Britrock Blog

Just another Brit in New York City

Posts Tagged ‘proficiency certificate’

Getting a good tightend makes life better in America

Posted by Britrock on September 10, 2012

American sports are better observed, learned, understood and then properly enjoyed through gaming. And yes, there’s a British English vs. American English discussion lurking in only the second word of this piece but I’ll save that as a filler paragraph later in another article.

When I first arrived in New York City in the winter of 1999, to reach the sidewalk I had to drag my suitcase over a small embankment of garbage strewn snow, amongst which was the sports section of a newspaper with a close-up photo of a helmeted football participant cheering. Steam poured out of his mouth as rainy globs of snow streaked passed him. Anything that could make a grown adult male that happy while obviously cold, damp and probably bruised was immediately intriguing, yet I didn’t know where to begin learning football.

At school we played and learned games including rugby, association football, cricket, golf, tennis, rounders, softball, athletics, field hockey, volleyball, basketball and cycling. We didn’t learn how to race bicycles but we did learn the principles of how to ride one safely on the road, receiving a ‘cycling proficiency’ certificate and a free reflective piece of plastic on completion. The only time I use the word proficiency is in relation to a cycling lesson at school, making it a grotesquely underused word possibly made uncool because of its originator – the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents.

Photograph: David Sillitoe for the Guardian

“Football for Dummies” didn’t really help, despite reading more than half of it my limited attention span didn’t allow it to sink in. The mere mention of tightends made me smirk like a schoolboy hearing the word “breast” regardless of context. So I bought a Playstation and a copy of Madden 2000, forced Brett Favre to avoid early retirement and take the Packers to three Superbowl titles. And like a girl I picked Green Bay because at the time their green and golden-yellow uniforms had a nostalgically cool look to them.

So, I became familiar with ‘downs,’ QBs, WRs, RBs, the difference between a passing and running game but not when to deploy them, how to defend or not to ‘go for it’ on fourth down everytime. And I still didn’t know what a tight-end was, where they played or what they did, but I knew I liked the entertaining education and participation in virtual sport played over here, and set about learning an American sport a year.

This was around the end of football season and I can’t remember who won the Superbowl that year. Giants won last year, and a couple of years before that I think. But I can tell you I almost won at a superbowl party pick’em’game, finished second in a fantasy baseball league the following year, and in one evening in the summer of 2005 I learned three American sports; kickball, beerpong and flipcup.

Fantasy baseball takes levels of commitment, conservative estimate is an hour a day and a little luck; I landed New York Yankees’ Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Alfonso Soriano in his rookie year. Daily scanning of news websites for information on starting pitchers, batters on hot streaks, and patterns. Always looking for patterns because that’s how humans try to make sense of things.

Baseball, college basketball and football, a little ice hockey, MLS have all entertained me but I’ve not really dedicated any time to wasting hours on NFL games beyond dipping my toe lightly into a playoff league where everyone had the same players and no one really cared about the result.

With limited reading and only intuition to go on, I logged onto and dived straight into a free ESPN league that included a ‘live’ snake draft. There are entire websites, books and even TV programs dedicated to fantasy football draft strategies and even more words written about the merits of every single player in the National Football League. So I ignored it all and went with my gut feelings.

Top five things I learned from my first draft:

a) A quarterback will score the most points each week, not always the same QB each week however. There are eight maybe ten elite quarterbacks, and only five or six that will deliver big points almost every week.
b) Kickers and defenses will likely contribute the fewest points and definitely not the most points on any given week. Pick them towards the end of the draft.
c) There are lots and lots of running backs and wide receivers who tend to score points sporadically depending on if their team is winning or losing, and picking the right four or five guys is more luck based than anything else.
d) Tightends, especially good TD scoring tightends are worthy of a 2nd or 3rd round pick. The name makes me chuckle less now.
e) If fantasy sports makes watching sports much more fun, imagine doubling it and making it a once a season activity with the tension of the final moments of any close, freescoring game. There’s more pressure during the draft that will affect enjoyment of sports on a weekly basis than picking lottery ticket numbers that could change your life.


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