Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Draft Dodgers

My annual fantasy football draft takes place this Saturday. Our league, The Final Countdown, is in its fourth year of operation and consists of ten old friends, a group of mostly freshman year hallmates with some track teammates and high school friends tossed in for humor’s sake. Each week we start 1 QB, 1 kicker, 1 team defense, 2 running backs, 2 wide receivers, 1 tight end, and 1 RB/WR hybrid.

A few years ago it became a keeper league to place a better premium on drafting promising young players over decrepit has-beens, and to increase the sense of ownership and responsibility of the managers. My keepers for the past couple of years have been Donovan McNabb, Willis McGahee, Roy Williams and Antonio Gates. My team has finished disappointingly out of the playoffs each year after a series of dreadful late-season collapses. But hope springs eternal each September, and I know the stats of my Big Four better than I otherwise would.

Saturday is when the rest of the team is built around those keepers. We take turns selecting the best available player, creating a team stocked with a well-planned mix of skilled position players, careful not to take too many running backs for want of a third wide receiver. We have to be sure to select a backup QB, and every now and then someone gambles an early round selection on a kicker or a defense. We spend time scheming over who will have a late-season surge, who is injury prone despite big numbers last year, and considering the schedules of our QBs so we don’t need to dip into the waiver pool at a key point in the season and risk dropping one of our better players. The point being, our draft is a process by which we aim to create the best possible team. An army, if you will.

On the stump in New Hampshire, no candidate talks about a fantasy football draft, and you would be hard pressed to find one with enough time to manage a team. Lord knows it is all too tempting to spend a couple of hours each day pouring over splits and opponent histories, especially if you have an office job.

Nor do they talk about a draft for the US Army as it “surges” in the Middle East. Yet every candidate talks about Iraq. We are putting in more troops, so why not a draft? Standard recipe for a candidate’s answer goes something like this: “we have a terrific all-volunteer army, and our troops are doing a super and courageous job over there, and I just don’t think a draft is necessary.”

Maybe not, but in the last few years there has been more and more talk bubbling up from the aquifer of public discourse. The arguments tend to be based in the very valid issue of fairness, whether sexism or classism. But yesterday in Newsweek, Cpl. Mark Finelli, an Iraq veteran and former WTC investment banker, lays it out a little differently. His argument comes down to dollars and sense.

Seeing the superior vehicles and gear used by private contractors compared to the sometimes makeshift and often deadly equipment used by our own Army, Finelli argues that a draft would bring in more funding in order to quell the fears of the rich and powerful that their children might due a gruesome and, more importantly, avoidable death. As it is, too many of the soldiers are forgotten pawns in a political game being played thousands of miles away.

Furthermore, Finelli points out that an army consisting of a broader swath of society would include, as a result, a much broader swath of skills. A draft would bring in smarter soldiers, not just braver ones. Could that make a difference in how our soldiers are able to deal with IEDs and guerrilla tactics? According to Finelli, it would. After all, if you go into a fantasy football week starting four running backs and no QB, you will be wasting a valuable scoring slot by using too many from one position and not enough of another. You might still win if your running backs put up a few touchdowns apiece, but why not use the QB that is available to you back home in the boardrooms, on the bench?


CB said...

Don't forget the players you are drafting are willingly volunteering to play football. If you were required to draft me, I think you would find your team might be out of the playoff picture sometime around your birthday. This, no matter the traction on my nike's, the material of my gloves, or the gatorade that is in me. A team that doesn't want to play doesn't win.

Also, props to Sam. I can think of few things that blatantly disregard my right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness than a mandatory draft.

BTB said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
BTB said...

What about the fact that my team name, The Conkey's Shaysites, has a direct correlation with both the Shays Rebellion AND a tavern? Would that change your mind about playing for my team? Also, I have a high first round draft pick this year.

CB said...

Ha, without a doubt the team name is tight, but if there is still a chance of an introduction with Ray Lewis, I'm out!

netto said...

The topic of having a draft or of having mandatory military service in the US is an interesting topic. I've heard commentators say it would bring unity to the nation and teach some of the young slobs here to grow a backbone. This is probably wishful/sentimental thinking, though. I'm sure it's just as easy to learn some immoral things in the Army too.

Moreover, I do think the addition of coerced soldiers would add new skills, but what if they don't try? To borrow your analogy, if you have 4 running backs and you trade one for a QB who doesn't want to be there and he throws 3 picks the next week, wouldn't you have been better off with the Running Back in case one of your others got injured?

And would politicians better fund the military if we had a draft? Probably. But we'd move a big step toward being a military state, like Sparta. Now that might be some people's idea of a great place, especially a military person, but not mine.

Gabriel said...

lving in israel, which does have a mandatory draft, i've seen some of its effects first hand. most strikingly, it absolutely helps to shape a national identity, bringin people of all sorts of backgrounds/ethnicities/languages (ie Amharic, Russian, English in additin to Hebrew) together fighting for a cause. (excluding the ultra-religious, who opt out). the major cost, of course, being that so many people lose friends in the everlsting war over here, and afterwards are generally more pessimistic towards the peace process, both idealistically and in terms of voting...