It was the ultimate choke. Going into the game, I didn’t think my team had a chance. We were slated to lose by a wide margin, so I figured I had nothing to lose and pulled out all the stops.
As the game went on, I realized victory would have been mine had I not made those last-minute adjustments. The agony of defeat was almost unbearable.
I am referring to the only competitive athletic endeavor in which I am currently involved: fantasy football. My team was playing in my league’s championship game.
At the invitation of a friend, I had signed up to play for the first time this season, the only female in my 12-person league. I figured it would be fun to try something new, and my only goal was to not finish last.
To prepare for draft day, I did some research and came up with a strategy. Even so, I was surprised at how quickly my turn came to select a player and how fast the time ticked down to make my selection. It was frustrating, too, because I didn’t know if I would be successful, and I don’t handle failure well.
Somehow, I was lucky enough to draft David Johnson, Arizona’s workhorse running back, who currently has 1,233 yards and 16 touchdowns for the season.
I quickly discovered that watching football became even more exciting, as I suddenly cared about teams I never cared about before.
Somewhat surprisingly, I won six of my first seven games, including an exciting tiebreaker in Week 2, and took a 9-4 record into the postseason. I won my semifinal matchup to earn a spot in the championship game.
Here’s where it gets frustrating.
My opponent was projected to score upward of 140 points, while I came in averaging a solid 114 points per game. Figuring I didn’t have a chance, I decided to change my lineup.
My usual starter, Carson Palmer, wasn’t projected to have a stellar game against the Seahawks. He had scored decently well in the teams’ first meeting, but only because the game went into overtime. Instead, I chose to start Marcus Mariota, who seemed like a decent option against the Jaguars.
Second, I had become increasingly frustrated by the inconsistency of Isaiah Crowell, so on a whim I replaced him with Kenneth Dixon.
And finally, I randomly picked up Robby Anderson to start in place of Amari Cooper—dropping Allen Robinson from my bench in the process because my patience with him had run out. While Cooper had been inconsistent, Anderson was trending upward.
Curious how all that worked out? Mariota left the game with a fractured fibula and scored 10 points. Palmer scored 32 on my bench.
Dixon scored 5 points, while Crowell put up 17 on my bench in the Browns’ first win of the season.
Anderson contributed a big fat 0, while Cooper scored 7 on my bench. And Robinson, whom I no longer had, recorded his second-highest point total of the season.
My team scored 85 points. Had I started Palmer, Crowell and Cooper, I would have had 126. Meanwhile, my opponent did not finish anywhere near the 140 he was projected, but scored just 116 points.
Even now, as I write this days later, I can hardly handle the fact that I could have won. I get all worked up inside knowing victory was within my reach and I went and did too much. I know, it’s only a fantasy game, but I really wanted to dominate my league.
Fantasy season isn’t over yet. It’s a two-week championship, so at the time of this writing, I still have one week of competition left. It’s a long shot to think I can make up 31 points, but I know I need to quit beating myself up over those silly roster moves and instead look ahead to the next matchup. For the record, Palmer, Crowell and Cooper are back in my lineup.
Now, I doubt anybody really cares about my fantasy football team, so if you’ve read this far, congratulations. I tell this story not only because it’s been kind of therapeutic—and who doesn’t like to laugh at someone else’s expense?—but also because I think life can be a bit like my fantasy football experience.
None of us can change the past. What’s done is done, and I’m learning to own my decisions, no matter how faulty, and move on. Our actions moving forward are the only thing any of us can control.
As we head into the New Year, let’s put the past behind us and walk confidently into 2017.
Janae Rempel is the Free Press sport editor. You can reach her at email@example.com.