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The Karmic Guide to Fantasy Football 2009

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It's Fantasy Football season, and if you don't know what we're talking about, then you simply aren't a geeky, no-life sad sack who never gets out of the house -- like several Westword staff members. Still, 22 million North Americans waste countless hours on it, and August, when fantasy lovers draft their teams, is prime geek-out season.

A lot goes into picking the right players. Points, scoring, ease of schedule. Some people (losers) pick based on emotional allegiances, choosing a couple of guys for their hometown team. But you have to be careful: some players carry more than just the risk of screwing up your fantasy season. They can haunt you personally. So we've compiled a list of ten guys you might want to stay away from. You'll never guess who we start with.

Jay Cutler: QB, Chicago Bears

Analysis: The former Denver Broncos franchise player was traded to the Bears in the off-season after a very public, very whiny temper tantrum directed at the Broncos and their new, equally punk-ass coach. Jay Cutler could do okay in Chicago, fantasy-wise, but he's also blasted Denver and its fans in an ensuing tantrum, and his face looks perpetually bee-stung.

Karmic consequences: Cutler will indeed throw for some touchdowns in 2009, and a lot of interceptions. But just as you start to ride a wave of fantasy wins, right around week six, your ex-girlfriend will "accidentally" post your gonorrhea-positive test results on her Facebook page during the same week that your boss denies that raise request. Your testicles will swell to the size of small cantaloupes. You'll also get diabetes.

Brandon Marshall: WR, Denver Broncos

Analysis: Brandon Marshall, the talented wide receiver and should-be NFL mega-star, loves the spotlight, especially when it comes to negative attention. In fact, it almost seems like he'd trade away all that talent, fame and fortune for a free cheap shot at a couple of bitches. After a career full of ups and downs, Marshall went off the deep end in the off-season, demanding a trade shortly after Jay Cutler checked out. Since then, he has sulked, sulked some more, complained to the media, threatened to sit out or be traded, showed up to camp and suffered some alleged "injuries." Oh, and shortly after being cleared on charges that be battered an ex-girlfriend (his fourth, at least, arrest over the years), he issued another trade demand. Will he be traded? Will he sit out? Will he injure himself again playing half-assed football? Only time will tell.

Karmic consequences: In years past, the Beast was a top ten fantasy WR. This year, it's hard to know if he's worth the risk, either as a Bronco or on another team, where he'll be happier -- for a while. So, it's a gamble when it comes to numbers, but not when it comes to Karma. Put him on your squad only with the full knowledge that it will lead to the untimely death of all of your pets, who will break into your fridge in the middle of the night and collectively choke on stale chicken nuggets. Your kids will find Fluffy and Rover frozen and stiff on the kitchen floor, and will in turn hate you. Forever.

Michael Crabtree: WR, San Francisco 49ers

Analysis: Michael Crabtree, a star receiver at Texas Tech, was picked tenth overall this year by the San Francisco 49ers. Although WRs don't typically do well their first year in the NFL, some people think Crabtree, a record-setting All American, could rack up tons of points for a cagey fantasy football manager. Think again. Crabtree has demanded a $23.5 contract and threatened to sit out the season if he doesn't get his way. His rationale is that he should have been selected higher in the NFL draft. (Behavior that, ironically, may explain exactly why he wasn't drafted higher).

Karmic consequences: If he signs, go ahead and take Crabtree. But be forewarned: Someone is going to spike your Three Musketeers this Halloween with ipecac, leaving you puking out both ends for the next week. Which might be bearable, except that your toilets are also going to back up, requiring two separate midnight RotoRooter visits. Awkward!

Any Raider

Analysis: Life in Raider Nation is always dark, angry and stupid, but the past five years have been particularly Raider-y, with Oakland going 24-88 under six different coaches (the most recent of whom, Tom Cable, allegedly punched an assistant earlier this month) and suffering through 456-year-old owner Al Davis's increasingly crazy antics.

Karmic consequences: The Raiders aren't exactly packed with talent, so you may not have them on your fantasy radar anyway. But in case you're tempted to draft JaMarcus Russell, Darren McFadden or that drunken Polish kicker, you should know that right around Week 6, you're going to do your laundry at a laundromat and accidentally collect the panties of the woman who dried her stuff before you, and bring said laundry home and find said panties, and present them to your first girlfriend in three years -- "Hey, honey, I found a pair of your underwear in the wash" -- at which point she will look at you and say, "Those aren't my panties," and just like that you'll be back to jerking off to Facebook pictures of your sister's college roommate.

Larry Johnson: RB, Kansas City Chiefs

Analysis: In 2005 and 2006, Larry Johnson strung together two amazing seasons, running for more than 1,700 yards each year and scoring forty TDs. His fantasy football owners rejoiced, and he was a top three pick in most leagues in 2007 -- when his troubles began. What kind of troubles, you ask? After petulantly threatening to hold out for more money at the beginning of 2007, Johnson was injured later that year and didn't play again until the middle of 2008. Oh, and he was arrested four times between 2003 and 2008 for various assaults against women, two of which he was convicted of. He's also been a top team complainer and been suspended by the NFL.

Karmic consequences: There are those who still believe Johnson has a 1,500 yard, fifteen touchdown season left in him, and those people will draft him this year. However, those people's sisters will also decide in the next month or so to date a hepatitis-infected motorcycle-gang leader with a massive felony record and a penchant for destroying personal property, namely yours. Good luck with that.

Michael Vick: QB, Philadelphia Eagles

Analysis: The former Atlanta Falcons star and most exciting player in football has become the biggest media circus in football, and is now backing up the excellent but oft-maligned starter, Donovan McNabb, in the City of Brotherly Love. Vick is only a likely McNabb injury away from being a starter, and on a team with a lot of offensive firepower. However, even before he murdered all those pitbulls and was convicted of operating an interstate dog fighting gambling ring, for which he served two years in prison, Vick was an ass. Ron Mexico, as he was known to fans, was sued by a woman who claimed Vick gave her genital herpes. He was also known for flipping off fans and other minor legal run-ins.

Karmic consequences: No fantasy football owner in his right mind would take him. What's that? You're going to take him anyway, as a late-season secret weapon? Okay, but enjoy it when a tree branch falls on your roof, knocking off your Direct TV satellite dish during the middle of the December 6 Falcons vs. Eagles game that you are watching with ten friends, including that hot girl from accounting you were trying to impress and who was totally going to bang you but now thinks you're cursed.

Kellen Winslow II, TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Analysis: Kellen Winslow II, the son of Hall of Famer Kellen Winslow, emerged as a fantasy force in 2007 despite a series of injuries, obnoxious comments and idiotic exploits. Although he slowed down in 2008, in part because of a staph infection that put him in the hospital, Winslow is expected to star for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this year. As Winslow is even bigger douchebag than Jeremy Shockey, it's only appropriate that he was Shockey's backup for a while at douche-central, the University of Miami, where Winslow became famous for taunting an injured opposing player and calling himself a "soldier." Winslow was drafted by the Cleveland Browns in 2004 with the sixth pick, but only played two games his rookie year before a broken leg ended his season. At the beginning of the next year, he promptly crashed his motorcycle, killing another season. By 2006, Winslow was finally ready to play and got this across by declaring himself the best tight end in the league. In 2008, he spent most of his time criticizing the Browns, in particular for the possible lack of cleanliness that he said was tied to his infection.

Karmic Consequences: That's pretty obvious, isn't it? Like Winslow, you'll get a staph infection in your genital region. From there... well, use your imagination.

Jeff Reed, K, Pittsburgh Steelers

Analysis: A clutch player and point-scoring machine, Reed is a kicker, so you probably won't think about him until you draft him in the second-to-last round of your draft. But Reed joined a long line of kickers eager to prove that they are just as obnoxious as real football players by destroying a paper towel holder in a bathroom at a Pennsylvania convenience store in February. Reed, who was angry that the machine was empty, was cited for disorderly conduct and criminal mischief, pleaded guilty and was fined $543.50.

Karmic consequences: Your son will grow up to be a kicker.

Cedric Benson: RB, Cincinnati Bengals

Analysis: The Cincinnati Bengals love bad boys, and if the guys they have on the team aren't getting arrested enough, they just bring in guys who will. Take Cedric Benson. A former Chicago Bears top draft pick and starter, Benson has struggled on and off the field. In May 2008, he was arrested and charged with operating a boat while under the influence of alcohol. Police pepper-sprayed him after he allegedly became hostile toward them. The next month, Benson was again arrested, this time for a DUI. The Bears waived him two days later, citing "a pattern of behavior we will not tolerate, unless he was really good, in which case we'd probably be talking about second chances."

Karmic consequences: You will realize early on Sunday morning, a day after going on a bender, that you have developed an allergy to coffee that makes you break out in hives. No more coffee for you. Ever. Which you could learn to live with, but the diagnosis of lactose intolerance that follows -- and the fact that you can no longer eat ice cream or cheese pizza -- really takes the (dairy-free) cake.

Brett Favre: QB, Minnesota Vikings

Analysis: Really, Brett? This is how you want to be remembered -- as the guy who used every heart-tugging page in the book to manipulate fans, the media, his family and various football teams, all because you just can't accept the fact that you are done? Retire. Don't retire. Retire. Don't retire. You should have left two years ago and been remembered as the Hall of Fame QB you were, as the down-home, common-man folk hero you evolved into. Now you are a joke, a cynical joke, and you will probably suck anyway.

Karmic consequences: You will lose your home to bankruptcy and have to move into a trailer park with your child molesting Uncle Viktor. The park will be destroyed by a tornado shortly after you relocate all of your possessions there. Rescue workers won't find any of your belongings, but they will discover Viktor's undamaged laptop, complete with 10,000 photos of child porn. Viktor will tell the police it belonged to you.

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