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My Fantasy Reality: How breaking the rules cost me a win

They always told me the rules exist for a reason, but the reason was more significant than I ever dreamed possible.

Look at that, Julio Jones NOT catching the ball. Thanks a LOT, Julio.
Look at that, Julio Jones NOT catching the ball. Thanks a LOT, Julio.

I'm not really a "rules" guy. I mean, I follow rules, when they make sense. Don't kill anyone? Yeah, that's legit. Don't drive over 55 when you can see a mile in every direction and you have the road to yourself? Sorry, I'm speeding up. I'm just a maverick that way.

I don't suppose that makes me special. But I have gotten myself into the occasional small bits of trouble in my life, working in a corporate environment and deciding some random procedure makes no sense and not following it. Or, if a rule doesn't make sense to me but I can't do anything about it, I just whine. I'm a heck of a whiner, you don't even know.

Two fantasy football seasons ago, I whined a bunch. See, I get that the head-to-head format can be inherently unfair, inasmuch as I could go 0-13 with the highest point total in the league. It would be difficult, sure, but it is possible, and that's not totally fair. Every time I lost when I still scored a top-three or top-four point total, my league mates had to hear about it.

Eh. I'm sure it got old. Anyway, this league, in 2011, was really tightly contested. A single win - with tiebreakers - would make the difference between the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye, and eighth place and out of the playoffs. So, we all knew how important each individual matchup was. In Week 12, I sat at 6-5, right on the edge of the playoffs.

Leading up to the game, rookie Julio Jones was listed on every injury report. Maybe he'd go, maybe he wouldn't, maybe it wouldn't be worth it to try. Going into Sunday, I had slotted Eric Decker (during his full-on "Tim Tebow randomness" period) into my last receiver spot, with Jones on the bench. Over the course of the morning, though, news came out that Jones would be active. I anguished over that for a while, before finally succumbing and putting Jones in to start, thinking his big-play ability might get me home.

Remember, this was Week 12, 2011. Check the players' respective game logs (Jones and Decker). Jones played, sure. He played, and he had zero catches, on zero targets, for zero yards. Decker, meanwhile, had only three catches on six targets, only 65 yards, but he scored a touchdown. Tebow did it again. I lost 97.5-92.3, I fell to 6-6, and, though I won in Week 13, I lost the playoff tiebreaker, and had to listen to everyone else make fun of me all offseason. Winning Week 12 would have meant not only a playoff spot, but a playoff bye.

That sucked. But here's the thing; when did I see that update that Jones was playing? It was on one of the TVs at work, where I waited tables every Sunday morning. Now, that work place had a rule that waiters could not use cell phones. You were at work, you didn't need to talk to someone elsewhere. I thought (and, frankly, think) that that rule is silly. No job in the world requires 100 percent focus 100 percent of the time. If you're waiting tables, you'll have the occasional free minute. Use your daggone phone if you want.

But those weren't the rules there. So, once I saw the Jones news, I had to sneak off to the restroom to check the internet for confirmation, to tweet at Matthew Berry and his ilk to see if anyone could offer me advice, and, ultimately, to switch Jones in and Decker out.

Did you follow that? The only reason I was able to move Jones into my lineup was because I didn't like the rules at work, and the only reason I lost was because I did that. I follow the rules at work, I keep Decker in my lineup, I make the playoffs, and I ultimately win the league (yes, I followed it through the end of the season, and yes, I would have won).

I don't know that there is a great moral to this story. I continued to use my cell phone during free moments as long as I worked there. But if I follow the rules, I win my league, and I don't have to spend the entire offseason hearing smack talk.

Stupid cell phone. Stupid rules. Stupid me.

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