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Family, Football & A Return to Normal

by Nate Polvogt

“When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.” – Haruki Murakami

If we’re being honest with ourselves, there have been many points in the last 400+ days where we doubted if things would ever get back to normal, whatever that means now. This pandemic has dragged on far longer than anyone believed it would. There’s been plenty of finger-pointing as to why we’re still here, what mistakes were made by whom, what’s scientific fact and what is just fear-mongering. The societal divide that has been growing for the last year is very real. 

This past week, however, there seems to be a very bright light at the end of the tunnel. With the directive from the CDC that people who have been fully vaccinated no longer need to wear masks in most situations, the majority of states are making a shift to open back up to full capacity. 

While there are debates as to whether this is a good idea, the reality is we are starting to move back to normal. After a year and two months of lockdowns, quarantines, constant hand-sanitizing and mask-wearing, capacity limits and delivery services, missing out on time with loved ones and friends, it all seems to be nearing an end. 

Now the question becomes, how do we navigate “normal” and reintegrate into a regular social society? And what becomes of these friendships we’ve made in the virtual spaces we were forced into? 

I know a big question I’ve had with all of this since entering the fantasy sports content creation space last July is, “Are these friendships real?” 

I know I’m not alone in this thought. It’s been a weird world of conversing with people whom we’ve never met in person. We’ve had deep conversations, late-night Zoom meetings, played in leagues with, collaborated on content and even created companies and collectives with these people. Some of them close, some of them as far away as Australia. But what happens when the opportunity to actually meet these friends in person arises?

My wife, Jen, and I were fortunate enough to get the opportunity to test this scenario out last weekend. We happen to live roughly an hour south of one of fantasy football Twitter’s favorite power couples, Dave and Emily Kluge. It had been a long time coming, but obviously given the state of things, not quite possible. 

Dave and I go back (that feels oddly ridiculous to say) to August/September when we bonded over hip-hop and the fires ravaging our state. Over the subsequent months, I had the opportunity to get to know him better and even work with him for a brief time. All, of course, via Twitter and the internet. 

His lovely wife, Emily, came into the equation more recently, as she decided to finally grace all of us in the Twitter community with her amazingness, and deliciously beautiful pies. 

Needless to say, Jen and I were excited to finally meet these awesome people we had been talking to and interacting with almost daily virtually, in real life. It was slightly nerve-wracking if we’re being honest. The days and minutes leading up to our meeting felt like we were prepping for a first date. 

The stress was two-fold. First off, the age-old questions of “will they like us?” And “will we like them?” However, the added wrinkle was that we hadn’t seen hardly anyone in person in over a year outside of family. Did we even remember how to act around people? Was this really happening? Spoiler alert:  We did and it was. 

It was the craziest thing, actually meeting them in person. The people we saw on social media were exactly the same people we were now sharing a table with at this small brewery in Broomfield, Colorado on a sunny yet windy Saturday afternoon. 

Over the two-and-half-hour meet-up, it was very clear that we did indeed like them, and they us. There were no awkward pauses or deafening silences. It was an amazing conversation between friends. At times it felt like we had known each other forever. 

And the real barometer for any friendship at this point in our life is our son, Jackson, who loved them and their adorable dog Tortellini. In fact, he’s still talking about all three of them. Our only regret was that we couldn’t have stayed longer. 

This meeting confirmed what I had hoped all along. These friendships we’ve made during what has probably been the hardest year of most of our lives are very real. They are as real as what we have been calling our “real-life” friendships. 

Borne out of necessity, we found our people. Not people who become our friends based on geographical proximity and shared school or work experiences. People who get us, who have shared life experiences and interests, drives and struggles, triumphs and embarrassments. Friends who are there for us out of love rather than obligation. And to me, that’s what “real” friendship is all about. 

Friendships built on fantasy football have proven to be so much more, just as some of the football relationships forged from the draft and free agency movement will prove to be as we approach the 2021 season. 

In dynasty leagues, there is a lot to consider, and the reactions to this week’s initial workouts have been interesting to say the least. New relationships are forming all around the league that will impact how we manage our rosters. Is it too early to make moves on assumptions from these early news tidbits? Is anything happening now a harbinger for things to come this season? 

Let’s get down to brass tacks in this month’s edition of “Decoding Dynasty: Early Overreactions.”

Decoding Dynasty: Early Overreactions

Today is May 17. We are less than one month removed from the NFL draft. There are some things we know for certain, barring injury or some other strange occurrence. Trevor Lawrence will be the Week 1 starter in Jacksonville. Najee Harris is primed to be the RB1 in Pittsburgh. And that’s about it. 

There are a lot of things that will happen between now and training camp. There will be cuts, maybe a trade or two, free agency signings, players filling a role in organized team activities (OTAs) that is maybe a little different than expectations or predictions. My advice to you as a dynasty manager is this:  Keep calm and don’t panic. 

Let me give you my favorite example for the last week.

The Jacksonville Jaguars

Since the hiring of former University of Utah, Florida and Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer in mid-January, things have been interesting. There were a lot of questions as to whether his style and expertise would translate to the NFL. Thus far, he hasn’t done much to quiet the narrative that he is less-than-qualified to lead this Jacksonville team. 

From questionable coaching hires to even more baffling personnel decisions, the Jaguars faithfuls and fantasy managers alike are sweating bullets with every move. I’m here to tell you that what is happening now means nothing. I have three points that I want to make that I think will calm your fears (at least for the time being). 

Smoke & Mirrors

Meyer is not as dumb as we all think. It’s smoke and mirrors to keep everyone guessing. And it’s brilliant in my opinion. 

Football is an elaborate game of chess and poker mixed with capture the flag and “Risk.” This understanding of the game is what has made Bill Belichik so great for two decades in New England. He doesn’t tip his hand and sometimes he makes personnel decisions that make us question his sanity. Think of the rapid free agency moves this season where he acquired Jonnu Smith, Hunter Henry and Nelson Agholor. It has left us all scratching our heads. However, we all know Belichik has a plan. 

Tebow Time Returns

Tim Tebow is not a threat to take away touches from anyone. This was one-hundred percent a locker room signing. Tebow is a hype machine and about as positive a person as you’ll find anywhere. He’s good for morale and a great locker room presence. 

Meyer knows this from coaching him at Florida. It’s probably also a good move to have someone like Tebow, who has faced intense media scrutiny in his career, there to help Lawrence weather the storm that comes with being the first-overall pick. You may not like it, but it’s probably not a bad move on Meyer’s part to have Tebow around, at least through camp.

Will he make the 53-man roster? Probably not. But even if he does, it won’t affect your dynasty rosters one way or the other. 

Early Designations Don’t Overly-Matter

Travis Etienne taking reps at wide receiver early in camp doesn’t mean anything. Lawrence just had shoulder surgery and hasn’t been cleared to hand the ball off (I don’t get it either, but that’s not the point here), so it stands to reason you find any way you can to get your rookie’s involved in mini-camp. 

In this situation, rolling out Etienne as a receiver makes sense, and is the perfect opportunity for Meyer to play the confusion game. Meyer said to reporters on Saturday that Etienne would be taking receiver reps in this mini-camp and that “worst-case scenario you have a running back that’s elite with receiver skills.” 

That statement leaves everyone in the league guessing. It also leaves us dynasty managers guessing. Feels like a smart move to me, whether you like him or not. 

It’s Only May

We still have three-and-a-half months until the season starts. You should be doing what you feel is best for your rosters, always. But remember, there is still a lot that can happen between now and September. Don’t have a knee-jerk reaction to some meaningless news that you may regret come Week 1. Be smart. And try to cut through the noise. 

And now, for my favorite part of my column every week, the dad joke! 

What kind of drink can be bitter and sweet? 


As always, thanks for reading. For more fantasy and life content, find me on Twitter @JeNateJackFF.

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