners out there winning leagues three times in a row because they are somehow just that good. But, for those of you out there who have won your league multiple years in a row, at some point you are going to have to ask yourself: is it you or is it them?

Maybe it's time to move up a level like some sort of intramural or county volleyball league where you rate yourself and everyone of the same level is placed together. Because, chances are, if you come out of every draft smelling like a rose, your competitors aren't very good drafters. If you are able to grab every great waiver wire pick-up, it's probably because the other owners aren't paying attention.

In fact, each year, I'm amazed at the level of players for whom the fantasy sites say something like: "Demaryius Thomas is not owned in 23% of fantasy leagues." If someone that good was undrafted and stayed unowned in your league after Week 1, and your wide receiver corps was so good that you didn't need him, you need another league. Don't get me wrong. Money is money and if you can keep fleecing these other 11 guys, by all means, who am I to tell you to stop? I'm just saying you might want to use some of those winnings to expand your horizons and also join a league wherein when you draft Jamaal Charles, the response isn't a bunch of people looking at their draft magazines and asking: "what team is he on?"

Happy holidays, best of luck to all of you next season, and may all of your fantasy (football) dreams come true.