Lail: The Poisoned Fruit

My name is Matt, and I have an admission to make. I have a problem.

I am doing something that I gave up several years ago after realizing that it burned me out and caused me great stress. But I have backslid. I now worry about it when I shouldn't. It interferes with my work. But more importantly, it distorts my views of things.

I'm talking, of course, about fantasy football.

There, I said it.

Fantasy football just isn't healthy. It causes rational-thinking people to do irrational things. Case in point: A buddy of mine (in a different fantasy league) "started" Oakland receiver Jerry Rice on Sunday. So what happens? Raider Alvis Whitted, a former NCSU player, is the recipient of a 38-yard TD pass from QB Rich Gannon - not Jerry Rice. My friend later tells me that he's cursing up a storm in his living room, irate that it was Whitted - not Rice - who caught a TD pass. And when Whitted converted the two-point conversion, well, it just sent my friend over the edge.

Did I mention that my friend is a State fan?

Another case study: My stud running back on Sunday was the Steelers' Duce Staley, who carried Bill Cowher's team on his back with 91 yards. Three times the Steelers were at the Raiders' one-yard line after Staley led Pittsburgh down the field. And three times off the field went Staley and in came Jerome Bettis, barreling in for three scores. I was furious. I was cursing Cowher. How could he do that to me? (Oh, by the way, there are few players in the NFL I respect more or pull for harder than Bettis. C'est la vie.)

One final case study: My kicker nailed a 42-yarder with just seven seconds left to win the game. (Of course with fantasy football, the wins and losses are irrelevant.) That kicker was none other than former Tar Heel Jeff Reed of the Steelers. And I was ecstatic. Sure it wasn't but three points, but I sure needed them.

And this is the problem with fantasy football. If the St. Louis Rams were to play the Philadelphia Eagles (my starting defense), then I would have to pull for the Eagles' DBs to pick off a couple of passes thrown in the direction of Torry Holt. And that's just not right.

The fact that I spent basically my entire Sunday watching NFL games that I normally could care less about (Jets-Bengals? Jacksonville-Buffalo?) and pulling for players (Corey Dillon? Jimmy Smith?) I could normally care less about shows that there's something wrong here. And it also illustrates why I would never take part in an ACC-themed fantasy league. I can just see it now: Hoping that my drafted QB (say, Bryan Randall of Virginia Tech) can score as many times as possible against my defense (say, NC State's). Sure, you can hope that "your team" (State) wins the game while still allowing "your QB" (Randall) have a big game. But that's an emotional roller coaster that I don't want to get on.

My reaction to fantasy football also proves to me why I should never gamble on sports. It would be even harder to watch the NFL if I knew my life's savings was on the line. With fantasy football - at least with the league I'm in - it's more about pride and good-natured ribbing among friends (with just a wee bit of moolah thrown in to make it interesting).

Nonetheless, I'm here to admit it. My name is Matt, and I have a problem.

And that problem is I can't wait for the weekend to get here!

ACC Rankings - One Man's Opinion
1. Miami: It wasn't pretty, but the Hurricanes - again - dispensed of FSU.
2. Virginia: Sure, UVa's first two opponents (Temple and UNC) aren't exactly Miami and Florida State, but the Cavs nonetheless looked pretty invincible in beating both.
3. Florida State: Perhaps Bobby should never ever ever again attempt a kick against Miami. Ever.
4. Maryland: Terps continue to take care of business. But this shouldn't surprise us.
5. NC State: Will the off week help or hurt the Wolfpack?
6. Virginia Tech: Hokies to host first-ever ACC league game this Saturday.
7. Georgia Tech: It's just one game, but folks are standing up and taking notice of the Ramblin' Wreck.
8. Clemson: Only because they barely edged out ...
9. Wake Forest: Deacs will scare the bejeebus out of a ton of good teams this year - and may even beat a few.
10. Duke: Devils suffered a heart-breaker at UConn. But, honestly, there's no shame in that.
11. North Carolina: There is shame, however, in not even showing up or competing against one of your biggest rivals.

This Week's Games
Ohio State at NC State: The biggest non-conference home game in Wolfpack history vs. one of the few ventures to Dixie for the Buckeyes. Ohio State is used to big games; NC State is still getting used to big games (as evidenced by the fact that this is the biggest non-conference home game in Wolfpack history). Nonetheless, the denizens of Carter-Finley will be up for this one, producing a truly special atmosphere. The difference may be Ivan: the Pack's chances could be greatly improved if the game has to be won on the ground. Thus ... (In the rain) NC State 24, Ohio State 21 (No rain) Ohio State 32, THE North Carolina State University 28

Maryland at West Virginia: The Terps have dominated the 'Neers in recent years. Some prognosticators have WVU as a dark-horse national champion candidate; I'm not one of them. Maryland 44, West Virginia 35

Duke at Virginia Tech: The Blue Devils don't have the talent to stay with the Hokies for an entire game, but this one could go down to the wire. Virginia Tech 27, Duke 21

Louisiana Tech at Miami: La. Tech has a penchant for scoring points, but the Canes' defense will put the kibosh on any such desires this time around. Miami 34, La. Tech 10

Akron at Virginia: This one won't be pretty. Unless you're a UVa fan. Or you just like watching violence. Hoos 50, Zips 14

Georgia Tech at North Carolina: The Yellow Jackets went into a loud and raucous Death Valley last week and came out a winner. You think the 25,000-plus in tranquil Kenan Stadium will faze Chan Gailey's team? Georgia Tech 28, UNC 17

UAB at Florida State: Chris Rix and the Noles get to rebound against a solid Blazers squad. FSU's fortunes for the rest of the season will rely on how their QB responds after last week's performance. FSU 27, UAB 17

N.C. A&T at Wake Forest: Aside from Virginia, there may not be a more confident ACC team right now than Jim Grobe's Deacs. Wake 35, 'T' 10

Clemson at Texas A&M: Tommy B's boys were shell-shocked in the final moments against Tech, and now must go into one of college football's most venerable atmospheres. Not easy. A&M 24, Clemson 21

Prognostication Record So Far (based on picking the correct winner only): 13-1

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