I remember feeling like the new kid in school with nowhere to sit during lunch. That’s a feeling I swore I’d never put myself through since my first painful day freshman year in a new high school. But nevertheless, there I was, a nervous wreck -- sweaty palms and all.
Ain’t no half steppin’. I gotta make the most of the opportunity.
I’m certainly not as cool or have as much swag as Big Daddy Kane, but if the montra worked for him why not me?
It was my first day covering the New York Giants training camp -- a call up to the big leagues, so to speak, from having covered the crosstown Jets for the previous three years. I had learned a lot while covering the Jets as a naive journalism graduate from Hofstra University and self-marketing might've been at the top of the list. If for no other reason than I was never good at it. But this time around, I told myself things would be different.
As the Giants took the practice field and rookie Ryan Nassib fired corner endzone fade routes in endzone 7-on-7 drills, I recognized a reporter I grew to enjoy reading. In the interest of full disclosure, I found myself more starstruck by the big reporters covering team more so than the players on it. So when a friend of mine went to introduce me to New York Post national NFL writer Bart Hubbuch, I was a little nervous. Who knows? Maybe it could be a foot in the door at the Post.
Reminding myself to not stumble over my words and wiping the perspiration from my palms, I walked up to the adjacent sideline with my friend, Dan, as he greeted Hubbuch and introduced us.
“How ya doing, Bart? I’m a big fan of your work,” I said, trying to hide the excitement in my voice.
We exchanged pleasantries and he held his hand out to shake hands. I obliged and aimed my right hand to lock thumbs with his -- just one aspect at achieving the perfect handshake. There may be nothing more telling of a man than his initial handshake, in the business world especially. You never get a second chance a good first handshake. But I digress. As our hands zero in to each other, I make sure to maintain strong eye contact. After all good eye contact represents confidence. We have a firm shake, equally clenched before our signals got crossed up.
I have always thought of a good handshake as a good sporting news article -- packs a punch in a limited time. A strong hand embrace, a good clench, a solid two-shake and then release. Apparently Hubbuch didn’t share the same theories on a handshake as I did. Following the second shake I went to release my hand from his. He did not.
What resulted was one of the more awkward professional exchanges in my young life. It felt like he had my limp hand locked into his for an eternity, although it was probably more like five seconds at most. We both acknowledged what was happening with our eyes, but not our mouths, which made the situation that more awkward.
The conversation that ensued was short-lived as all I could think about was the botch-job that was my first handshake with a reporter I admired. Needless to say, there was no job offered in conversation following the handshake.Much like how you never get a second chance at a good handshake, you never get a second chance at making a first impression -- even as I very much wanted a do-over with Hubbuch.
That’s reality, I suppose. Then again, the same can be said for fantasy football. In ESPN leagues according to Mike Polikoff of ESPN’s League Manager, teams that start off the season on a bad note (0-2) make the playoffs 18.9% of the time. Even the fantasy gods don’t reward those who don’t impress early. On the flip side, if you start off hot (2-0) the odds of making the playoffs are far above a 50-50 shot, at 61.33%.
Keep that in mind when setting your lineup for the NFL's kick-off weekend. If you drafted Brandon Marshall early, like I did -- 14th overall in a savvy 12-team league -- don't be swayed by reports of a temperamental Marshall and his Golden Receicer hips. He'll be a golden receiver for you in the early goings.
Now is not the time to get cute. You drafted players for a reason. Play them. Don't be swayed by pundit's predictions and fantasy forecast articles, like this one, and stick to your roots.
However, if you'd like to display you fantasy dominance early on (I mean, who could blame you?) then read on for Week 1's Start 'Em/Sit 'Em!
START ‘EM -- Tom Brady, New England Patriots: I know, I know. Clearly a no-brainer for any week. But if there’s a sure-fire lock to produce against one team, it’s Brady against the Buffalo Bills. In 22 career games, Brady and the Pats boast a 20-2 record while averaging 20.5 completions, 245.77 passing yards/game, 2.3 touchdowns and 0.77 interceptions. In two games against the Bills in 2012 he had 45 completions for 577 yards, 5 touchdowns and zero interceptions. Start ‘em. But you didn’t need me to tell you that.
SIT ‘EM -- Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins: This is a weekly column, so for this week I’d say wait a week to see how RGIII looks in his return to the field after a strenuous 8-month rehab process for the torn ACL he suffered against the Seattle Seahawks in the Divisional round of last year’s playoffs. Not everyone is Adrian Peterson. And not everyone has had two ACL surgeries on the same knee in a four-year span. That’s math even I can compute. Wait and see how he looks before planting both feet back on the bandwagon.
START ‘EM -- Lamar Miller, Miami Dolphins: He’s my “C.J. Spiller of 2013” award winner early on. Miller easily separated himself from backup Daniel Thomas in preseason and he never looked back. He saw limited action as a rookie in 2012, but produced when getting the call (51 attempts, 250 yards, 1 TD, 4.9 yards per carry). Add that with the 4.2 yards per carry he averaged throughout preseason and Miller should enjoy a breakout year. What helps is facing a Cleveland Browns team (re-vamped on defense, I know) that allowed 25 fantasy points per game last year. Miller is a legitimate RB2 option in any league.
SIT ‘EM -- Giovanni Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals: Like RGIII, Bernard also falls under the “wait and see” category. I believe he’ll eventually overtake starter BenJarvus Green-Ellis as the team’s primary running back, but the rookie from North Carolina isn’t there yet -- especially facing the Chicago Bears Week 1. The Bears were the second-best fantasy defense against running backs in 2012. I don’t read too much into Bernard’s goal line touches over the LawFirm during preseason as it was preseason. His upside is huge with pass-catching abilities out of the backfield, making him a viable FLEX option. Just any other week but this one.
START ‘EM -- Andre Johnson, Houston Texans: Purely derived from the Pay It Forward theory. Johnson recently restructured his contract -- converting half of his $10.5 million salary in 2013 to bonuses. Of course he doesn’t lose any guaranteed money, but frees up space for the organization -- a consummate team guy. It’s only right that Matt Schaub gives back to his top receiving threat Week 1. Plus the fact they’ll be playing the San Diego Chargers, who’ll vie for the top pick in the 2014 NFL Draft this season, doesn’t hurt either.
SIT ‘EM -- Victor Cruz, New York Giants: The trouble with Cruz is he’s nearly a must- start every week, but the devil is in the details my friend. After missing the Giants’ mini-camp in May in protest of getting a new contract, Cruz came up limp in the second game of the preseason with a heel injury. He is out of a boot now, however he’s been limited in practice all week. Add in his subpar performances against the Dallas Cowboys in 2012 (6 receptions, 58 yards / 2 receptions, 23 yards) and Cruz is definitely a cause for concern for fantasy owners Week 1.
START ‘EM -- Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys: Forget the fact that Witten caught 110 balls on 148 targets from Tony Romo in 2012. Forget the fact he went for 20/177 in two games against the New York Giants last year. Focus on the Giants, whose linebacking corps is questionable at best and lost Pro Bowl safety Stevie Brown for the season. If he averaged 10 receptions -- albeit 18 did come in one game -- against a better linebacking group and a healthy secondary, what will he do without those factors?
SIT ‘EM -- Jermichael Finley, Green Bay Packers: This more-than-likely stems from the fact I just don’t like Finley. I never want anything to do with him. Sorry if my bias is showing through here, but it’s my column -- deal with it. Bias aside, I see Finley as the fourth red zone option for Aaron Rodgers behind James Jones, Eddie Lacy and, believe it or not, Randall Cobb. That’s not good for a 6’4”/240-pound tight end. He did go for 7/47/1TD in the opener against San Francisco last year, so what do I really know? He would score only one more touchdown throughout the next 15 games, however.