Last campaign, I played Fantasy Premier League (FPL) for the first time. You wouldn’t believe how quickly I regretted my decision to do so. This is the story of my team, the Banter Battalion, and its arduous journey on the highway to the banter zone.
The first problem that I had with FPL was brought about by my own naïve fervor. If you have never played before, the most simplistic summary I can offer is that you are given a budget and tasked with assembling a team comprised entirely of players from the “Greatest League in the World”. Players are awarded points for the laudable things they do on the pitch, like scoring goals, making tackles, and telling Diego Costa he has a horrible, horrible face. Crucially, after you’ve done your best Brenden Rodgers and splashed the cash on this year’s disappointments, you can apply that team to as many leagues as you wish. This is where my eagerness became a problem.
The process went something like this: So I know there’s a *CanadianGunners league. Count me in. Oh there’s an Arsenal Canada league too? Yes, please, I’ll join that. What’s next, a T-Dot Gooners league? Oh. (Joins T-Dot Gooners league.) A league for Gooners who like Arsenal? Well that’s.. whatever; sure. It got to a point where I was probably competing against everyone who has ever been annoyed by Michael Owen. I lost control.
My pursuit of silverware across numerous leagues was bad because my initial squad was bad and this made me feel bad. In the first few weeks, being new and all, I had players starting who didn’t end up on the field in the “real world”. Jenkinson got hurt in preseason. José Mourinho somehow brainwashed me into splashing the fake cash on Filipe Luís; that really says volumes. The guy doesn’t look far off of ole’ Goonerstein up there, all you’d need to do is significantly downgrade the hair and weaken the jawline. Anyway, the Banter Battalion was being bantered off at water coolers nationwide. Horror struck me. I had been spending all this time accumulating cred on the internet, writing about Arsenal, and there I was, publicly bumping elbows with the cellar dwellers.
That’s the first reason I regretted signing-up at all. I was running the risk of losing my hordes of screaming fans, my literal tens of followers, my respect, my pride. But that’s not the only reason I regretted my participation. What comes next is not easy for me to reveal openly.
(Forgive me Dennis for I have sinned.) I employed the services of Harry Kane, Cesc Fabregas, and many of the other monsters you check under your bed for at night. As much as I could, I tried to bring balance to the force, retaining 3 Arsenal players at all times (3 is the maximum number of players you can have from any given team in FPL). But there are just too many players who I/we abhor, regardless of their productivity on the pitch. My hiring of the wicked, of course, brings about a veritable host of moral dilemmas capable of crushing the football fan. Do I play Harry Kane, Sp*rs striker and Vice Scumbag (no one usurps Kyle Walker), against the mighty Arsenal, or do I play some budget striker like Maroune Chamakh against literally any football team of any age on any planet? If I opt for Kane, do I take any solace in his garbage goals at the expense of the Arsenal? If I opt for Chamakh, can I really blame you if you stop reading? Fantasy ain’t easy, folks.
So there the Banter Battalion stood, low in the league and heavy on my soul. I learned though. I learned to enjoy tinkering like Arsène, and before long through equal parts effort and luck, I climbed right up the table. In the end, I plateaued in or around the top 4 (yet never really challenged for title) in most of my leagues, putting my Gooner heart at ease and saving my fantasy reputation (pun intended). I also learned to enjoy it, to maneuver the moral dilemmas and to find other likeable players and clubs in the league. That’s really the joy of FPL, it gives you something to care about during the Merseyside Derby, the Tyne-Wear Derby, the Oil Barron Derby, and so on. I found myself planted on my couch, enjoying QPR against Who Cares FC thanks solely to Charlie Austin. And in that same spot, realizing Chelsea are boring whether you own a number of their players or not.
Ultimately, as I’ve tried to make clear, the highway to the banter zone is a winding one. Your captain will get a red card, forcing you to lose double points. Your best defender will score an own goal. Your fox in the box will go the way of Yaya Sanogo. But that’s fine. It’s out of your hands. Learn, speculate, have some fun. Go as far as writing a less-than-serious blog post about FPL to cover up the fact that you spend hours tinkering and have next to nothing to show for it.
Come on then, what are you waiting for? Think of a nifty name, tinker away, and compete against Gooners near and far.
Also, feel free to discuss the merits of Clyne versus Darmian and much more with the former manager of the Banter Battalion and current manager of Mesut for Mayor, me: @quinnboslice_
*There will be a CanadianGunners FPL league again this season. It’s not up yet, but follow @CanadianGunners so you don’t miss the details!