The Case for the Preseason Player

I spent the majority of my youth living in Saline County, Illinois. All the little communities in Southern Illinois had their heyday back in the early-mid 1900’s when the coal industry was booming and the legends of the men who pioneered that industry will live on forever in small-town infamy. I feel like I heard them ALL during my 14 years in So-Ill but there was one story that always stuck out to me. The story of Jimbo McFarland.

There was nothing too special about Jimbo. He was your typical blue-collar coal miner who loved his family and took the long elevator ride down under every day to provide for them. Day in and day out he crawled around hundreds of feet underground to make a living and was proud to do so.  But one day his life and Galatia, Illinois folklore would change forever. One day he went underground and he didn’t come back up… At least not immediately.

            Legend has it that it was a Friday night and the eve of an extended weekend. After another hard week of back-breaking labor, the brave men hung up their shovels and pickaxes and boarded the elevator to ascend to the surface for three full days of “relaxation” (this was the early 1900’s so the long weekend was likely filled with DIFFERENT back-breaking labor) with family. But Jimbo didn’t make it home that night. He didn’t make it home Saturday, Sunday, or Mondayeither.

Now some people in that town of 1000 people will tell you that Jimbo never made it on that elevator and it was the manager’s fault for not paying attention to which of his guys didn’t come up. Other people say the he went back down underground by himself to grab something. But one thing was for certain… Jimbo found himself alone in the pitch black for nearly 72 hours in a labyrinth of coal mine tunnels.

Many will wonder how something like this could ever happen. Bear in mind that safety regulations have come a LONG way over the past 100 years and phones were used very differently. Flashlights were still relatively new and the battery life on them was much shorter than it is today. They say Jimbo had never been down in the mine while the power was cut and that was part of the reason why he got so turned around. They say he lived out in the country and his wife, for whatever reason, couldn’t get in touch with anyone to find out where he was. Regardless of the circumstances, a man was trapped hundreds of feet underground without the ability to use his eyes for DAYS. Fortunately for him, he did not accidentally knock over a load-bearing post or die from dehydration prior to the Tuesday night crew flipping the power back on. Jimbo walked out of that mine early Tuesday morning and I’ll be damned if they say he wasn’t back down thereon Wednesday morning. Jimbo’s story helped shape the rules and regulations of that particular coal mine and serves as a reminder to the people of that town that you just have to wait out the dark periods. A dark period I find myself waiting out each year is the time the NBA Finals ends and the NFL Fantasy Season begins.

Call me “new school” if you must, but middle-late June through the beginning of August is borderline insufferable.  Has there been a baseball, golf, tennis highlight since the 1990’s that didn’t look IDENTICAL to 100 other baseball, golf, tennis highlights? Diving catch, homerun, strike out, blahblahblah. I don’t speak for everyone, but the MLB just doesn’t get me EXCITED like it did 20 years ago. Right now, millions of football enthusiasts like myself are (metaphorically) wandering around hundreds of feet underground waiting for the lights to come on. I simply propose we start kicking the lights on a little quicker.

If you play fantasy football, you know the drill: Preseason is where you do your real research. You’ve got one month to observe each team’s system before your draft and you carefully watch players to determine their potential for the upcoming season. But why not get the fantasy juices flowing faster? This is where the preseason player approach comes into play. Here’s how it works.

Each team gets to pick ONE player who will represent them for the duration of preseason games. At the end of the preseason, the player with the highest point total gets to CHOOSE their spot in the draft. So for instance, let’s say I choose Chase Daniel as my preseason player and he scores more points than any other player during those four meaningless weeks. I would get priority over the other nine guys in our league in choosing what my draft position would be (I prefer the 4 spot heading into this season). The manager whose player scored the second-highest point total would choose his or her spot after me. The third highest after him, etc.

As a commissioner who implemented this system in my own league, I can verify that it accomplishes multiple things. It adds an element of skill to the draft order by giving people the ability to choose where they draft based on an important, but not damning decision before any games start. And most importantly, it allows us fantasy enthusiasts to CARE about the preseason.

Hold tight, ye noble fantasy football enthusiasts. Week one is now less than two months away. And for those of you fortunate enough to have a commissioner who is willing to begin the season by utilizing the preseason player approach, your season officially begins in three weeks. Good luck in your quest to be the best in 2017!