Schmazzer XVII

No doubt FifthLung readers have anxiously awaited the results of Schmazzer Bowl XVII, the Super Bowl for the world-famous Schmazzer Fantasy Football League.

Schmazzer XVII, which took place over weeks 16 and 17 of the 2014 NFL season, pitted FifthLung’s El Blizzardo Diablo versus alert reader Wrathakahn’s Crotch Dogs. These two teams met in the championship game before, in 2002’s Schmazzer V with Wrathakahn’s Mocha Jihad beating my Treesplitters 112-105. Football wags wondered, could El Blizzardo Diablo exact revenge for the Treesplitter defeat? This question was answered in one of the most thrilling finishes in Schmazzer history.

EBD had cruised through the regular season to an 11-2 record and the league’s highest total points. They did so on the backs of Andrew Luck’s breakout season and the league’s three best WRs, Antonio Brown, Demaryius Thomas and Jordy Nelson. However, as the playoffs approached, the Diablos were running out of steam.

The Crotch Dogs, on the other hand, finished 7-6 but by the end of the season they were on the rise, with key players like RB Arian Foster and TE Rob Gronkowski coming off injury and scoring big. Crotch Dogs GM Wrathakahn drafts strong and for the most part sticks to his guns. (He made only 16 player transactions versus EBD’s 50). His patience paid off, with Foster and Gronk rejoining an already solid team anchored by RB Matt Forte and WRs Alshon Jeffrey and Julian Edelman.

And just before the Schmazzer Bowl, the Dogs made a key pickup: Matt Asiata, the grinder RB for the Vikings. The irony here was that EBD had won the previous year’s Schmazzer Bowl by picking up Cordarelle Patterson just before Week 17. This allowed EBD to prevail in heartbreaking fashion over the Psycho Whores from Hell, who had dominated the league in 2013. So now in 2014 I was afraid I’d get Asiata’d the way I had Cordarelle’d the PWfH last year.

In the first round of the 2014 Schmazzeroffs (Weeks 14 & 15), the Diablos scored 219 points in defeating Ev’s Austin Droogs and the Crotch Dogs scored 259.9 points in defeating Shikesman’s Wildlings. Given those scores, it’s no surprise that Schmazzer pundits expected the Crotch Dogs to coast to an easy Schmazzer Bowl victory.

Week 16

After Week 16, it looked bleak for the Diablos. The Crotch Dogs’ RB trio of Matt Forte, Arian Foster and Matt Asiata led them to a healthy lead over EBD: 112.9 to 94.6. A pathetic 4.4 point performance from Andrew Luck absolutely killed my beloved Diablos. The Dogs’ top scorer was Matt Asiata with 21.7 points. I HAD BEEN ASIATA’D! So at halftime of Schmazzer XVII, my Diablos were three touchdowns behind. I was in big trouble.

Week 17

In Week 17, the Crotch Dogs had 6 out of 9 players in the early games. I had 3 out of 9. Not that I actively try to arrange this but I love it when my guys play later. You get a feel for how the opponent’s team is doing so you can either feel quietly confident or if they do well you can still imagine your guys getting many TDs — and thus postpone the agony of defeat. The Crotch Dogs did not do terribly in the early games but they weren’t great either. They took a devastating hit when Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski was made inactive and they didn’t have time to sub in a replacement TE. Edelman was out too, and then Foster did not play a full game due to injury. He still got a TD but probably would have had at least one more plus many more yards.

So after the early games, I felt pretty good. My chances had gone from horrible to decent. The Crotch Dog core of Forte, Foster, Asiata, Jeffrey and Gronk had gotten only 30.9 points. And I still had my core of Antonio Brown, Jordy Nelson, Demaryius Thomas yet to play. Earlier in the year I would have felt supremely confident. But by then they were hitting fewer home runs, so to speak.

Because Andrew Luck had been a disaster in Week 16 and was likely to play little in Week 17 in a meaningless game for the Colts, I picked up Cam Newton. He was on the upswing and playing the awful Atlanta Falcons defense. The Crotch Dogs had Russell Wilson against a tougher Rams defense. I hoped they would at least cancel each other out.

In the late games, Jordy and Demaryius had solid but not great games — no TDs. But Newton actually outscored Wilson 19.7 to 10.3. Those 9 points provided a nice chunk of the points I needed to catch up to the Dogs. Cam scored most of those points in the first half. The Falcons were so terrible Cam didn’t have to do much in the second half (and highlighted my poor decision to start the Atlanta kicker). The cruel irony is that Cam had been a Crotch Dog early in the year but had been so bad Wrathakahn cut him.

The early games were over. The late afternoon games were over. And there was one game left in the 2014 NFL Regular Season, the last game in the 2014 Schmazzer League season: the night game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cincinnati Bengals. Going into this last game, the Crotch Dogs held on to a 6 point lead over the Diablos. The Dogs had one player left to play: Steelers WR Martavis Bryant. The Diablos had two: Steeler WR Antonio Brown and Cincy RB Jeremy Hill.

Brown was most likely to get a ton of short passes and occasionally break one into a long gain or TD. Hill was a workhorse back and had become the primary back late in the season but shared time with Gio Bernard. They were steady Eddies with bursts of greatness. Bryant on the other hand was a boom or bust rookie who had scored 7 TDs that year, and his specialty was long TD receptions. 50 yards and a TD was very possible for Bryant, 10+ points in one play.

I hoped for 20+ point games from both of my guys because I always hope for big games. But more realistically, I expected 8-10 points each from Hill and Brown at a minimum. But there was always a risk of Bryant getting a long TD. So he could easily get, say, 14 points. Throw in the 6 point lead the Dogs already had and it was likely to be a very close game. Squeaky Bum Time.

One more thing, and this is very important: ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN IN FANTASY FOOTBALL.

Steelers v. Bengals

As the game started it was Crotch Dogs 172.1, EBD 166.3.

Pittsburgh got the ball first and had a short drive. No points for Schmazzer Bowlers. The Steelers then punted to the Bengals, who had a three and out. Jeremy Hill had eight yards for 0.8 points on that drive: Dogs 172.1, EBD 167.1. Then, with 11:13 left in the 1st Quarter, Cincinnati punted to . . . ANTONIO BROWN.

Brown caught the ball and ran right. Almost tackled, he reversed field and ran back left around the punt coverage and 71 yards down the left sideline for a TD. As he reached the end zone he executed an ill-advised flip and landed with a bounce on his back. So I was excited and worried at the same time.

We do not score return yards but Brown got 6 points for the TD. Incredible play by Brown and he took EBD into the lead, barely: EBD 173.1, Dogs 172.1.

During the next 20 game minutes, we Diablos built on our lead. Hill and Brown both accumulated yards but neither scored. I was ahead by 9 points and the Steelers and Bengals were tied 10-10 when, with 6:51 left in the 2nd Quarter, Andy Dalton threw high to AJ Green, Green couldn’t pull it down, and the Steelers intercepted. Andy Dalton sucks.

Two plays later, with 5:58 left in the half, Big Ben threw a wide receiver screen to . . . MARTAVIS BRYANT! Bryant ran through the Bengal defense for 21 yards and a TD. This earned the Crotch Dogs 8.1 points: Diablos 181.3, Crotch Dogs 180.2.

For the rest of the first half, through the 3rd Quarter, and well into the 4th Quarter, Bryant, Brown and Hill did not score but Brown and Hill accumulated more yards, again slightly increasing the Diablo’s lead. And the Steelers were leading the game as the second half progressed so they went into kill-the-clock mode. This meant they were mostly lining up in a running formation with Antonio Brown as the lone WR. Martavis Bryant was not even on the field!

With 4:00 left in the 4th Quarter and season and Schmazzer Bowl, it was Diablos 189.8, Dogs 180.2. It appeared the Diablos were bumbling toward Schmazzer victory.

But at that four minute mark, Andy Dalton threw to AJ Green, who got slammed by a Steeler and coughed up the ball. The Steelers recovered the fumble on their 30 yard line. After this change of possession, when the Steeler offense came out on the field, they were not in that running formation. They were in a passing formation. And Martavis Bryant was out there. He lined up wide left.

With 3:51 left on the clock, Big Ben took the snap and went back to pass. He looked left. He wanted to go to . . . MARTAVIS BRYANT. Bryant was streaking down the left sideline. Big Ben threw the pass. If it connected it would be a 70 yard TD throw — 13 fantasy points in one play. If it connected, the Dogs would retake the lead, Dogs 193.2 to EBD 189.8. This throw could win the Schmazzer Bowl for the Dogs.

But Big Ben overthrew Bryant. Three plays later, with 3:01 left, the Steelers were in shotgun formation. Antonio Brown was wide right, Bryant left. Big Ben took the snap and looked right. He arced a long one into the arms of . . . ANTONIO DAMN BROWN.

Brown had outrun his coverage and had a clear path to the end zone . . . except for a Steelers player who was running toward him as if to make the tackle. That Steelers player who seemed intent on preventing Brown from scoring was . . . MARTAVIS DAMN BRYANT!

What was he thinking? Was he trying to save the game for the Crotch Dogs? Bryant ran into Brown and both players stumbled. Then Bryant fell to the turf while Brown stayed upright and ran on to the end zone for a 63 yard TD. The score was now Diablos 202.6, Dogs 180.2.

And that was the final score. Neither Bryant, Brown nor Hill touched the ball again. And so the Schmazzer Bowl came down to two throws in the last four minutes of the last game. Really one throw, the incompletion intended for Bryant. That swung Schmazzer XVII.

Week 17

Late in his first term as President, Dwight D. Eisenhower had a heart attack. It was September 24, 1955 and it happened in Denver. The following quotes come from Ike’s Bluff by Evan Thomas, an excellent history of Ike’s Presidency focusing on his foreign policy.

President Eisenhower did not like to have his golf game interrupted. On September 23, he played a morning round at the Cherry Hills County Club outside Denver. Ann Whitman [his private secretary] recorded in her diary that she had never seen him “look or act better,” possibly because he had just spent four days fishing in the mountains or because his popularity polls stood at an astronomical 80 percent in the afterglow of the “Spirit of Geneva.”

Ike was a frequent golfer. The Presidency is such a stressful job maybe we should stop getting mad at Presidents who play “too much” golf. Ike often played the Cherry Hills course when he was in Denver.

By lunch he was in a foul mood. Three times he had been summoned from the course to take a call from Secretary of States Dulles — only there was a mix-up, and Dulles (who often spoke as often as eight times a day by phone with the president) had not been on the line. The president’s game collapsed after the 14th hole. At lunch, Ike wolfed down a hamburger slathered with Bermuda onions and headed back for nine more holes. Again he was interrupted to take a call from the secretary of state. “These onions are backing up on me,” he told his golf partner, the club pro. At dinner, he felt some indigestion and skipped his usual cocktail. Ike was staying in Denver at the home of his in-laws, the comfortable eight-room house on a tree-shaded street where Mamie Doud had grown up.

The Doud house is located in the middle of the 700 block of Lafayette Street in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Denver. It is of special interest to me because I grew up next door. We bought our house in 1966 and lived there for over 40 years. The Colorado State Historical society has a photo of Ike sitting in a convertible in our neighbor’s driveway with our house in the background.

Ike & Mamie visited her parents often and when they did, Ike would sit on the front porch with his Secret Service detail and chat with neighborhood kids. One of those kids, John Archibold, lived in a beautiful house on the corner of 7th & Lafayette. John gave an interview to the Eisenhower Presidential Center about chatting with Ike and talked about how Ike once gave him a free ride to the East Coast on the Presidential plane. John was heading back to college but this use of taxpayer dollars became a minor nationwide scandal. After college, John came back to Denver, bought the house from his mother, and his son Steve was a childhood buddy of mine.

Back to Ike and his indigestion next door. Ike loved reading western novels, unless a woman appeared and there was romance, at which point he moved on to the next western.

He retired early to read a western. At about 2 a.m., Mamie, sleeping in the next room, got up to go to the bathroom, and she heard her husband stirring in bed. Looking in, she thought he seemed troubled and asked if he was having a nightmare. “No dear, but thank you,” he said. He complained of pain in his upper abdomen. Accustomed to Ike’s stomach troubles, she gave him some milk of magnesia and called the president’s doctor, Howard Snyder.

At age seventy-four, Snyder was old to be the president’s person physician, and Ike’s millionaire friends fretted that he might not know the latest diagnoses and treatments. But the handsome, six feet three Snyder, whom Ann Whitman affectionately called “Old Duck,” knew his patient, including his anxious stomach and mild hypochondria, and was attentively if sternly sympathetic. Arriving at the house shortly after 2:00 a.m., Snyder checked his patient’s vital signs and decided, he later said, that the president was having a heart attack.

According to some notes that Snyder later made, the doctor engaged in a lonely bedside drama. He immediately injected Ike with morphine for the pain and drugs to stop his blood from clotting. He tried to put an oxygen mask on him, but the patient resisted. Ike began to sweat profusely. By four o’clock, his blood pressure was dropping and he seemed to be going into shock. Snyder tried to warm him with rubbing alcohol and then told Mamie to climb into bed and wrap herself around her husband to keep him from shaking. Ike finally fell asleep at about five.

At eight, Snyder told the deputy press secretary to put out the word to reporters that the president was suffering from “digestive upset.” He would later claim that he wanted to let the president rest, that he didn’t want to unduly alarm Mamie (with whom he had not shared his apprehensions of a heart attack), or the staff, and that he wanted to wait to confirm his diagnosis.

All this was almost surely a lie. As historian Clarence Lasby has convincingly shown from the documentary evidence (which Snyder did his best to cover up), Snyder misdiagnosed Eisenhower in the early morning hours. “Indigestion” was not a cover story; it’s what Snyder mistakenly believed was causing Ike’s suffering. He did not administer the anti-coagulants or try to fit the president with an oxygen mask. He probably did help him to the bathroom. Snyder did not realize the president had suffered a coronary thrombosis until Ike was given an EKG after he woke up at 1:00 p.m. Then the president was finally driven to the hospital.

When the news got out, the stock market crashed, heart specialists were flown in and Ike spent seven weeks recuperating at Denver’s Fitzsimmons Army Hospital. He had 66 visitors during this time period including Vice President Richard Nixon and while there was an attempt to keep up appearances, visits were limited to 15 minutes and Ike was not allowed to read the newspaper. He recovered and went on to win re-election and serve a second term.

In Ike’s Bluff, Evan Thomas argues that Ike’s determined leadership saved us from several potential nuclear confrontations. Ike thought nuclear weapons meant the end of war because any war could lead to total war and total war meant mutual annihilation. He began to think the enemy was war itself, not the Russians or the Chinese. His “bluff” was that he never told anyone — not a single person ever – whether or not he would use nuclear weapons. So other international actors always had to fear any escalation could lead to nuclear war, which nobody wanted. Even Khrushchev thought nuclear war was insanity. Because of Ike’s military background, international actors also knew (or suspected) he was capable of retaliation if provoked.

What if Ike had died in Denver that night due to Dr. Snyder’s improper diagnosis? Richard Nixon would have been at the helm starting in 1955 instead of 1969. Evan Thomas talks about how Vice President Nixon favored military intervention in Vietnam in 1954 to help the French as Dien Bien Phu was falling. Ike said no. How would a President Nixon would have handled the Suez Canal Crisis of 1956 or the Formosa Strait Crisis of 1958? How would that earlier President Nixon have handled the Soviet Union?

These days, girls with Cystic Fibrosis call themselves cysters and boys with the disease are known as fibros. This cracks me up but it’s awesome. I grew up in a mostly solitary fight against Cystic Fibrosis but these days with the internet and social media there is a great and easily accessible community of CFers out there. If I was growing up today I’d likely join in. I’ll save the whys of my solitary route for another time but today I want to discuss two dramatic portrayals of CFers, one a cyster and one a fibro.

Spunky Cyster with Low Lungage

I recently watched the first season of Bates Motel on Netflix streaming. I’m not into horror movies and had little interest in Psycho or this prequel that imagines Norman Bates as a high schooler — but I am interested in one of the characters: Emma.

Emma is 17 years old, has Cystic Fibrosis, and walks around with an oxygen hose in her nose and a portable oxygen tank on wheels pulled behind her. She is said to be waiting for a lung transplant. Reading up on the series it sounds like they added CF as a character quirk and do not plan on getting too involved with it. Or do they? Maybe Norman falls for Emma, she dies, and that is the final straw in his growing insanity. She is being set up as the girl we want him to end up with. And she seems to be his last morsel of moral compass. (Mama Bates is nearly as psycho as Norman.) So if he loses Emma — both the love of his life and his moral compass? Trouble at the Bates Motel.

The portrayal of a CFer is wildly inaccurate at times. I was afraid she was going to roll through the entire season without coughing but finally in episode three, on a hike, she breathes heavily and coughs. Later in the season she has a more realistic cough session. However, you can’t have a character coughing all the time on a TV show. I understand that so I’ll give them a pass. But throw in a cough here and there people.

A CFer on oxygen and on the transplant list would not be able to run around town and school as effortlessly as Emma does. Needing to use oxygen during the day indicates her lung capacity (let’s call it lungage) has dropped to about one third or below. Usually being on the transplant list means one’s lungage is even lower than that. And low lungage means one’s body cannot get enough oxygen to the body for it to function. It is not just a matter of being exhausted, like someone at the end of a 10K race. Runners still have high oxygen saturations at the end of races.

So it is hard to imagine her taking the aforementioned hike, which must have been several miles into the forest to a hidden pot field. To make it more ridiculous, at the end of the hike Emma sprints away from the bad guys with her oxygen tank in hand. I’m at 27% lungage and I’m on oxygen and it takes minutes to recover from climbing one flight of stairs. There is a time delay though. I could run up those stairs. I could sprint. But three seconds into it my body would go into catastrophic failure. It’s more than being out of breath. The body urges collapse. The lungs strain for oxygen. The mind rejects all sensory input and shouts, “THE END IS NIGH!” I imagine it’s a lot like drowning.

Olivia Cooke, the actress who plays Emma, was asked if she researched CF for the role. She said, “I watched a lot of documentaries.” And she said CF is, “called the disease of the beautiful people. From the outside, you wouldn’t think there was anything wrong with them.” And of CFers, “You think there’s nothing wrong with them, apart from when they go home, they have to take lots of medications and do lots of exercises.” She adds, “I never wanted to play too much on her disease” because “she’s such an intelligent, spunky character that I would never want to play too much on the CF and take anything away from her.”

In short, I’m a beautiful person! But I think you can usually tell something is physically wrong with a CFer. Mainly because of the coughing. It is a deep nasty cough and usually phlegm comes up (and is hopefully spit out). Or, often the CFer is underweight due to bad digestion. This is probably less true today with improved CF therapies. Meaning young CFers are looking healthier than ever.

But I’m not complaining too much about Emma. I’m glad there is a CF character (and a very likable one). And I appreciate Olivia Cooke’s idea that she doesn’t want CF to dominate the character. That was at the core of my solitary approach to having CF as a kid. But less sprinting and a few more coughs. And get her a better portable oxygen set-up. Hauling those wheeled oxygen carts around is a pain in the ass.

Fibro Tired of Hot Babes Hitting on Him

I also recently watched a movie called Foreverland, written and directed by Canadian fibro Max McGuire. It’s a solid road trip movie about a fibro and his friend’s cute sister. The friend was a fibro and has died. Their mission is to deliver the deceased fibro’s ashes to a sacred spring across the country. The fibro lead looked really familiar and this was bugging me until I realized he was the actor who plays Norman’s brother in Bates Motel, Max Thieriot.

Max does a good job of playing a CFer with some good deep coughing. He should give Olivia Cooke some tips. But my favorite scene is when he gives a presentation to some medical students and a hot woman med student hits on him. He rebuffs her like it’s a big hassle to have babes constantly hitting on him. This has not been my experience with CF! It made me wonder if this has been a genuine problem for the writer-director or if this is some wishful writing. I knew things were getting better for CFers — but this much better???

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