It’s fantasy football draft season, and I’m saving the best for last, which is tonight. I’m playing in Hold Steady frontman Craig Finn’s PledgeMusic-powered league he is doing with friends and fans.
It’s been a pretty busy season so far. I’m coming off two straight years of banking in the Footballguys.com contest (last year I was 222nd out of 9,000 entrants…which is like 97th-98th percentile) and have a few teams I’m playing there which were part of last year’s bounty. And this year, I’ve also dipped my toes in the FFPC’s dynasty leagues, wherein you play year round and draft from the new crop of rookies each year (I’m hooked on dynasty over all other formats). Rounding out my high stakes trifecta, I’m dabbling for the first time in a couple of leagues at scout.com, which has some pros and cons compared to the other two platforms.
But what was missing was playing against real people mostly for fun. Don’t get me wrong, playing against strangers for lots of money *is* fun. But the hour was growing dark, running out of preseason, and I found a deficit in my fantasy portfolio.
Last year, I had commished (and was eventual champion of) a league of my co-workers 105.3 The Fringe, KOKE-FM and 104.9 The Horn at the Austin Radio Network (including Chip Brown, Eric Raines, Erin Hogan, Bucky Godbolt). I was also invited to play in a league hosted by local band Quiet Company, wherein I went 13-1 in the regular season and lost in the final to 101x’s Jason Dick, heartbreaking on a few levels). For the 8 years prior, I had been in Emmis Austin’s fun league with those cats (CJ Morgan and John Laird and Lynn Barstow and Gary Weaver and the like).
I’d also played in leagues through the years with Corey Mitchell and Roscoe Shoemaker and even my mom. All three of them died in the last year.
So like I said, we were running out of preseason. And with family and friends dwindling, and no radio shingle upon which to hang my shinola, and no local bands floating out an invite, it was almost cosmic in the way that I accidentally tuned in the day that Art Levy was filling in for my buddy Trina Quinn on KUTX the afternoon Craig Finn was rolling through Studio 1-A. How entirely random it was that Art would think to ask Craig about his PledgeMusic initiative for the new album, or that Craig would single out his fantasy football league of all the things to pimp. In that moment, I rather impulsively hopped on the site and now we are on our way.
When I tweeted that I was ballin’ with Finn, I heard back from another Austin radio guy, Bill Childs, who hosts “Spare The Rock, Spoil The Child” on KUTX. Bill and I became internet acquaintances during the Fringe days of 2014. It started with him jocking me to find a place in the program sched for “STR” but I could tell all along the Bill was a true partisan of what I was trying to do as PD of the Fringe. When I’d segue from a song like Hold Steady’s “Spinners” or The Gaslight Anthem’s “1,000 Years” into a retro classic the Replacements or XTC, he’d post of Facebook that I was inside his brain. When I would go on-air bumming out about missing the ‘Mats Twin Cities show with The Hold Steady and Lucero, he’d rib me a little that he was going, but later share with me a bumper crop of mp3s from the show. It turns out that me *not* giving STR a slot on The Fringe was maybe the best gift I could’ve given him. I knew pretty early on Fringe had an uphill battle and likely wouldn’t survive its math problem, and infighting of personalities and different visions…which means Spare The Rock would be on the beach with me right now. And KUTX is such a perfect home for the show. I don’t wanna get all circle-of-life on ya, but it’s interesting that last summer, Bill was a fan of my radio, and this summer my daughters and I have become huge fans of “Spare The Rock.” I’ve never met Bill in person, but he’s coming over to the house tonight and we’re going to do the draft together there.
I just got an email from Craig about an hour ago that he sent to everyone in the league. It’s heavy on Minneapolis and NYC, but looks like a pretty neat cross section of different people from different parts of the country. The only thing left to do with four hours til the draft is lock in a team name.
I decided that I would pick a team name that was somehow rooted to something lyrical from the Hold Steady canon, and most likely then from Separation Sunday, which is their album I first totally geeked out on. I think I’ve got it nailed down to three finalists, and I’m pretty sure I know which one should end up winning. Bear with me through the next few paragraphs while it plays out.
SECOND RUNNER-UP: The Charle-Magne Event. “Charlemagne” is an interesting character in the band’s lyrical soup: a pimp and dealer, “another lover lost to the restaurant raids.” Charlemagne? Main Event? You have to appreciate the chemical bonding of those two words…but not quite good enough to win the race.
FIRST RUNNER-UP: The Killer Wails. One of the things that I instantly found endearing about The Hold Steady was Finn’s ability to turn a phrase. From one of my favorite songs on Separation Sunday, “Banging Camp:” When they say great white sharks/they mean the kind in big black cars/When they say killer whales/They mean they wailed on him ’till they killed him. So there you have it: The Killer Wails.
But again saving the best for last, my contribution to the Faith In The Future Fantasy Football League is (drumroll please): The Penetration Park Rangers. WINNER, right?! Consider all that rich imagery, which starts with what the Hold Steady wiki describes as the common nickname for Loring Park in Minneapolis. But then add that such a place might have actual rangers, and that real sports teams go by “Rangers.” And last but not least you can’t spell Penetration Park Rangers without PPR (acronym for Points Per Reception, a type of fantasy football scoring system, and the one we are using in this league).
I’m genuinely jazzed to be along for the ride. One of my favorite Hold Steady songs is “Stuck Between Stations,” which literally describes my lot in life. I walked away from a radio station I loved more than any other in a 28 year career. At once, I may never crack the mic again and cannot imagine that I wouldn’t…it’s such a part of me. And that has screwed with my head this year just as much as losing my mom or two of my best friends. It’s a slippery slope that has cause me to question my relationship not just with radio, but music in general, and at the core my idea of who I am and what I do.
But like everything, we are works in progress, yes? So this feels good on about 15 different levels. Here’s to new friends and the return of an old familiar one. Here’s to staying positive. And faith in the future. And Faith In The Future.
Doubly so, then, it really feels like the best week of the year…a Holiday in September where the reward centers of my music brain and football brain light up like a Christmas tree.