Defying unemployment

With more than nine percent of the work force unemployed, there are widespread regrets among many who wish they had pursued a different profession. That certainly is the case in newspapers. The number of people who have been laid off in the last seven or so years is frightening and certainly is greater than nine percent. My friend Art Thiel worked many years for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and was and is a very gifted and funny writer. His comment when the P-I folded was: “I wish I had taken woodshop in high school.”

While the numbers in some professions have been brutally reduced, there are some lucky individuals who have found jobs that on the surface make no sense.

For example: The Fantasy Football Expert.

What a racket. I’ve been in fantasy football leagues since 1987 and I need to watch TV or read a web site to get advice from someone who was in grade school when I was using my first round pick to take Eric Dickerson? This is not like getting sex tips from Dr. Ruth, who may not have been there and done that but knows someone who has.

No, this is about hearing a prediction that Matt Schaub will have a good day Sunday against Miami because Tom Brady threw for 517 yards on the Dolphins defense last week. Or that Matthew Stafford is going to have a good day against the Kansas City defense because Ryan Fitzpatrick threw four TD passes against the Chiefs last week.

Ya think?

Don’t get me wrong. Fantasy experts are very advanced geeks and do provide some good information. They are diligent on injuries and that is important.

But they are no better than the rest of us at predicting what players will do. Show me a so-called expert who had Arian Foster as the top player in 2010 before the year started. Show me someone who said Peyton Hillis would have more fantasy points than Chris Johnson.

There are none, which makes their existence even more impressive. I think if we knew the salaries of some of these guys, we’d all be quite depressed. But it is kind of fun to watch when a so-called fantasy expert is teamed with a former NFL player, which is the case on ESPN when Matthew Berry and former NFL quarterback Tim Hasselbeck are paired. Berry has an interesting background and a history of professional accomplishment as a screen writer in Hollywood, but he didn’t play in the NFL. And despite Berry’s fanatical research and glib delivery, it is evident that Hasselbeck does not put Berry on a pedestal. During the shows I have watched, Hasselbeck’s facial expressions resemble a man who is minutes removed from a colonoscopy rather than someone who is enjoying the company. Then again, when he goes home, he has company a lot better looking than Berry.

Berry seems to have a good attitude about making lousy predictions. He’s a little like a weatherman who predicts sunshine and gets a hail storm. Both seem to simply laugh it off. Last year, if I remember correctly, Berry was big on David Garrard before the season started and Garrard finished 18th among quarterbacks, meaning you’d have to be in a 20-team league for him to be a starter.

Although I very rarely pay attention to so-called fantasy experts suggestions – I have the ability to watch games, research the obvious and speculate on breakout seasons (got Mark Ingram in the eighth round) – I do acknowledge that it is easy to criticize and far more difficult when you’re in the fray.

So I’ll venture into fantasy predictions, but in a different way. I’m going to concentrate on total matchups where I like teams against teams. For instance, this week:

— I like Dallas at San Francisco. Tony Romo has been getting pummeled in Dallas and all over the country for his fourth quarter breakdown against the Jets last week. He’ll respond with a big day. With Dez Bryant’s status uncertain, Miles Austin and Jason Witten will be the beneficiaries of Romo’s play. And so will Felix Jones. Play some or all of these guys.

— I like Arizona vs. Washington both ways. Tim Hightower can’t wait to run over his former teammates. I’m dubious about Rex Grossman, even with his 305 yards vs. the Giants last week, but I did pick him up this week as a third-stringer. My starter is Kevin Kolb and Larry Fitzgerald should also have another great day.

— And to go out on somewhat of a limb – the Bears’ offense will face a Saints defense that gave up 477 yards and 34 points to Green Bay last week. Chicago may not win in the Superdome, but Jay Cutler and Matt Forte can’t help but to have big fantasy days.

We’ll see how my predictions work out. I’m hoping they’re better than your average woodshop teacher.

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