Thursday, November 29, 2007

Do Nice Guys Finish Last? No. 5

(Yet another installment of my jocular column from The Love of Sports. Last week, my fantasy basketball team - "The Centerfolds" - celebrated Thanksgiving. But no Pilgrims, or Native Americans, or Typhoid, or starvation. Instead, they slam-dunked, blocked shots, and all-around dominated the opposition.)

Week 4 of the fantasy season, and a real resurgence was in the works.

Higher shooting percentage than last week? Check.

Higher free throw percentage? Check.

More rebounds and assists? Check and check.

More hustle and camaraderie? Check that.

Higher level of winning attitude, peace on earth, and good will towards men? Check, maybe, and yes please.

That's just a cursory rundown of how The Centerfolds performed during the past week – a week of giving thanks both on and off the court. My team returned to its early season form, dominating in several categories including total points, rebounds, and blocked shots. We’re back at the top of the standings, with only two points separating The Centerfolds from the number one spot.

A couple highlights from the week:

- Caron Butler’s triple-double on Friday night, and his monster 39-point performance on Tuesday. Don’t call him “Karen.” It’s pronounced “Kuh-RON.” He’ll politely correct you if you make the mistake once, but he may feel obliged to gently hurt your feelings if you do it a second or third time. Super nice guy, so the least you could do is pronounce his name correctly.

- Also, the emergence of baby-faced Andrew Bynum (C, LA Lakers) has only served as an inspiration for the rest of the team. The second youngest member of The Centerfolds (Kevin Durant is younger by a year), the kid was born in October, 1987. I think I was shaving by then, and by that time my level of physical fitness had already begun its irreversible decline. Please keep in mind that I was born in 1976, as a point of reference.

Anyway, Andy Bynum, or “Big Baby Bynum”, as I like to call him, is a monster on the boards. He seems to be grabbing 12 or 13 rebounds a night. Not too shabby for a guy who can’t even legally buy himself a beer during pre-game warm-ups.

I gave my fantasy players the day off for the holiday, and they gave some serious thanks. Now, I don’t consider myself a particularly demanding fantasy manager. We hold fantasy practices four times a day, 3 hours at a time. The players are prohibited from smoking, drinking, or socializing with women at least 12 hours before any game. I keep the players’ fantasy passports locked in my glove compartment to make certain they don’t skip town, and start playing fantasy basketball in Italy – or worse, the CBA.

So maybe I am just a bit draconian. But it’s all in my players’ best interests. They’re good guys to a fault. And I want them to stay that way. Otherwise, if they slip up, commit a crime, attack a fan, or produce an obscenity-laden hip-hop album, they’ll be hitting the highway. “One strike and you’re out,” as I’ve posted on everyone’s fantasy locker, and on every single door and window in our fantasy clubhouse.

Along with other warnings, you'll find this sign above and below every single door and window in our fantasy facility. Smoking stinks!!

Additionally, this sign instructs women not to litter. They're also located throughout the fantasy clubhouse. We want to keep our area smoke-free and trash-free.

In any case, none of my fantasy players really had anywhere to go for the holiday. It’s not like they have fantasy wives and fantasy kids with which to spend their free time. So I decided it was time to have a real family-style Thanksgiving dinner in the middle of the fantasy locker room, right between the showers and the training room.

I put together a great spread, catered by Boston Market. And let me tell you, these guys can eat. I encouraged them to grub down on all the turkey, stuffing, creamed spinach, candied yams, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce they could handle. Don't hold back, I told them. But at the same time, I asked my team to think about the less fortunate, and give thanks for being able to enjoy what they’ve been given. Also, I asked them to give thanks for having Yao Ming as a teammate.

Yay! Everybody loves Yao no matter what! This picture was taken right after they LOST the game by 20 points.

He truly is a blessing…..and a veritable eating machine. I think one of his immense legs is hollow. Yao put away about 5 pounds of turkey, an entire tray of creamed spinach, and pretty much all of the stuffing. There wasn’t much left for anyone else. But no one was angry - and besides, Yao agreed to buy everyone dessert to make up for the fact that he ate all six of the pies I had purchased.

I only hope that your Thanksgiving was as full of joy, kindness and brotherly love as that of The Centerfolds.

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