Your Humble Correspondent ducked out of reality for two weeks—a sybaritic time, as I cavorted on private yachts off the coast of Maine—and thus missed the freak show that passes for American Life in August. Uncle Bill’s starring role in Mission to Pyongyang; the hillbilly Sturmabteilung’s hilarious performances at the health care town meetings; two episodes of Entourage: such events shimmered on the hazy outskirts of my consciousness as I hiked, read and contemplated whether I should have a vodka and tonic or a gin and tonic. In other words, I lived a sane and healthy existence. Only now do I return to the pathologies of so-called normal life.
Fortunately, the middle of August means the return of the world’s greatest all-male soap opera, the English Premier League. European football’s 15-minute off-season comes to an end and Our Heroes, their ACLs temporarily mended and their hair freshly pomaded with filthy lucre, return to battle. Among other things, the Premiership’s advent means it’s time for my annual self-humiliation in the high-pressure world of the League’s official fantasy competition.
In theory, I don’t really approve of fantasy sports, which have become an unhealthy obsession that saps home-team loyalty, time devoted to real sporting activity and the reading hours of the nation’s menfolk. (On the plane home, I sat behind a plus-size gentleman who invested six hours of his life in three phonebook-sized NFL fantasy magazines. I was appalled—though incidentally happy to see one arm of the publishing industry in apparent good health.) In practice, Fantasy EPL makes it clear why I don’t approve: I suck at fantasy sports.
Granted, this is a particularly unforgiving game. The 1.1 million players registered for the new season choose 15-man squads on a tight budget of 100 million fictional pounds Sterling, fulfilling specific quotas for defenders, middies and forwards. For dirty American imperialist pig-dogs such as myself, this process reveals just how deep and murky the Premiership’s waters run. Once I splashed out major investments on such known quantities as Liverpool’s Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard and Arsenal’s Andrey Arshavin, I was left plumbing the obscure depths of mid-table and newly promoted clubs for bargain players. (I was also sure that I had just foolishly bought a bunch of trendy brands at the top of the market. The game’s stats center tells me that one in five players has added Arshavin, the baby-faced Russian, while nearly 40 percent have the talismanic Gerrard on the squad. Therefore, even if these players do well, I will see only limited upside, because many of my opponents will own them as well. And since players’ fantasy valuations fluctuate with demand, I suspect I made some very unsavvy purchases at bubble prices. Ah well.)
In the end, I packed my bench with dirt-cheap dudes from Hull City, last season’s schizoid over-achiever. I’m hoping the micro club goes on a bit of a run to start the campaign and that I can sell these non-entities for modest returns. I plugged in a couple players from Fulham, the scrappy little London club that always seems to punch above weight. I spent some reasonably serious money on defenders—for the likes of Man City’s Toure and Liverpool’s Jamie Carragher—but ended up in need of a couple randoms. Just in time, I noticed Jonathan Spector, who in a fell swoop (or something) fulfilled my need for a bargain purchase and at least one American player.
Thus was born Rattlesnake Invicta Football Club, known the world over for its uncommonly hideous kit combination of green and white hoops, purple shorts and gold socks. Look out, Fantasy Island.