Fantasy Football, Wrestling, Baseball, Basketball, and even Cricket
You had me at EA.
Pro Football attempted to take a major leap forward into the esports arena on Friday when ESPN, Disney and the NFL announced a multiyear partnership to broadcast the Madden NFL 18 Championship Series along with future leagues involving the mainstream flagship of sports video games. It didn’t take long for the action to begin, as the Madden NFL 18 Club Championship tournament started at the Pro Bowl in Orlando on Friday and will conclude on Thursday at the NFL Experience in Minneapolis (Word is they’re playing a bigger game there next Sunday).
Each of the League’s 32 teams are involved and if you think bragging rights is the grand prize, guess again. The tournament will dole out $1.15 million in prizes along with a pair of tickets to Super Bowl LII for the last person standing.
The Madden NFL 18 Club Championship from the Pro Bowl will be aired on ESPNEWS Saturday at 10 PM (Eastern) while the Club Championship from Super Bowl LII will be on ESPN2/Deportes on Thursday beginning at 9 PM Eastern.
Upon seeing the news, a flood of memories overwhelmed me, pushing me backward to a moment in time where all my rowdy Madden playing friends were at my place on Tuesday nights. Visions of a dozen televisions, the NC-17 sounds and the smell of beer, cigars and pizza took me back to a League of Our Own.
Flash back more than 16 years ago. I had just ended a relationship and moved out to my own apartment near downtown Houston. Madden was an obsession for a host of us working at Fox Sports Net, enough to where the operations center became a skeleton crew the day Madden would come out. We had always talked about setting up a league, yet the problem of finding a “stadium” that didn’t require someone’s other half kicking us out by 10 PM had proved to be more daunting than throwing on Ronde Barber, who, at the time, was a straight beast on the game.
Please drop him a follow and give a warm welcome! pic.twitter.com/YiIUpqjPfx
— Noble esports (@NobleGG) January 23, 2018
That is, until word came out that I had just moved.
Tuesday Nights at Brandon’s became the “It” place for Madden players in the Houston area. We installed televisions and Playstation 2 consoles in each of my rooms (excluding the bathroom, although that option was briefly in play). This wasn’t just a group of casual Madden players. Oh, no…on most Tuesdays, Club Willie normally had some of the nation’s top players rolling in and out of Apartment 458. This included my longtime friend Kyle, whose penchant for wearing out gamers with the worst team possible (either the Browns or the pre-Brady Pats) resulted in a steady stream of residual income.
TNB usually started right after I got off work at 6:30 PM and would end when the last game was played around 12:30-1 AM. Considering I had to be in the office at 8, the 10-15 minute ride to work was a blessing most Wednesday mornings.
Our league had a 10-game schedule, with the Top Five in each division making the postseason. I ran with the Jets and while Keyshawn Johnson and Curtis Martin kept me in most games, my squad fell short in a brutal loss to the Rams in the regular season finale, leaving me one game short of the final playoff spot in the AFC.
The responsibilities that come with maturity (ie, stuff I have still managed to avoid) and my departure from FSN in September 2002 killed the prospects of a second season. Unlike Vince McMahon, I don’t have any intentions of relaunching the league in 2020, although I’ll have no qualms about picking up Madden NFL 20 (with cover boy Deshaun Watson. Just my guess). My Madden skills have eroded, yet showed up long enough to run my nephew Kobe off his controller the night before Thanksgiving.
Sadly, those skills stood no match for my oldest nephew, who proceeded to flatten me twice the following night. The next Madden comes out in mid-August, giving me just enough time to settle the score before he joins the married crowd on September 1. Perhaps we should just bring a PS4 to the reception and resolve matters in between toasts and first dances.
In the meantime, it will be interesting to see what kind of dent this new venture can make in the esports world. It’s honestly a tall mountain to climb, as the more serious esports types don’t consider games like Madden and Call of Duty the forte of more serious players.
You Really, Really Should Have Been There
Work — and the failure to do rankings — led to my Fantasy Wrestling team (the Suplex City Rollers) to a huge goose egg in its first week of competition.
Even in Fantasy Wrestling, whiffing on your first round pick can sink your squad, as my selection of Enzo Amore with the third overall pick was further magnified by news of his suspension and eventual release following allegations of sexual assault. Things only got worse when the computer selected Rich Swann, who is currently suspended by WWE after he was charged with battery and false imprisonment. News did get better for Swann on Friday as the case was dropped due to insufficient evidence, so his possible return to action should be sooner rather than later.
Either way, neither will be on my roster for Sunday’s Royal Rumble.
Saquon’s The One
NFL.com draft guru Lance Zierlein listed Penn State running back Saquon Barkley as his top player leading into the NFL Draft. Barkley is projected to be a Top 10 pick, with CBSSports.com’s R.J. White projecting him to go as high as second overall to the Giants, who would obviously slam the door on any hope of a Paul Perkins revelation come training camp.
Barkley will be the first selection of most Fantasy Football rookie drafts in keeper/dynasty leagues and should be considered no worse than a high-end RB2. One scout I know projects Barkley’s ceiling to be a bigger version of Hall of Fame back Marshall Faulk, which translates into potential monster numbers in a PPR format.
Right now, I would project Barkley as third-round pick in Fantasy drafts, although his rankings could be boosted higher depending on who selects him. If he does become a Giant, I could justify reaching for him late in the second round, as he would give Eli Manning another weapon to go along with a returning Odell Beckham Jr. and emerging beast Evan Engram at tight end. The addition of Barkley would also make Eli Manning a possible sleeper at QB.
If I Think It, I Will Say It
*Carlos Correa’s ADP of 11.4 is too high, especially for a player who has gone from a combined 31 stolen base attempts in 2015-16 to just three last year. Shortstop is an exceptionally strong position this season, so I’d look to adding a legit stat stuffer early and aim at a Xander Bogaerts or Jean Segura later.
*Maybe it’s me, but I get the feeling this is the year Buster Posey hits decline phase. Don’t be That Guy who overreaches for him.
*It’s time to drop Kawhi Leonard if you’re in single-season basketball leagues. If you own Leonard in keeper/dynasty, I’d look to move him as well. You’re not going to get equal value, but some combo of younger players would be the prize to eye.
*Football and hockey are dead for the weekend, giving basketball the DFS spotlight to itself.
*If you plan on playing in Fanduel’s $2 million Big Game Bowl, keep in mind the clock is ticking. More than a quarter of the available spots have been taken as of Friday afternoon, so plunk your $9 into the game with hopes of climbing into a new tax bracket come late next Sunday night.
*We’re getting deeper into Fantasy sports, as ESPN now offers Fantasy Rugby via its ESPN.com.uk site. Players will choose 15 performers in an bid to win the grand prize, a 13-inch MacBook Pro (normally $1,800) while the winners in each of the five rounds will win an Series 3 Apple Watch. Needless to say, I’m in.
*I recently visited Cricketinc.com. I’ll let you know how my tour into what may be the final frontier of Fantasy Sports turned out.
Featured Image: (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)