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PALLISTER: When fantasy football frustration intrudes on real life

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ANALYSIS/OPINION:

What's worse? Having a team full of big names fail to produce in crunch time or having a player who has been dormant for weeks have a career game on your bench in crunch time?

Judging from my wife's reaction to me saying, "At least you have players who can score" in response to her calling me to vent about not starting Eric Decker and his four touchdowns, it's the latter. Definitely the latter.

When I said that, her exact response was, "It's not about you!" Although, it turns out it was about me. I apparently should have told her to start Eric Decker, even though he hadn't scored in the five previous games. But what do I know? I have managed to fall apart the past three weeks in the only league that really matters to me with a starting lineup that includes Tony Romo/Tom Brady, Adrian Peterson, Frank Gore, Dez Bryant and Brandon Marshall. I lost last week to the team that had scored the least points in the league. That team put up 132 on me, which was more than 20 percent of its entire output the first 12 weeks.

Sometimes, it's just not your year. Sometimes, no matter how much you follow the NFL and how much knowledge you soak up, it's difficult to win a game in which you have so little control. I thought about this Sunday as I was bemoaning my fantasy fate.

In hindsight, fantasy football is not the type of endeavor for folks wired like me. I am alternately proud of and horrified by my competitive streak. My willingness to compete has helped me in plenty of ways personally and professionally, but it's also led me to act like a complete idiot more times than I care to recount — personally and professionally.

Lately, every week is a fight to stay even remotely calm around family and/or co-workers. In last week's column, I joked about yelling at the TV because Demarco Murray scored instead of Bryant. Well, that happened. Three times. On Thanksgiving. A wonderful holiday surrounded by my family and I'm swearing because the wrong player scored in fantasy football. Then on Sunday, I was my usual surly self at work because my my fantasy team was again terrible and, as a bonus, the Bears were choking against the Vikings. At one point, I told a couple of co-workers that it would probably be best not to talk to me on Sundays. I was only partially joking.

I think a lot about competitiveness and the desire to succeed. I believe that being competitive is vitally important to succeeding in all walks of life, and I will teach my son that. Discounting the silliness of the everyone-gets-a-trophy culture, no one hands you anything of significance in this world. If you want something, you have to work for it. Work hard for it. But you don't necessarily have to be a jerk about it. "I hate to lose" is not an excuse for the bad behavior of a functioning adult — or even an aware child. Unfortunately, I usually end up telling myself that after the fact. I want my son to know better.

And that is why I hope he's smart enough to never play fantasy football.

Week 13 Lineup Crime: I didn't come close to winning in any of the four matchups I lost. There wasn't a lineup combination that would have made a difference. I did manage to escape with a victory despite sitting a certain Broncos receiver, but we're not going to get into that.

Week 14 Lineup Time: I've been promoting Andrew Luck all year, but I think this is the week he finally loses two straight games. I like Andy Dalton to outplay him. The Jets usually play their best when everyone is ready to write them off. I expect Chris Ivory to have a big game and be the difference against the Raiders. No one has been running against the Lions, but the Eagles will spread it out and find room for LeSean McCoy to make plays. Don't sit him. The Chiefs' offense has been very prolific of late, and now it draws the Redskins. Jamaal Charles will have a huge day, but you knew that. If you're looking for a sleeper, try Dwayne Bowe. The Vikings gave up 249 yards, including 46- and 80-yard scores, to Alshon Jeffery last week. This week, Joe Flacco, one of the league's best deep throwers, gets his chance to light up that secondary, so Torrey Smith is a great play for the second straight week. Just a hunch, but I think Steve Smith will have a huge game against the Saints.

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