For 144 days, I stayed clean from my addiction.
It wasn't easy. The withdrawal symptoms. The sleepless nights. The cold sweats and headaches and the need to satisfy my craving. Through it all, I stood strong. I resisted the urge.
That is, until Friday night. During my dinner break at The Daily Item newspaper, I had an innocent yearning to check out the magazine rack at Weis Markets across the street.
That was my first mistake.
The rack was small, with a wide variety of magazines stuffed into a limited amount of spots. Of course, my eyes—honed by my addiction—knew just where to look. Darting past the Home & Gardens and Vanity Fairs, my gaze fell immediately upon the row of sports magazines, and the newly stocked offering of fantasy football guides.
Like a Weight Watcher flunkee at a Chinese buffet, I couldn't hold myself back.
I picked up the ESPN fantasy football magazine, flipped through the pages and soaked in the information. Player rankings, draft cheat sheets, full-color pages. I stopped myself. Looking at a magazine would lead to buying it.
I needed to be there as much as a recovering drug addict needed to be at OzzFest. There was just too much stimuli. I needed to leave. I put down the ESPN guide and scanned the rack one last time. Or so I thought.
Luckily, Fanball was nowhere to be seen. Fanball fantasy magazines are my kryptonite. It was a Fanball fantasy baseball magazine that I bought on Groundhog's Day—144 days ago.
The NFL.com fantasy football magazine caught my attention. Sparkly cover. Colorful, glossy inside pages. Still not necessary. In this, the information age, fantasy magazines are as antiquated as, well, the newspaper. Everything you'd ever need to know about preparing for a fantasy sport can be found online. For free.
Sites like chinstrapninjas.com, bleacherreport.com, fantasyfootballcafe.com, and a host of others basically eliminate the need to ever throw $7.99 (and up) at a magazine.
And, so, I put down the NFL.com guide and took a deep breath of relief. I was going to make it. Except, my eyes betrayed me. Those unwavering, copy-editing, backstabbing eyes.
One magazine, buried by a slew of Lindy's fantasy guides, was different. My curiosity overrode my common sense, and guided my hand to the brown cover. Within seconds, I was looking at the fantasy magazine equivalent of ecstasy.
The cover, defined by the close-up dimples of a football, was simple and yet complex. It was made out of a heavy, plastic-like, water-resistant material.
The inside pages were no less impressive. Colorful, glossy and chock full of page design perfection. My skin broke out in goosebumps. The hair on the back of my neck rose. No kidding. It was as if the magic goose from the Jack and the Beanstalk story had hidden a golden egg on the magazine rack.
I closed my eyes for a moment and sighed. When I opened them again, somehow, I was back in The Daily Item breakroom eating, but not tasting, leftover chicken parmesan and opening my newly purchased copy of the Sports Illustrated fantasy football magazine. Thank goodness for the drool-proof cover.
As I read, the magic of the moment slowly passed. The incredible packaging of the magazine dressed up, but didn't change, the fact that this was just another fantasy football magazine.
In the middle of the first story—"20 Burning Questions" that fantasy football owners want answered according to Sports Illustrated gridiron gurus—SI's David Sabino gets to question No. 7: Who is the safer pick, Tom Brady or Matt Cassell?
I don't read the answer. I don't need to. I don't need Sabino to tell me that Tom Brady should be drafted ahead of Matt Cassell in fantasy football circles. Tom Brady in a wheelchair and wearing eye patches on both eyes would outscore Cassell in fantasy points this year.
Finally, reason and common sense are starting to seep back into my consciousness. I just paid $7.99, plus tax, for someone to tell me what I already know—or easily could have found online at my favorite free websites.
More nuggets of rehashed information in that first article continue to slap me in the face ...that Brandon Marshall will likely blow up in his respective fantasy owners' faces...that it may not be smart to draft Plaxico Burress...that Brett Favre would have the most fantasy value of himself, Edgerrin James and Marvin Harrison if all three find themselves starting somewhere on opening day...that the only guarantee for 2009 for fantasy owners is that there are no guarantees.
I slip into depression. I hate myself for being so weak, for letting my addiction ruin what was going on four months of sobriety.
And my eyes—the slick, vengeful little pranksters that they are—drive the ice pick deeper into my back when they see a typo on page 12. It appears that the word "gantlet" is missing a "u"...much like my wallet is missing eight bucks.