- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 8, 2004

If your fantasy baseball season has gone anything like the Fool’s, August — and its promise of fantasy football — couldn’t come soon enough.

But for the Fool, August this year brings a double football dip — professional and college.

Thanks to the success of our experiment with fantasy college basketball the last two seasons — and, just as important, the willingness of one of our friends to coordinate the effort — the Fool will tackle fantasy college football this fall.

It will be years before you find an online service to help you run such a league. The legality of using college players, their names and statistics for what essentially amounts to gambling is sketchy at best.

Even the popular EA Sports video game NCAA Football pushes it by using nearly everything but real college athletes’ names; it’s also why you can’t purchase official college jerseys with active players’ names on the back. If money is involved with the names and likenesses of college athletes, it’s a touchy situation.

That’s why the Fool is fortunate to have friends with plenty of time on their hands — which is essential to starting a fantasy college league.

Want to give it a try? Here are some tips:

• Pick a conference or two at the most. Using the entire NCAA pool will make the teams in your league too competitive. It will also make keeping track of the stats a nightmare for your commissioner, who instead of just checking one conference could end up surfing all over the Internet to find numbers for one team’s backfield.

• Set up your own Web site to keep everyone in touch and informed. There are a number of free options, especially with the popularity of Web logs such as Blogger or TypePad. You can have everything you like from a free fantasy site such as Yahoo — message boards, rosters, schedules and a list of rules — except for the stats service.

• Conduct an e-mail draft. This has worked well for the Fool and friends in college basketball, and we’re getting ready to start it for football. Think about it: You probably already have at least one or two fantasy NFL drafts scheduled for this month; trying to fit in another with a date that’s agreeable to eight or more folks would prove near impossible. With an e-mail draft, you use the “reply all” function with everyone in the league, make your pick and pass it along. If everyone is fairly diligent and prepared, it should take less than a week.

• Make sure you have a dedicated, trustworthy commissioner. A commish with a lot of time on his hands also is nice. In the case of our college venture, our guiding force is unemployed — truly the best option for any fantasy league.

Position battles

Never in his years as a fantasy football player has the Fool seen such backfield disarray in the NFL.

If you’ve started ranking your players for this month’s drafts, you know what I mean. Ricky Williams’ departure from the Miami Dolphins was just the latest surprise — what made it more newsworthy was that it turned one of fantasy football’s sure things into yet another quagmire.

Looking around the NFL, there are about 17 teams with either big questions or unsettled starters at running back. That’s nearly half the league making things difficult for you at fantasy football’s most important position.

The Fool discussed this with a coworker the other night and came up with a plan that would never work but that still made us laugh — which is nice.

Instead of wasting a draft pick on one of the Cleveland Browns’ two running backs — inexperienced Lee Suggs or troubled William Green — how about just drafting Lee Green? Or William Suggs? The idea also would work in Atlanta, where Warrick Dunn and T.J. Duckett lay claim to the starting spot in the backfield. Warrick Duckett anyone?

With teams like Oakland, the pool from which to choose is even larger — which, with the Fool’s new system, is sure to make your running back sound like a Confederate general. The Raiders have four running backs: Tyrone Wheatley, Justin Fargas, Troy Hambrick and Amos Zereoue. Only Fargas among that group has never started, but even he was last summer’s flavor of the preseason.

Doesn’t that make you wish you could simply grab them all in one swoop under the guise of Amos Troy Fargas Wheatley?

The Fool’s other favorite: the starting running back for the Chicago Bears, Thomas Thomas.

Bring this rule up at your draft — it should at least lighten the mood.

Mailbag

The Fool’s first e-mail came last month from Derek:

Do you think Zito or Colon are going to do any better this year? Colon is doing so bad that I can’t even trade him for anything half decent, and whatever trade offers I get are jokes. If they don’t pan out, should I just drop them or hold onto them?

Great question, Derek. Bartolo Colon already has answered it for you. He has won each of his last six starts and is striking batters out again — including 20 over his last three starts. Barry Zito, on the other hand, is still struggling. In a keeper league, try to deal him to someone building for next year. Otherwise, you’ll never get what the 2002 Cy Young Award winner is worth, so you may as well stash him away and hope he figures it out.

If you have a comment, question or idea for the Fantasy Fool, e-mail him at [email protected]

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