Tuesday, October 2, 2007

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Coliseum

Hey, first multiple-post day. Something HUGE must have happened. Well, no. But funny story! By the way, if you're planning on playing fantasy hockey through ESPN Fantasy Games this year, you might want to look into alternatives.

So, I had my fantasy hockey draft tonight. I can't say that I went into it all that enthusiastically. It has been years since ESPN made any improvements, or even changes, to its fantasy hockey system. My friends and I just haven't been able to break the habit. The baseball and football systems have received fancy new front ends and injections of back-end customizable feature performance enhancers. And those games are now free. Fantasy Hockey did get a front-end makeover this year so that it looks like the others, but under the hood it's exactly the same. And costs $29.95.

The first sign that we might be in for some trouble came in ESPN's "Your live draft is in 24 hours!" e-mail. Near the bottom, inconspicuous in its placement, was a note stating that the Java version of ESPN's live drafting system would not be available for hockey this year. Mind you, they have been using this technology for at least 8 years. But, no, we would have to use the straight HTML version of the live draft, which is a really great way to do it if you're drafting in 1997 (grab Palffy!). At this point, it's obvious that hockey is no longer just on the back burner. It's the carbonized crumb behind the stove that was flicked off the back burner.

Normally, you are allowed to enter an ESPN fantasy draft "war room" 30 minutes before the scheduled time. During those 30 minutes, there was no evidence that a draft would take place. Finally, at the appointed time, the draft went live. Only there was no discernible method of selecting players. I watched Sidney Crosby go #1 overall and wondered what I would do when my pick came up at #5. Thornton went #2. And then Crosby went again at #3.

By now it was obvious that the wonky system was making Auto Pilot picks for everyone. Fleury went #4. I got Heatley at #5. Heatley went again at #7 (I'm trying to work out a deal where I get him Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays). Then Fleury went again at 8, 9, 10, and 11. This was going to be some league!

After the first round, the system stopped repeating picks but continued to make our selections for us. We had no way to intervene, which led to some interesting rosters. One team has 9 defensemen, all of them good. Toskala is my #1 goalie. I have no idea if this draft is going to be preserved. If it stands, I'll have a lot of work to do. I doubt we will get our money back, and receiving a free team under current conditions is hardly just compensation.

But the funny part? Amidst all the chaos, guess who the system gave me as my 21st and final selection?

Jeff Tambellini.

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