All great stories have a strong start, and the TFL is a great story. The fantasy football league survived a drug scandal in its first season and overcame its only champion leaving to start a rival league in its second year. If those hurdles weren't high enough for a league in its infancy, a bigger challenge awaited. Right before the third season the unifying force that kept the league together ended, putting the TFL in jeopardy as well.
Despite all that the fantasy football league prospers, serving the noble purpose of keeping friends in contact as they spread across the country. Current owners live from Alaska to Florida, Maine to California, making the TFL one of the oldest and most geographically diverse leagues.
How it began
Ken Sain began playing fantasy football in 1986 when he was a part-time sports reporter for The Arizona Republic in Phoenix. When he arrived in Anchorage four years later, he brought the game that he loved with him and introduced it to a group of young reporters, photographers and editors.
Fantasy football wasn't mainstream in 1990, in fact, few had heard of it. As Sain had done at the Camarillo Daily News when he arrived there in 1988, he had to twist some arms and cajole folks into joining a league that few completely comprehended.
Sain convinced 11 others to join him that first season. Of the original 12 owners, eight are still in the league. More importantly, 11 of the current 16 owners are former employees of The Anchorage Times -- keeping together friends long after the newspaper where they met went out of business thanks to the efforts of Bagdad owner Scott Lacy.
Recaps of each season
It was the best of times, it was the . . . well, there were no worst of times. Indeed, in the years since a hulking teddy bear named Ken Sain introduced The Anchorage Times sports department to fantasy football, the year 1990 has attained halcyon status among the league's pioneer owners.
The Times Football League was born, and Sain, the guiding force behind the league, became the TFL's first benevolent commissioner.
The 1990 campaign will be remembered for many reasons: the absolute wretchedness of the Ketchikan Cougars, Narcoossee owner Wit Tuttell's drafting of deadbeat Vinny Testaverde, and the stunning emergence of running back Cleveland Gary as a fantasy workhorse. But the season's most enduring moment occurred in a Week 4 clash between Panama City and Balboa. Trailing by 17 points entering the Monday Night Game, Panama City reserve Derrick Fenner scored three touchdowns -- the final one on an unlikely play-action pass with time running out -- to lead the Penguins to a thrilling 45-44 victory. The game is now known simply as the "Monday Night Miracle."
Balboa's owner, John Sweeney, proved resilient. Thought dead after a heartbreaking 21-19 loss to Denver in Week 11, the Constrictors won their final three regular season games to edge four teams for the final playoff spot, then breezed past two postseason opponents to earn a spot in the title game. There he met the Netherworld Islanders, who advanced on the strength of Week 9 trade with Ketchikan. The Cougars send Christian Okoye and Tony Zendejas to Netherworld for Eric Metcalf, Donald Igwebuicke and a unconfirmed small quantity of marijuana (or so the rumor goes).
Since the drug connection could not be proved, the trade was allowed. However, Sweeney easily won the championship game, 50-35. John Sweeney also kept detailed records of that first season, for which the league is forever grateful. The league decided in 1992 to name its championship game after their former sports editor.
His success in the Times Football League's first season led defending champion John Sweeney to leave the TFL and form a rival league -- the Darwin's Football League. He saw fantasy football as a means to make a lot of money, no doubt thinking winning was easy after he claimed the TFL's first title. Lured by promises of money and prestige, TFL founder Ken Sain suspended his Phoenix Firebirds and entered into an unholy alliance with Narcoossee owner Wit Tuttell, forming the DFL's Times Bandits. Still, Sain remained as commissioner of the TFL.
Tuttell let his Narcoossee Nose Apes suit up for a second seasons. TFL owners Mike Taylor (Denver) and Steve Katz (Baltimore) also moonlighted in the new, high-money DFL, while keeping their TFL teams afloat.
Other changes were taking place in the TFL: two owners were forced to run their operations Outside of Alaska; Scott Lacy moved his Panama City Penguins to the redneck-infested town of Midlothian, Va.; and Nate Sagan ran his Zeke's Freaks on the few days each week he was sober at the University of Oregon.
On the field, there were other noteworthy developments -- some impressive, others embarrassing. Mike Taylor's Denver Pyles, led by quarterback Jim Kelly, opened the season with seven straight victories and finished at 11-3, to that point the best record in TFL history. Katz, too, made a lasting imprint, though a more dubious one: His eighth-round selection of reserve quarterback Cody Carlson became the worst draft pick in the league's short history. Even today the mere mention of "Cody Carlson" will send league owners into a laughing frenzy.
Katz did, however, have one shining moment in 1991. In a Week 11 matchup against Dutch Harbor the two teams engaged in a 74-72 shootout that would set numerous league records, some of which lasted nearly 15 years.
Tuttell's Narcoossee team forged a remarkable season after an unremarkable start. Held to a single point in their opener against Netherville, the Nose Apes won 10 of their next 13 games and advanced to Sweeney Bowl II.
But the 1991 season belonged to a newcomer. Paul Ramey, who had replaced Sweeney, led the Hogtown Halibut to a wildcard playoff berth and a Sweeney Bowl victory against Narcoossee, making it the second straight year the champion came from the wildcard round.
It was a year of upheaval that by all rights should have killed the TFL. The Anchorage Times folded on June 2, 1992, scattering unemployed Times staffers to the far corners of the United States. The Times Football League, too, was now seemingly defunct. Commissioner Ken Sain, distracted by financial worries and a protracted job search, was content to let the two-year-old league drift quietly into extinction.
It nearly did -- until Scott Lacy entered the scene. Reluctant to allow the passing of the league, the Panama City owner embarked upon a nostalgic mission to lure former members back into the fold. By mid-August, seven had returned, and new owners filled the five empty slots.
The season itself was memorable on several counts: four of the five expansion teams made the playoffs, stunning veteran owners who viewed the neophytes as easy pickings; Steve Katz's Maryland Mania set a league record by losing their first seven games and finished at 3-11; and Bagdad posted a remarkable turnaround, starting 1-3 before winning nine of 10 games to claim the regular season title.
Just as noteworthy was the miracle run of the Scaggsville Skunks. Mired in 11th place with a 3-7 record, the Skunks reeled off three straight victories and entered the final weekend needing the impossible: a Scaggsville win and losses by Denver, Narcoossee, Alaska and Lincoln. Amazingly, the impossible happened.
The league's third campaign, however, would belong to a pair of TFL virgins: Scarborough's Michael Bourque and East Hartford's Chris Reidy. The pair's inexperience proved unimportant -- as they advanced all the way to Sweeney Bowl III, where Scarborough won 25-18*.
Scarborough's celebration, however, would be short-lived. An off-season investigation determined that a tie-breaking rule would have ousted the Stunting Caesars in the semifinals. To this day, Scarborough's title is accompanied by an asterisk.
The Times Football League underwent many changes in 1993. Commissioner Scott Lacy uprooted the league's administrative offices and replanted them in Denver.
John Sweeney returned to the league after missing two seasons. And for the first time, the league's 12 owners were realigned into three divisions -- Eastern, Western and Aleutian.
But those were only sidelights. The '93 season will be remembered for Commissioner Lacy's decision to produce the league's first-ever media guide.
The 12-page publication signaled the league's commitment to serving its owners, but not everyone was pleased. Embittered Steve Katz, whose Maryland Mania were maligned throughout the inaugural issue, would later complain that he had been "impugned to high hell" and vowed the next media guide would shower him with accolades for the best one-season turnaround in league history.
Though Katz would be wrong about treatment in future TFL publications, his prediction of an improved Mania team proved prophetic. Embarrassed by a 3-11 finish the year before, a determined Katz guided the Mania to an 8-5-1 record and a berth in Sweeney Bowl IV.
And while Maryland was trounced in that game, the Mania's '93 season was considered the greatest turnaround in TFL history to that point.
Maryland was one of three teams who flourished after being hammered in the media guide. Dugway owner Ken Sain, whom the publication claimed "lacked the faculties to produce a winner," raced to a 9-2-1 start and won the regular season title.
Ditto for Willow owner Van Williams, flambeed for his 1992 selection of John Elway, who won the Aleutian Division title and drubbed Katz in Sweeney Bowl IV. The only problem was notifying the winner. Young Van had given up and left his team for dead with three weeks to go. But the Weasels still had fight left in them, and cruised controlled their way to Willow's only championship.
It would be the first of two straight absentee owners to win the crown.
Faced with the task of wedging in too many teams into too few slots, Commissioner Scott Lacy in 1994 did the unthinkable -- he expanded the league to 14 teams, marking the first time in TFL history more than 12 teams would compete for the Sweeney Bowl title.
But that was only one stroke in a massive offseason facelift. Unable to align the league along geographical lines, Lacy discarded regional divisions in favor of ones honoring the late 1970s megahit sitcom, "Welcome Back Kotter." The Barbarino, Kotter and Horshack divisions debuted.
On the field, the success of the five expansion teams was the story. Excluding the Broad Street Beluga, which limped to a 5-9 finish, the league's new entries shredded their more experienced counterparts. Marley, Lackawanna and Gaithersburg all posted winning campaigns, but it was the Flint Bison who emerged as the most scintillating of the newcomers. The Bison toppled their first 13 opponents, losing only on the season's final weekend. Though unable to complete the first perfect season, Flint's 13 victories eclipsed the record of 11 by the 1991 Denver Pyles.
Denver in 1994 stoked no memories of the '91 team, but the Pyles thrived anyway. Overcoming a raft of poor draft choices and the perpetual absence of owner Mike Taylor, the Pyles patched together an effective, if not inspiring, championship run. The secret of the Pyles' success? Their random placement in the Barbarino Division, which was held in such low regard one owner unofficially renamed it the "Stinkarino Division."
On the season's final weekend, Taylor departed on a week-long Guatemalan junket -- leaving his football team to squeak out a 56-54 victory. The playoff-bound Pyles finished 7-7, while Narcoossee, 8-6, stayed home.
Riding the arm of quarterback Brett Favre, the Pyles sailed through the postseason and defeated Lackawanna, 30-22, in Sweeney Bowl V. Taylor wouldn't learn of his victory until he returned to the United States.
As the 1994 season came to an end the league was nearing a major turning point. A new logo was commissioned, and many changes were coming.
Each season the braintrust of the TFL, Commissioner Scott Lacy and Commissioner Emertis Ken Sain, try to take the league to new frontiers. That being the case, they may have reached their limits in one of the milestone years in TFL history. The 1995 season saw many firsts.
To kick things off, 10 of the 14 owners met in Orlando, Fla. to conduct the draft at the first-ever TFL Convention. The reunion proved to be a great success and plans were made for a second TFL Convention to take place in New Orleans before the 1996 season.
But that was only one of the improvements to the league. During the summer Lacy and Sain combined their efforts to put together a 40-page media guide that included helmets for every team, past and present. Sain and Lacy produced the first-ever TFL Draft Lottery Video, so owners could watch the picking of the order for the draft as it happened and then mailed it out.
Then, Lacy even topped that by releasing the first product of TFL Films, a 20-minute video about the start of the league: "While Tony Slept: The Times Football League Story."
Still not content with what they had created, the two TFL masterminds put together a web site, so owners and other interested parties could follow their favorite fantasy football league on this new thing called the World Wide Web.
On the field the TFL also reached new heights. Marley owner Michele Fetsko, who faced much abuse for being the only woman in the league, shut the sexist pigs up by winning the points scoring championship and taking her team all the way to Sweeney Bowl VI. She not only earned a berth in the title game, but she scored a TFL record 722 points.
Other teams that had great seasons were the Dutch Harbor Dawgs, which finished with the best regular season record and the Dugway Experiments, who finished third behind the Wailers and Dawgs in a tight points scoring battle. All three teams broke the previous TFL record for points scored in a season, marking an end to the dead-ball era and the start of a new scoring frenzy.
East Hartford won the woeful Kotter Division and a Congressional panel is looking into the Barbarino Division title won by Bagdad. The Slugs only won the division because Dugway lost four games by a total of eight points.
However, the T. Rex Trophy goes to an unlikey winner, Nate Sagan for leading the Anchorage Kitchen to a victory over the Wailers. It was Sagan's second season in the TFL, proving once again luck beats brains in the playoffs.
For the first time in TFL history, all the teams from the previous season returned, showing the stability and maturity of the league.
That might have been the last mature moment of the season.
To start, a new man was in charge of the TFL after a successful convention in New Orleans. Baltimore Barons owner Steve Katz took over as commissioner after Scott Lacy's four seasons in the hot chair. He did not keep it long.
TFL founder Ken Sain staged a mid-season, bloodless coup, wrestling control away from Katz and naming himself commissioner.
"I had intended to be the power behind the puppet, but Steve actually thought he was in charge, so I had to step in," Sain said. "I wonder if Gepetto had this much trouble with Pinochio?"
On the field, Sain's Experiments led the league's scoring race from the first week. He also set playoff records for most points scored in a game (88) and highest scoring average in the playoffs (55).
Katz took his demotion out on the league, setting a TFL record by winning five games after he scored 32 or fewer points, considered an impossible accomplishment.
Lacy made a comeback of sorts, no longer troubled by the commissioner's duties. His Newts won the Barbarino Division and the regular season championship, helped tremendously by winning a game in which he scored only 17 points.
The year was also the first for the Pee Wee Bowl, a second postseason tournament for the teams that did not make the playoffs. Chris Reidy's Ex-Eskimos defeated Wit Tuttell's Nose Apes in Pee Wee Bowl I.
The Sweeney Bowl tournament belonged to another unlikely owner. Michael Bourque started the year 1-5 and looked to be the embarrassment he usually is, but did not lose another game, winning the Kotter Division title and beating Sain's powerful lineup in the Sweeney Bowl.
It took the lowest-scoring game in Sweeney Bowl history, but hell did indeed freeze over. The Baltimore Barons, whose record of ineptitude and futility has long been chronicled, won the Sweeney Bowl.
The shock you are feeling now is not even close to the shock TFL owners felt, having watched Barons owner Steve Katz draft Cody Carlson in the eighth-round of the 1991 TFL Draft, having watched him set a TFL record with seven straight losses, having watched him set another TFL record (in a different season) by going eight straight games without a victory (0-7-1) and having watched him tie the TFL record for fewest wins in a season (three). All of this proves that there is some force out there determined never to let Charlie Brown kick the damn football while smiling its fortune on the truly undeserving.
The key for the Barons was getting the No. 1 draft pick and taking Brett Favre. Even Katz was unable to screw the season up after that.
The league met in Denver to kick off the regular season, which once again, was dominated by the Dugway Experiments, the TFL's hard-luck team. The Tubes won their first seven straight games and finished with an 11-3 record. Dugway also led the points scoring race most of the season, however, Dutch Harbor rallied in the final game to win that title by four points. Dutch Harbor's Dorsey Levens scored a meaningless TD in the final minutes of the Monday Night Game against Minnesota to give Brogan his first points-scoring title.
Another hard-luck team, the Willow Weasels, finally were able to taste some success. The Weasels defeated Alaska 44-12 in Pee Wee Bowl II, the TFL's tournament for losers.
If it wasn't the greatest season in TFL history, it was the most breathtaking.
The fireworks started long before the draft, as owners acrimoniously debated Chris Reidy's controversial Prop. 5, which sought to make head-to-head result -- not total points -- the first tiebreaker in playoff seedings and standings. When the dumpster had cooled, the measure passed by the slimmest of margins, 7-6.
The TFL also bid farewell to two teams -- Michele Fetsko's Marley Wailers and Chuck Coggins' Sarasota Sharks. The franchises were replaced by two familiar faces: Mark Dolan's Arctic Gators, a charter TFL member, and Mike Continelli's Lackawanna Lancers. Continelli had once shared a team with Ken Sain back in the Republic Football League in 1988.
And that was before the league's convention in Boston or a single game had been played.
The season became a weekly game of one-upsmanship. The Ex-Eskimos started 5-0, the Newts 6-0 before meeting in Week 7, an East Hartford victory. By the end of the season, three teams would have 10 or more wins and 600 points, a feat previously accomplished only once in TFL history.
Then came Week 13, when a battle between two longtime TFL rivals, Bagdad and Limerick, became The Greatest Game In TFL History. The Newts got 43 points from Randall Cunningham on Thanksgiving Day, but the Loons would rally for a 98-74 victory that rewrote the record books. The Loons set a TFL record for points in a game; the Newts were the highest-scoring losers in TFL history; and the combined point total was another record.
But when the smoke cleared from this incredible season, one team stood alone. Reidy's East Hartford franchise recorded arguably the greatest season in TFL history, capping it with a 58-44 victory against the Alaska Oosiks in Sweeney Bowl IX. The Ex-Mos' resume: a 12-2 record, second-best ever; 673 points, third-best; 14 total wins, a record; 266 points from QB Steve Young, a TFL season record; and the first ever TFL Double (regular season and Sweeney Bowl titles). In fact, by losing the TFL's closest scoring race ever, by two points to the Oosiks, the Ex-Mos finished three points shy of the TFL's first Triple Crown.
The first documented mention of the coveted Triple Crown came in the Nov. 12, 1997 issue of TFL Today. The triple crown, in TFL lore, is winning the regular-season title, the points-scoring title and the Sweeney Bowl in the same season.
In 1997, Dugway was 9-2 and had scored 49 more points than its closest competition for the points-scoring race. With only three weeks remaining in the regular season, it appeared the Tubes had two jewels of the crown locked up. Not since Bagdad in 1992 had a team been that close.
It didn't happen. Dutch Harbor scored 167 points over the final three weeks to slip past Dugway in points and the Tubes lost in the Sweeney semifinals.
In 1998, East Hartford flirted with the triple crown, winning two of the three and just missing out on points scored.
That left the door open for the unlikeliest of teams, Narcoossee in 1999.
The no-luck Nose Apes had not made the Sweeney tournament for a record seven straight seasons. To extract their revenge, owner Wit Tuttell unleashed the greatest season in TFL history.
Narcoossee jumped out to a 10-2 record before finishing at 11-3, two games better than anyone else. The Grape Apes won the points-scoring race by a single point over Baltimore, which defeated its division rival in a week 13 matchup.
And then Narcoossee cruised through the playoffs to clinch the TFL's first-ever Triple Crown.
There was one other notable accomplishment after the league's convention in Las Vegas. Ken Sain's Dugway franchise opened the year with a 4-0 mark, but then lost nine straight games (a record). The hard-luck Tubes had the second highest-scoring team during one of those weeks, but still came away with a loss.
The most heart-breaking loss came to East Hartford. Dugway held a 19-point lead, but the Vikings defense forgot how to tackle, allowing Emmitt Smith to overcome the difference on just two first-half runs in the Monday Night game. Immediately after handing Sain a defeat, Smith left the game with an injury.
The week 9 loss broke Sain's spirit. "I may do something crazy, like run for Congress," Sain said.
The Times Football League has fantasy football at its heart, but this league has always been about maintaining friendships and remembering a very special time in the owners lives, living and working in Anchorage.
To celebrate the 10th anniversary of the league at a time when most other Americans were just discovering fantasy football, the owners returned to Anchorage for their sixth convention.
Each convention is special, but this one took on a life of its own with the only running of the TFL Dash for Cash. All summer owners lied about their physical shape and ramped up the hype for a foot race to be held in Anchorage to decide who was fastest.
Despite saying for months that he was 1. Injured; 2. Old; 3. Slow, Denver owner Mike Taylor won the Dash for Cash, mostly because the rest of the league was 1. Injured; 2. Old; 3. Slow.
On the field, the antics continued. What can be crazier than the most-mocked team in the TFL, the Baltimore Barons, winning one championship?
The Baltimore Barons made significant strides in 2000 to no longer being the league's whipping boy. The Barons scored a league-leading 670 points and won their second Sweeney Bowl victory in four years.
Others had impressive years. The 10-4 Denver Pyles. The Dutch Harbor Dawgs of Daunte Culpepper, et al. The Willow Weasels of Jeff Garcia and Terrell Owens, clobbered the Barons in both their regular-season meetings, but did not make the playoffs. The Weasels did, however, cross a barrier in the Pee Wee tournament by becoming the first team in TFL history to score 100 points (111) in a game, only to not win the Pee Wee Bowl.
Dutch Harbor, Willow, Baltimore and Narcoossee combined to make the Horshack Division the strongest in the TFL.
The last-place team had more points than the league's next-highest scoring team at one juncture. All four had no worse than .500 records simultaneously as late as week 8, as well as finishing the regular season that way.
Two divisions to the north, Denver capitalized on great early-season performances by Tiki Barber and Jimmy Smith to run roughshod through the rest of the Barbarino. True to a preseason media projection, Ken Sain's run for Congress led to his team not only falling by the wayside, but being out it from the start.
East Hartford became the earliest team on record to waive its No. 1 draft pick, scuttling Brett Favre after the third week. Bagdad scooped him right up and eventually made the playoffs, despite the Newts' other quarterback, Charlie Batch, getting the start and outperforming the suddenly terrible Favre several times. The Ex-Eskimos charged through the ruins of a 1-5 start and came within a game of the playoffs.
The Barons, for their own part, stood 1-4 after an 89-37 shellacking by the Dawgs, but won seven of their next eight to qualify for the postseason. Baltimore went from ninth to tied for fifth on the TFL's all-time team victory list, sharing the fifth spot with Dutch Harbor at 72.
September 11, 2001.
The TFL had decided in the spring of 2001 to stage its annual convention in New York City. The NFL decided for the first time in nearly a decade not to open its season on Labor Day weekend. Those two decisions put a number of TFL owners in Manhattan on that Tuesday morning.
The TFL convention was just winding down when terrorists hijacked four airplanes, slamming three of them into the World Trade Center's Twin Towers and the Pentagon. Scott Lacy, Wit Tuttell, Chris Reidy and Ken Sain were the only owners still in New York, having stayed to watch the first Monday night game together.
Those four TFL owners roamed the streets of Manhattan minutes after the terrorist acts took place. They saw hundreds of New Yorkers lining up to give blood at a mall across the street from the convention hotel; they saw thousands of people walking in a daze -- all heading north, away from the disaster; and always, they saw the cloud of smoke and debris that hung over the southern half of the island where the World Trade Center once stood.
The TFL season began with controversy. Before the draft, defending champion Baltimore traded its first-, second- and fourth-round picks to Lackawanna for its first-, fourth- and fifth-round picks. Even Katz would admit after the season the trade was very one-sided.
Lackawanna began scoring points at a record-setting pace to start the season, but injuries to Rod Smith and Jerome Bettis helped the Lancers limp out of everyone's memory by the time the playoffs began.
Flint won the regular-season title in remarkable fashion. The Bison won most of their games by only a couple of points, and when they lost, they lost big. That led to one of the strangest sights you will ever see in the standings. Flint finished 11-3, but scored 527 points and had 526 points scored against them.
Dutch Harbor won the points-scoring title and appeared to be the best team in the league at the end of the season. Still, when the playoffs began, the Dawgs went quietly. Two teams that hung in the background with little notice advanced to the final: Alaska and Anchorage.
The two teams no one noticed staged the closest Sweeney Bowl in TFL history. Alaska had a 10-point lead going into the Monday night game, but Anchorage got 9 points from the Baltimore Ravens defense to cut the score to 38-37. All the Kitchen needed to win their second T. Rex was 50 yards receiving from Qadry Ismail. He didn't get it, so Alaska held on to win its first Sweeney Bowl title.
It appeared at first that things would return to normal in 2002. However, events beyond the league's control changed things forever.
The owners kicked off the season with a convention in Chicago, but timing made it the worst convention yet. The NFL granted ESPN the right to broadcast the season opener on a Thursday night. The TFL moved its draft up to Wednesday, but it took only one convention to realize a mid-week convention was not going to work.
The TFL also expanded to 16 teams, welcoming in Jeff Houck's Tampa Bay Houck-a-Loogies. For the second expansion team, the owners decided to bring back the Marley Wailers, once again adding a much-needed female touch to the league.
Ken Sain's Dugway Experiments dominated once again and would go on to win their league-leading third regular season title. Led by running back Priest Holmes, who had the best season of any RB in league history, the Mighty, Mighty Test Tubes couldn't be stopped. Dugway opened the season with a nine-game winning streak, the second-longest in league history.
What was not expected was the team that joined Dugway as the team to beat in 2002. The Arctic Gators. Yes, the woeful Gators. The same team that holds records for the number of times it won only three games in a season; for lowest points scored in a season; for lowest points scored in a game (hard to score less than zero). The only franchise to be shutout in a game. Those Arctic Gators.
Mark Dolan's team opened up the season with an eight-game winning streak, matching Dugway win for win. However, because of the expansion, this would be the first time teams did not meet every opponent during the regular season. And Dugway and Arctic were not scheduled to play each other. So, the only way it could happen would be in the Sweeney Bowl.
While Dolan was giving credit for his success to some questionably-legal substance called 'whupass' that he was feeding his opponents, there were other developments in the league. The Houck-a-loogies deliberately started injured players and threw a game, allowing Dolan to win on a week most thought he should have lost because of byes. Commissioner Sain blew several gaskets and there were many angry words exchanged. Houck became angry, saying he should be able to lay down and roll over like Democrats in Congress if he wants to. Sain complained it destroyed the competitive balance of the league. In the end, as he usually does, Sain won. Houck resigned, storming off in one of his semi-monthly tiffs and former Hogtown owner Paul Ramey became a caretaker owner, narrowly guiding the Loogs into the playoffs.
Dutch Harbor once again won the points scoring title and a four-way tie for first in the Spenard Division to get into the playoffs. Dugway was the regular-season champion, posting a franchise-best 12-2 mark. Other playoff teams were Lackawanna, Arctic, East Hartford and Baltimore.
In the playoffs most teams had just resigned themselves to a Dugway crowning party. But, Holmes hurt his hip and the Tubes had quarterback problems. And as so often happens in this league, the best team failed miserably in the playoffs. Not so for the shocking Arctic Gators. They put together a strong playoff run and won their first Sweeney Bowl. Yes, the Gators literally went from Zero to First.
Let's review. The Barons have won two Sweeney Bowls. The Laughing Loons two. The Kitchen and the Weasels one each. And now the stinking Gators. Meanwhile, the two men who put their heart and soul into the league and keep it running, Scott Lacy and Ken Sain, have won zero. There is no justice in this world.
Another season brings more change. Michelle Fetsko, owner of the Marley Wailers, leaves the league for a second time. So the TFL officially had two vacancies to fill. Paul Ramey was granted an expansion franchise after taking over the Houck-a-Loogies in 2002. And for the second expansion team the league awarded Mike Woelflein a franchise, which he named the Penobscot Wolfpups.
The league kicked off in grand style with a convention in Buffalo. The two Lackawanna owners took on the role of hosts, since it was their hometown. Let's ignore the fact neither of them live there now, but then most Buffalo residents live somewhere else now. They treated the owners to what many would call the best convention ever.
On the field, things would get strange. Very strange. For starters, the Dugway Experiments suffered through a bizarre 3-11 season. Add to that it was two also-rans who turned out to be the dominating teams of the year: Alaska and Arctic, still unleashing its Whup-Ass brew. Both finished with 9-4-1 records, but Alaska had the tie-breaker and took the regular-season title.
Lackawanna, once again, was the most feared team, scoring a league-best 614 points. But that was only good for a 7-7 record, as the Lancers' usual luck in points scored against failed them for one season. So despite leading the league in scoring, Lackawanna failed to qualify for the playoffs, the first time that had happened in league history.
But the strangest development of all were the Bagdad Newts. There are few things in the world you can count on, but one rock solid bet is the Newts will suck in December. Despite making the playoffs many times, Bagdad has been flat awful when it counts the most, including an 0-11 record in playoff games.
Not so in 2002. The Newts started with a 1-5 record, but won seven of eight to make the playoffs. And once there, they could not be stopped, blasting Hogtown 46-21 in Sweeney Bowl XIV.
You have to be kidding, right? The team that couldn't win in December now can't be beat, as the Bagdad Newts became the first TFL team to win back-to-back Sweeney Bowls.
The season got off on an innocent enough start, with many of the league's owners meeting in Pittsburgh for the annual convention. Denver's Mike Taylor began to worry this annual tour of the Rust Belt would never end. You should have seen his eyes roll when it was announced the 2005 convention would be staged in Cleveland.
On the fantasy field, 2004 saw the best and worst, all in the same season. Peyton Manning's record-breaking season helped Penobscot score an incredible 795 points, shattering the league record of 722. The Wolfpups finished at 10-4, clinching two of the triple crown jewels (points scoring and regular season titles).
No team in TFL history has finished a season with fewer than three wins. Not the Maryland/Baltimore franchise, nor even the Arctic Gators. Teams that have been so bad that you wondered each week if they might get shutout still found a way to earn three wins.
Not anymore. And what's even more shocking is the team that went an entire 14-game season and only won a single game. The three-time regular-season and one-time points scoring champion Dugway Experiments.
It wasn't as if Ken Sain quit trying. In fact, he battled in every game. The Tubes scored more than 37 points (considered to be the median TFL score) five times, but lost each of those games. Their lone win came when Dugway beat Limerick 19-8, so Sain just missed the league's first-ever 0-14 season.
Lacy, on the other hand, had nothing but good luck flowing his way. His Newts were 9-4-1 and advanced to the title game, where they were huge underdogs to the powerful Penobscot lineup. However, Manning sat out most of the game to prepare for the Colts' playoff run, and Bagdad was able to sneak away with an asterisk-stained title.
Karma finally caught up with Bagdad's Scott Lacy in 2005, and slapped him around with a 3-11 record, worst in franchise history. Lacy would later notice that his worst seasons come when he begins a new romance. At the start of this season, when the league's owners were meeting in Cleveland for the convention, Lacy was starting a new romance with Karoline.
The 2005 season will go down as the year no team stood out. A record five teams finished with 9-5 records, including three of them in the same division (Gambell).
Anchorage started the year at 2-2 and for most of the season few paid notice of the Kitchen. After the Week 12 games, TFL founder Ken Sain told Scott Lacy that he should keep an eye on the Kitchen. "They're the hottest team right now," Sain said. Once again, Sain proves he is the Greatest Fantasy Football Mind In The Galaxy, as Anchorage closed the year with an 8-2 mark to take the regular-season title.
Once they reached the playoffs, Anchorage continued its winning ways, blasting Penobscot 52-40 in the semifinals and defeating Limerick 36-16 in Sweeney Bowl XVI.
The Pee Wee Bowl celebrated its tenth anniversary by allowing one of the league's biggest losers and a fixture on the Toilet Roll, the Baltimore Barons, to win their first championship of the losers' tournament.
Now if that's not poetic, I don't know what is.
Every league needs its villains, you know the team everyone roots against. For most of the TFL's history, that team has been the Dugway Experiments, owned by TFL founder Ken Sain. The reasons are many: First, Sain was obnoxious enough to claim the title "Greatest Fantasy Football Mind In The Galaxy," despite never having won a league championship in 20 years of playing fantasy football; Second, Sain's teams have had some success, winning three regular-season titles and a points-scoring crown and everyone hates success; but mostly it is the never-ending whining. Sain can never accept a defeat without some sort of grand conspiracy by the planets, or gods, or the universe. Sain's "Woe Is Me" mantra has been boring owners for years.
During the 2003 to 2005 seasons, Sain experienced arguably the worst stretch in TFL history with 3-11, 1-15 and 5-9 seasons. And the rest of the league enjoyed Sain's misery. But, truth be told, the league is stronger when its villains are threats to be overcome. No one likes to watch a good guy battle another good guy. They want to see good conquer a worthy evil opponent. And in 2006, they got their wish as Sain's Mighty Mighty Test Tubes were back in top form.
Dugway blew away the rest of the league behind the LaDainian Tomlinson's greatest season in fantasy football history to capture its second points-scoring championship. There was just one riddle that eluded the Tubes: The Bagdad Newts.
Scott Lacy's Newts have consistently been good, but had never had a great season. The best they have managed were a respectable 10 wins. While other teams would win 11, 12 or 13 in a year, the Newts never crossed that border, until 2006. Bagdad went 12-2, beating the hated Dugway Experiments three times during the course of the regular season and playoffs. And it came just after Bagdad's worst season ever, a 3-11 laugher in 2005.
The year began with the annual convention, this time held in the warm weather of Phoenix. While Zonies Sain and Michael Continelli of the Lackawanna Lancers told everyone how mild the heat was, Steve Katz proclaimed he must have taken a wrong turn and ended up in Hell. He did more bitching about the heat than Sain ever did about losing a game.
For most of the year the power was in the Sourdough Conference, as Bagdad, Dugway, Denver and Narcoossee kept on piling up wins while no one could stay hot in the Cheechako Conference. Finally, near the end of the season, the Willow Weasels emerged to clinch one playoff spot, while it seemed the rest of the conference was heading for 7-7 records.
In the regular season's final week the drama was intense. Dugway and Denver were both 8-5 and playing each other. Only one would advance to the playoffs. Narcoossee was fading and Limerick surging. Could the Grape Apes hold off the Laughable Loons? Gambell powerhouses Penobscot and Lackawanna faced off with nothing less than the division title and playoff berth on the line. And Paul Ramey's Hogtown, pretty much on cruise control while its owner ignored fantasy football, was threatening to make the playoffs with a sub-.500 record. And that's just what they did, despite starting a kicker who was booted out of the league in one important game. The Halibut lucked into a 6-7-1 record despite scoring the fewest points in the league (392). They won games with 19-18 and 20-18 for that record and a playoff berth.
But when the playoffs came, it was little more than a long-overdue coronation: The Lackawanna Lancers could not be stopped. Lackawanna, which has been the most dominant team in the TFL since their entry, won its first league title, besting Lacy's Newts. The Lancers had been to two previous title games, losing both. They had made the playoffs an unheard of eight times in nine seasons (and the one year they missed they were the points-scoring champion) and owned the league's best winning percentage, .633. With a title now in hand, few can argue against the fact that the Lackawanna Lancers are the best team year in, and year out, of the TFL.
As for the villain Dugway Experiments, something changed. When Sain lost his title game, there was no public whining. The usual WIMs that come with every Sain defeat disappeared about mid-season and so far have not returned. But that doesn't mean the whining is over.
The new Whiner in Chief is Scott Lacy and his Bagdad Newts. There was so much whine in his "congratulations" to his opponent in the Sweeney Bowl that it had other owners looking around for the cheese. And the violin. Lacy was competing for his third Sweeney title in four years and took the defeat harder than any team in recent memory. Rumor has it good friend Ken Sain ordered a private detective to keep a suicide watch on Lacy.
The 2006 season is over and in a bit of a confused shape. Are the Tubes still the villains they once were, with Sain remaining quiet. Or are there new villains in Bagdad, Ariz. still struggling to accept nine-point Sweeney Bowl loss?
Truth be told, Scott Lacy -- the Bagdad Red-bellied Newts owner -- is a bit of a wimp. Well, that might be pushing it for a guy of his size (6-foot-8) and strength (about the only person around who can put Bulldog Casey Brogan down). But he can get mighty sentimental, which is why he once dubbed himself a lesbian trapped inside a man's body (these straight men obviously don't know too many lesbians).
Above all else, Scott loves his traditions. So it was with great sadness that 2007 began with the departure of one of the longtime teams. Van Williams, only days before the season was set to begin, announced he was folding the Willow Weasels and leaving the TFL for good. Willow had competed in 14 of the TFL's 17 seasons to date and won the Sweeney Bowl in 1993 (although he wouldn't learn of it for a year). Yes, some thought that Van had left long before he actually did, since he rarely stopped by and said hello. But, he was part of the TFL family and any time a longtime owner leaves there is sadness.
With only days to replace him, Commissioner Wit Tuttell decided on an accelerated process. A few outstanding candidates stopped by and just as everyone was settling on Doug Kaufman, a friend of Scott Lacy's, to replace Van, longtime Trashtalk regular Craig Lancaster threw his hat into the ring. Lancaster had long been thought to be a leading contender for any opening, since he was already a Dumpster dweller. But, every time he has been approached in the past, he said he wanted nothing to do with fantasy football.
Once Lancaster threw his hat into the ring, it was a foregone conclusion, and even Doug Kaufman could see that. So Craig Lancaster formed the Billings SlobberKnockers to be the TFL's 28th team. It was a nice start and everyone thought it would last for a while. But by the end of the year, Craig was doing his Jimmy Durante imitation, singing "Should I stay or should I go?" But more on that in 2008.
On the field little had changed. Arctic was once again using smoke and mirrors to astonish the experts with a 10-4 season. The Anchorage Kitchen, which usually is very bad with occasional bouts of mediocre, was having a rare good season, going 10-4. But the Narcoossee Nose Apes were once again the top team during the regular season. Would they pull off another Triple Crown?
No. Arctic won the points scoring title, scoring an impressive 757 points, mainly based on taking quarterback Tom Brady with the fourth pick (which nearly every other owner at the draft said was a huge mistake). Maybe Mark Dolan does know something about football. Or, maybe a million monkeys at a million typewriters ...
Dugway joined Anchorage, Arctic and Narcoossee as division champions. But it was little old Limerick that snuck into the playoffs on the final weekend and then became the giant killer, knocking off Dugway and then Narcoossee to advance to Sweeney Bowl XVIII. Meeting him there was the Anchorage Kitchen, led by Brian Westbrook and a bunch of people no one has ever heard of.
This was the first meeting in the Sweeney Bowl of two-time champions, meaning one team would be the first to win three Sweeney Bowls. And shockingly, that honor would go to Anchorage, a team that has spent many seasons on the Toilet Roll for lowest winning percentage. The Loons, which scored 56 to knock off Narcoossee, managed only 16 in the biggest game of the year.
As for the expansion team, Billings, they went 3-10-1 and were one of two teams so pathetic they didn't even qualify for the Pee Wee Bowl. Craig Lancaster announced he was out. No wait, he was in. No wait, he was out. No wait ....
The end of the 2007 season also became a turning point in the life of the TFL. East Hartford owner Chris Reidy, one of the league's strongest voices and a man who is loved by everyone -- even his arch-nemisis Ken Sain -- announced in early December that he had been diagnosed with colon cancer. He tried to paint a rosy picture for his friends and keep their spirits up.
But as the months passed, it became obvious that the cancer had spread too far. On March 19, 2008, our friend and TFL legend, Chris Reidy, died.
The 2007 season began with sadness, and ended with overwhelming grief. The league will no doubt go on, but it will never be the same.
Put a few drinks in the TFL owners and get them talking about the greatest team in TFL history, and then get out of the way. The argument will be loud and illogical. Every owner has that one team he recalls as his best, and won't listen to any who disagree. But Wit Tuttell always had a trump card he could play when the debate began. His 1999 Nose Apes were the only team in TFL history to win the Triple Crown (Sweeney Bowl champions, points scoring champions, and regular season champions).
But that's not true anymore. The 2008 Dutch Harbor Dawgs became the second TFL team to win the Triple Crown, and did it by blasting nearly any team that stood opposite of them. There may be no more future debates about the greatest team in TFL history, because it would be hard to deny the 2008 Dawgs.
Let's start with the DH lineup. QB Jay Cutler finished third in the TFL in 2008 with 177 points. RBs Steven Slaton (perhaps the best draft pick in TFL history) and DeAngelo Williams both finished among the top 10 running backs in 2008 with a combined 179 points. His WRs were Larry Fitzgerald and Randy Moss. Fitzgerald finished third among WRs in scoring. If Tom Brady hadn't been injured to start the year, it is truly scary to think what Moss would have done and how it would have made the Dawgs an even better team.
As it was, they were more than good enough. Dutch Harbor was 12-2, two games better than runner-up Penobscot in the regular season title chase. The Dawgs scored 691 points, 14 points better than Penobscot to claim the points scoring crown. And that was just the tune up. Dutch Harbor rolled over all opponents in the playoffs, average 67 points a game on the way to winning Sweeney Bowl XIX.
Even in the two losses Dutch Harbor turned in decent games, scoring 32 and 34 points. The loss to Hogtown was 36-34 and to Cary was 40-32. A couple of breaks and this could have been the first perfect season.
So let's do the side-by-side comparison in the great debate on the TFL's all-time best team, comparing the two Triple Crown winners:
2008 Dawgs, 12-2; 1999 Nose Apes, 11-3
2008 Dawgs, 691 points; 1999 Nose Apes, 596 points
2008 Dawgs, 67 ppg playoff average; 44.5 ppg playoff average
Folks, it pains us to say it, but the great debate on all-time best TFL team is over. At least, until someone wins the Triple Crown with a perfect season.
In other season's news, it was the final campaign for the East Hartford Ex-Eskimos franchise, one of the bedrocks of the TFL. Steve Carney ran the Ex-Mos' for his best friend, Chris Reidy. Chili drafted a number of legacy players who had been regulars on the Ex'Mos rosters for years. They got the team off to a quick 7-2-1 start to lock up a playoff berth. East Hartford ended its final year in sixth place.
The league's owners grew tired of waiting for Craig Lancaster to decide if he was in, or he was out, and gave a franchise to Doug Kaufman, who named it the Cary Big Sticks, the first TFL team based in North Carolina.
Carney impressed the owners enough that he was given a team of his own, the Long Beach Scrub All-Stars, who will begin play in 2009. And as a reward for the greatest season in TFL history, Casey Brogan and his Dutch Harbor Dawgs were rewarded with a promotion to the Sourdough Conference. No more beating up on the weak sisters of the TFL. From now on Casey will have to bring his A game every week as he battles the giants.
Check out his schedule to open 2009: After wiping the field with two weaklings from the Cheechako (Cary and Hogtown), Casey faces the Greatest Fantasy Football Mind in the Galaxy and his Dugway Experiments, then two-time champion Scott Lacy's Bagdad Newts; followed by his first taste of Muldoon Division play, the other Triple Crown winner Narcoossee, then two-time champion Limerick, then two-time champion Baltimore. Sorry, no rest for the weary, it's off to Alaska to face the usually tough Oosiks and then a home matchup vs. the perennially great Denver Pyles. Casey, you're not in Nebraska anymore. There are no Willow Weasels, or Anchorage Kitchen, or Arctic Gators or Flint Bisons or Cary Big Sticks or Hogtown Halibut to fatten up on in the Sourdough. You'll have to earn your next Triple Crown.
Just who invited these Penobscot Wolfpups into the league anyway?
Mike Woelflein, owner of the Wolfpups, was 10-2-2 in 2009 to improve his overall record in seven seasons to 60-36-2, a .612 winning percentage that will move him to the top of the Honor Roll, if he can keep it going, when he becomes eligible in 2014 (teams must play half of the seasons to qualify).
The Alaska Oosiks also had a strong regular season, finishing 10-3-1 to win the Fireweed Division title and take the top seed in the Sourdough Conference.
However, both of the No. 1 seeds lost in the semifinals of the Sweeney Bowl Tournament. Once again, Steve Katz's Baltimore Barons were the surprise team of the year. The Barons won the points scoring race with 641 points. They tied with the Narcoossee Nose Apes for the Muldoon Division crown with an 8-5-1 record, but lost the No. 2 seed because the Grape Apes swept them in the regular season.
But Baltimore seems to thrive from the wildcard spot and defeated Narcoossee, then Alaska to advance its fourth Sweeney Bowl game.
The Barons' opponent in Sweeney Bowl XX was no stranger. The Anchorage Kitchen won the Spenard Division title at 8-5-1. The wildcard opponent, Flint, actually had the better record at 9-4-1. Still, Anchorage defeated Flint and then Penobscot to reach its fourth Sweeney Bowl matchup.
On one side we had Anchorage, winner of three Sweeney Bowls. On the other, Baltimore, winner of two. Baltimore easily won as Anchorage put up the worst performance in title game history (5 points) to match the Kitchen with three championships.
Anchorage and Baltimore are often given little respect, perhaps because both have been fixtures on the Toilet Roll and continue to have sub-.500 overall records. But both now have something no other TFL team can claim: Three Sweeney Bowl championships.
Just when it appeared that the greatest team in TFL history debate had been settled, 2010 reopened the debate.
Dutch Harbor's dominating 2008 season, including winning the Triple Crown, is now recognized by experts as the greatest season in league history. And if it wasn't for a little late-season cooking in the Kitchen, you could make the argument that the Dawgs' reign at the top ended in 2010. The upstart Cary Big Sticks turned in one of the best seasons in TFL history and if it wasn't for a late-season rally by the Anchorage Kitchen to grab the points-scoring title, the Cavemen would have won the Triple Crown.
As it was, Anchorage only won that title by 19 points, scoring an average of 56.4 points a game over the final five regular season matchups to end Cary's Triple Crown hopes.
Despite that, the Cavemen were one of the greatest teams in league history. They grabbed the two best running backs of the year, Adrian Peterson in the first round and Arian Foster in the second. Added two tight ends from pass-happy offenses in Jacob Tamme and Jason Witten. And somehow thrived at the QB spot despite not having a decent starter. Kyle Orton carried the Big Sticks for the first half of the regular season and when he was benched, Kerry Collins picked up the slack. Neither QB is one that would be high on the list, but both performed well so that Cary's biggest weakness was actually better than average.
The Cavemen opened up with ten straight victories, including defeating the other hot team during the regular season, Dugway. But after the win over the Mighty Mighty Test Tubes, Cary struggled. The Cavemen lost three of their final four games, almost allowing Dugway to take the regular season title and letting the Kitchen steal the points crown.
But for those first ten weeks of the year, the Cavemen were dominant.
Tom Brady let Dugway back to the Sweeney Bowl, only the second time the Experiments have played for the title. But Brady sat for most of the second half while Kerry Collins delivered to give the Big Sticks their first T. Rex.
The other playoff teams were Dutch Harbor, Baltimore, Anchorage and Penobscot.
The Alaska Oosiks, who have taken up permanent residency in the Pee Wee Bowl Tournament, won the Pee Wee Bowl by defeating the other permanent resident, the Arctic Gators.
Off the field the biggest news was that 2010 would be the final season for the Flint Bison. Donny Carlock said he wanted to devote more time to his family, and was leaving the league. To replace him, owners reached out to a fixture of their baseball league, the Pacific Hack League, Scott Schult. He named his franchise the Safety Harbor Deuces and they would begin play in 2011.
One of the fixtures of the TFL is that the league always determines its draft order in a lottery on the Fourth of July weekend. Not so in 2011. As owners grew restless, Ken Sain dithered. Finally, on July 30 he and Scott Lacy staged a live lottery via the web that was mostly -- a failure. Owners could see picture, but no sound. Or couldn't get logged in at all.
And with that, the 2011 season was under way. It would be marked by one of the strangest trades, Wit Tuttell trying to trade a future draft pick. Nate Sagan and Casey Brogan worked out a trade with a gentleman's agreement that Nate wouldn't start Wes Welker (the player Casey was trading to Nate) when their two teams played each other. Commissioner Ken Sain initially said the trade could go through because he did not recognize the benching portion of the trade, claiming Nate was free to start or not start whomever he wanted. However, Brogan continued to insist that Welker could not start against him. So Sain disallowed the trade as part of the commissioner's 'best interest' authority.
It wasn't the only questionable trade of the year. Mark Dolan later traded away the World Bank (OK, receiver Steve Smith, tied for the league lead in TDs) for a backup quarterback with little hope of remaining in the NFL for more than a sip of water (Tim Tebow). The Denver Pyles were happy to pounce on Dolan's lust for reliving Gator Glory.
Ken Sain, the only long-term owner never to win the Sweeney Bowl, got off to a quick 3-1 start, leading the league in scoring for two of those weeks. Meanwhile, defending champion Cary struggled by trying to relive its two tight end strategy, opening the season at 0-3 and was 1-9 after 10 weeks.
Sain's Tubes were 8-4, but then struggled to the finish line, losing three straight games including to Alaska in the wildcard matchup. It was Dutch Harbor, employing the reverse-praise hex on Sain all season, that locked up the bye in the senior conference. And once again those amazing Arctic Gators, led by the talent-less freak Tim Tebow, who clinched the top spot in the junior league.
But none of them could keep pace with a hot Alaska team in the playoffs. The Oosiks scored 59, 54 and 76 points in their final three games, beating Long Beach for the title, to earn their second T. Rex.
Commission Ken Sain announced before the convention in Kansas City he was ending the annual ritual of owners deciding at the last minute where they would hold the convention, but only after a lot of hemming and hawing and delaying. From this point forward, Herr Sain said that the owners at the convention will select the next location. It would give owners a year's notice to plan, look for deals, and know where they were going.
As is usually the case when Sain tries to herd these cats, it was met with a lot of whining and complaining. The owners who have never gone, or only been to one or two conventions, didn't like being shut out (even though they were solicited their opinions).
But Sain's will prevailed, and for the first time the owners selected the next convention location a year in advance. They were going to Cincinnati in 2013.
That pretty much ensured that 2012 was off to a rocky start. It was made worse by the infamous Thursday Night Opener (or in this case, the Wednesday Night Opener because of President Obama's acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention). The TFL does its best to ignore the first NFL game of the season, so that it can maintain the tradition of drafting the night before the first Sunday games. This opener refused to cooperate, as a player no one had ever heard of before, or will since (Dallas receiver Kevin Ogletree) went off in the opener, scoring 18 points (8 catches for 114 yards and two TDs) that were going to count since no one had drafted a player yet. Commissioner Sain suggested that each owner just pledge to their opponent not to draft Ogletree as a starter.
That plan went to hell quickly. Paul Ramey, too embarrassed to man up and admit he was cheating, had his son Tyler draft Ogletree as a starter, snatching those 18 known points from a no-name player for himself. He took him in the seventh round with the 111th pick.
Then the yelling and screaming began, with all kinds of rules being proposed, including moving the draft before the first game, drafting the first two rounds before the Thursday game and then the rest after, and a complicated formula that would ensure that it would never happened again (called the Ogletree Rule, sadly voted down by owners). Sain suggested using the commissioner's power to declare such fringe players off limits as starters, which led to some teams threatening to leave the league.
All because of a no-name bum who if it wasn't for this situation no one would remember three days later. In the end, cooler heads prevailed. But nothing was done, so the league is a tinder box just waiting for the next Kevin Ogletree to come along and reignite the debate. They wouldn't have to wait long (see Peyton Manning, 2013).
On the field, Dugway opened the season with a 5-0 record, second time in three seasons with that start, and third straight year of a fast start. But as is usually the case, the Tubes fell apart by the end of the season, limping into the playoffs with an 8-6 mark and quickly being forgotten.
Once again, as has been the case for a while now, it was Dutch Harbor and Penobscot establishing themselves as the two best teams in the TFL with 11-3 marks. The Dawgs ended up as the regular season champions because they beat Penobscot head-to-head, and also won the points scoring crown. And after Dutch Harbor demolished Cary 99-38, setting a record for points in the title game, Casey Brogan had his second Triple Crown, the only owner to have done that.
You can make the case -- and trust us, the case has been argued -- that the 2013 TFL season was over before the first player was drafted. Going into the season, all the fantasy football experts were debating if Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers should be the first quarterback taken. Then the Thursday night game was played and the debate was over.
So was the season.
After Peyton Manning threw for seven touchdowns and 462 yards, all suspense on who the Arctic Gators were drafting with the No. 1 pick was gone. Any intrigue on who would win the T. Rex that season was also over.
For the second straight season, the TFL's insistence on drafting after the first game of the season had been played came back to bite them in the ass. Bagdad's Scott Lacy hadn't even drafted a player yet, but knew he had lost his opening game (he was playing Arctic). And the Gators, led by Manning's 55 touchdown passes, rolled their way to a second Sweeney Bowl title simply by clicking X next to Manning's name every week.
Now Dolan will claim that he made other good moves. Scott Lacy will claim there were other factors at play and that had Hogtown had started the right player in the playoffs, the Halibut would have eliminated the Gators. And both are true.
But the league's Thursday Night Game Worry officially became the league's Thursday Night Game Problem after two years of this. Once again a debate ensued. Everyone agreed it's a big problem, but there is no good answer. Do we sacrifice the convention to draft before the game? No one wants to do that. It's a bad situation brought about because of the NFL's greed and there's just no way to fix it. So once again, owners have decided the best course is to ignore the problem and hope like hell it doesn't happen again for a few seasons.
Denver's Mike Taylor also recognized that Manning's good year would elevate the other players around him, and drafted as many Broncos as he could. That led to Denver and Arctic both dominating the regular season and reaching the Sweeney Bowl. They finished tied for the regular season title. If this had been one year later, after the owners voted to change the tiebreaking rules, then Dolan would be a Triple Crown winner, since he easily won the Points Scoring title.
But alas, since the tiebreaker was still head-to-head, the Pyles claimed the Regular Season crown, denying the Gators the sweep.
The Gators are happy to claim it one of the best years in TFL history. For the other 15 teams, however, it's the season that ended before it began.
Anyone who has met Ken Sain knows the man hates chaos. He is a planner and an organizer by nature who will go to great lengths to keep disorder away. One of the processes he started to bring order to an unruly league was to determine the next convention site while all the owners were together at the convention. It worked well in 2013, but this cadre of malcontents doesn't like rules and process and seems to embrace chaos.
Before the season began, the owners discarded their own decision to stage the convention in San Diego, switching to Philadelphia, but only after a lot of chaos, yelling, and screaming. Sain, angered by his process being tossed aside so casually, resigned. Scott Lacy, who rescued the league after the Times' folding in 1992, was back in the commissioner's chair. His first act was to name Sain treasurer, ending the annual tradition of owners sending money to Quiet Hours Road.
That was just the start of the season of change. The owners decided for the first time to update their scoring. Gone were bonus points for long TDs; bonus points starting at random marks (250 passing yards, 50 rushing/receiving yards). Gone completely were bonus points for kickers. The new system is simpler and takes points away from the two leading scoring positions (quarterbacks and kickers) and gives them to the lowest-scoring positions (running backs and receivers).
Perhaps a bigger change is that the debate that haunted the league since the 1998 season, head-to-head vs. total points as a tiebreaker, may have finally ended. The owners voted for the Great Chili Compromise (to continue to use head-to-head, but only when teams have played twice during the regular season). If they met only once, then total points would be used. The owners also approved a no mercy rule on transactions. If you don't have the funds to cover a move in your account, you will not be able to make a transaction.
Before the season, Cary's Doug Kaufman was badly losing a debate with Dugway's Ken Sain and desperately trying to change the subject with some pointless wager. Sain refused to allow that, but when the smoke cleared, he did give Kaufman the bulletin board material he sought.
This is my fucking year.
I got the de facto tiebreaker changed to points scored, a battle I've been fighting for 16 years.
I got the rules updated, something I've been trying to do for a decade.
I got rid of bonus points for kickers. Can I get an Amen!
In the past week I've made the most obstinate man in the universe (one Scott Lacy) back down on two arguments he was passionate about and admit I was right (T. Rex/Stanley Cup debate and his stubborn refusal to draft closers in the PHL).
And I got the sweet spot draft position.
This is my fucking year and there is no stopping me. You can either jump the hell out of the way, or you can become part of the asphalt.
Sain at 9:24:54 PM, 8/27/2014
It certainly was Sain's year as the Tubes won their first T. Rex, thanks mostly to the free agent pickup of Odell Beckham Jr. The Experiments knocked off the regular season champs, Penobscot, in Sweeney Bowl XXV.
It was the end of a very strange season in which all of the power rested in two divisions, the Fireweed and the Gambell. Seven of the eight teams in those divisions finished with winning records while only one of the eight teams in the Muldoon and Spenard divisions managed that (Baltimore).
Safety Harbor rallied in the final weeks to win the points scoring title and Limerick coasted to win Pee Wee Bowl XV.
The year will be remembered for two sad events, one of them tragic. Before the season Long Beach's Steve 'Chili con' Carne announced this would be his last. Then, on Christmas Day, Limerick's Michael Bourque announced that his wife, Melissa, had died after battling cancer for three years.
For many years now the Spenard Division has been known as the Wasteland of the TFL. It's a division where usually all four teams are competing until the final week, because usually all four teams are equally as bad.
There was hope that 2015 might be different. Robert Continelli II became the newest owner of a TFL franchise when he introduced his Flour City Underground, the team chosen to replace the Long Beach Scrub All-Stars. After Week 1, it appeared young Bobby would live up to the family name when he managed to tie the powerful Penobscot Wolfpups, the most success regular season team in the league. But those hopes quickly faded after the Underground lost its next six games. It wasn't until Week 7 that Bobby won his first TFL game, defeating like so many teams before him the Baltimore Barons, which have been granted a permanent place on the Toilet Roll.
So once again the Spenard would be lacking a quality team. Consider: Hogtown actually ran away with the Spenard this year, winning it with a 9-5 record. That's a huge improvement over the usual 7-7 season it takes to win the TFL's worst division. But how good were the Halibut? Six of their games were against other Spenard teams. Then they avoided the Fireweed Division (which was loaded in 2015) and got to play the Muldoon. Two of those teams, Baltimore and Dutch Harbor, scored fewer than 600 points. Plus they had two games against the weakest teams in the Gambell (which had an uncharacteristic bad year) that also scored fewer than 600 points (Lackawanna and Safety Harbor). So only five of the Halibut's 14 games came against teams that scored more than 600 points.
For comparison, every team in the Fireweed topped 700 points in 2015. The four Fireweed teams had nine games against teams that scored more than 700 points in 2015 when you throw in Limerick and Narcoossee from the Muldoon and Penobscot from the Gambell.
Hard-luck Bagdad finished 5-9 against that brutal schedule. If the Newts had played Hogtown's schedule, they would have gone 9-5 and made the playoffs. Likewise, if the Halibut had to play Bagdad's schedule their 9-5 mark would have become 4-10.
This huge disparity led to the league doing something radical: At the end of the season there was talk of dumping the division format and going to a more balanced schedule, where every team would play 14 of the other 15 teams each season. No longer would the Spenard be awarded a playoff berth with mediocre teams playing incredibly weak schedules. Of course, those changes still need to be voted on. So, to be continued.
The dominance of the Fireweed teams was the story of the year. Alaska started out on top, and then when someone suggested to Charles Bingham that the fantasy gods were being kind to him, Charles responded, "I don't need no stinking fantasy gods. I'm doing this all on my own." Now, for you youngsters at home or if you're new to fantasy football, the First Commandment of playing this game is you don't piss off the fantasy gods. Charles' 3-0 start disappeared as he went on a six-game losing skid after he told the fantasy gods to take a hike. We suspect he won't do that again.
Rumors are that Charles sacrificed the beard he's been growing for 30 years to the fantasy gods to end the streak. He came out of it winning five straight to make the playoffs.
For most of the year it was Denver that scared the rest of the TFL. The ATWO started the season 1-3, but then won four straight to climb into contention. The combination of Tom Brady, Julian Edelman, Stephen Gostkowski was scoring at a record clip. The only thing that slowed the Pyle machine were injuries. Edelman got hurt, never to be heard from again, and then all of Brady's other weapons ended up on the bench. The Pyles won the points scoring title, but the injuries kept them out of the playoffs. That's only the second time a PS champion didn't make the playoffs.
With so many powerhouse teams in one division someone was going to get screwed. Enter Bagdad. Here are the points opponents scored in the Newts nine losses: 55, 61, 55, 49, 68, 44, 61, 68, 62, 63. Six of the nine losses came with the opponent scoring 60 or more points. Few teams could survive that with a .500 record. So despite having a good team (717 points scored), the Newts missed the playoffs for the ninth straight season.
Somehow, it was the other Fireweed team that managed to survive the brutal schedule and emerge as division champs. Dugway finished 9-5, clinching the division on the final week with a bold move of benching Julio Jones (who had been the No. 1 receiver most of the year but suffered through a late-season slump) and replacing him with a red-hot Doug Baldwin. Because of that, the Tubes defeated Bagdad in the final regular season game, clinching the division and the playoff bye.
There were some really good teams outside of the Fireweed. Narcoossee and Limerick had a great race for the Muldoon Division title. Dutch Harbor made it interesting by somehow winning a lot of games without scoring any points. Hey, 35-32 wins count just as much as 75-32 wins do. But the Dawgs faded in the end. Penobscot was the only dominant team in the Cheechako Conference. In fact, the Pups were probably the best team in the league during the regular season, winning the regular season title.
When the playoffs began, Dugway, Limerick and Alaska made it from the Sourdough, and Penobscot, Hogtown and Lackawanna (ending an eight-year streak of missing the playoffs) represented the Cheechako. It appeared that we were destined for a repeat of the previous Sweeney Bowl, when Dugway defeated Penobscot, but the Halibut rode the hot hand of Kirk Cousins to a semifinal upset of the Wolfpups.
In the end, the TFL had its second back-to-back championship team. Ken Sain, who was 0-24 in winning Sweeney Bowl titles until 2014, has now won two straight, matching Bagdad as the only team to do so.
Last year everyone kind of felt glad for Charlie Brown, that he was finally able to kick the damn football. They cheered him, they lauded him. Not so in 2015.
"It's the fucking Brain in a Jar," a disgruntled Scott Lacy said. "How can we let some computer software program use its algorithms to win our league two years in a row? We need to stop this computer takeover of the league."
One team has been superior to all others ever since he arrived in the league in 2003. Mike Woelflein's Penobscot Wolfpups keep winning at a pace that seems unsustainable, but he just keeps on doing it.
The only thing keeping the Wolfpups from moving to the top of the Honor Roll was that Penobscot had not yet played in at least half of the league seasons, which is a requirement. As soon as that requirement was met, the Pups took over at No. 1 and it appears they will remain there for some time.
In just his second season, Woelflein led his Wolfpups to a dominant 10-4 season with a then-record 795 points scored. It looked like nothing would stop him from claiming the 2004 T. Rex with Peyton Manning in his prime, but Manning sat out most of the week 17 game, allowing Bagdad to steal a title the Newts probably didn't deserve.
The Wolfpups were consistently good, making the playoffs most seasons and being one of the stronger teams, but playoff success eluded Woelflein. He returned to the title game in 2014, but lost to Dugway.
The Wolfpups became the best team to never win a Sweeney Bowl, a title no one wants. That ended in 2016, and it wasn't even one of Woelflein's best teams that did it.
The year belonged to the Dutch Harbor Dawgs in the Sourdough and the Anchorage Kitchen in the Cheechako. Anchorage had a bit of bad luck, setting a league record 858 points scored but finishing with an 8-6 record.
It was one of the craziest playoff races the league had ever seen. Seven of the eight teams in the Cheechako finished within a game of each other at the end of the regular season. Penobscot sneaked into the playoffs.
There was no such drama in the older conference. The Dawgs were 10-4 and both Bagdad and Dugway finished ahead of the pack. Narcoossee was hanging on until the end, but the Tubes held on during the final week.
In the semifinals the two favorites, Dutch Harbor and Anchorage, both lost putting Bagdad and Penobscot together in a rematch of their 2004 title game. The one Peyton Manning sat out. The one that Bagdad won when it probably should have gone to Penobscot.
Karma set things right in 2016, rewarding Penobscot for its long tradition of winning football by giving it the crown and ending that best team to never win the T. Rex moniker.
Few know how close Michael Continelli came to leaving the league before the 2017 season. At one point he had told league officials to find a replacement owner, he was definitely not returning. It was months before the season began, they told him to think about it.
Continelli was struggling with a game that was passing him by. He was no longer the owner others feared, his team rarely made the playoffs. There was a time when he knew more than anyone, but all the Brains in the Jar and fantasy experts online had helped the other owners catch up and narrow the gap.<
And in same cases, surpass the Lackawanna Lancers.
When the season was about to begin, Continelli reluctantly agreed to come back for one more season. And what a season it was.
The Lancers were the most impressive team in league history, and perhaps also the unluckiest. If life were fare, the Lancers would have gone undefeated and won the T. Rex.
Continelli drafted Carson Wentz during his breakout season. He got him in the seventh round. He took DeAndre Hopkins in the second round, and the Houston receiver was the top scorer at that position for the year. And neither of those were his best pick. That came in the 13th round when he took Alvin Kamara of the Saints, who was amazing.
The unlucky part is that he took David Johnson in the first round and Dalvin Cook in the third round. No one doubts the talent of either, but both suffered season-ending injuries in the early season.
If they and Wentz had stayed healthy all season, a 16-0 run with a T. Rex was very likely. Even with all those injuries, the Lancers finished with the second-best regular season in league history at 12-1-1.
But as often happens to great teams luck is not kind during the playoffs. The Lancers were booted out by defending champion Penobscot in the semifinals.
In the other conference Narcoossee was the surprise of the year, because it's always a surprise when the Grape Apes do well. Wit Tuttell's team turned in an 11-3 season, being the only team in the Sourdough with a winning record. Dutch Harbor and Alaska also slipped into the playoffs with 7-7 records.
Once again, a great regular season team didn't do well in the playoffs as Dutch Harbor bounced the Apes in the semifinals.
In the title game Penobscot defeated the Dawgs for its second T. Rex. In four years, Dugway and Penobscot had gone back-to-back, back-to-back. That was a league first.
The debate over skill vs. luck in the TFL was decided long ago, but sometimes the cosmos just likes to kick you in the teeth and make sure the lesson sticks. The 2018 season was the perfect example that it is by far better to be lucky than it is to be good.
First the good. Dugway had a dominant season as the Tubes piled on the points at a record-setting clip. When it was over not only had they set the regular-season record for points scored, they obliterated it, topping the previous best season by more than 100 points.
The Experiments weren't just good, they were scary good. Patrick Mahomes led the league with 327 points scored, nearly 70 points more than second-place QB Andrew Luck. The Tubes had two of the top five RBs for the year in Saquon Barkley and James Conner. And on top of that they had a top seven WR in Michael Thomas.
Dugway's lowest point total during the regular season was 48 points. They scored 80 or more points four times and 60 or more points in 11 of 14 regular season games.
But they were not the only scary good team in 2018. Both Bagdad and Hogtown had excellent teams that no one wanted to face. Bagdad also blew past the previous scoring record and Hogtown came within two points of matching it.
One of the highlight games of the year was Dugway defeating Bagdad 95-93 to rewrite several TFL records. Bagdad's lowest scoring game of the regular season was 47 points, yet they suffered some painful one-point losses and lost while scoring 93 points to make the playoff race far more close than it should have been.
Hogtown might have been the most consistently good team of the year. The Halibut had a eight-week stretch where they scored 60 or more points in every game, including 70 or more in four of them.
Any of the three would have made a worthy champion. So of course none of the three would win it.
Now the lucky teams. Any time Steve Katz's Baltimore Barons makes the playoffs you know there must be luck involved. This is the team that once drafted three kickers. It's also the team that once took a kicker with the first pick of the third round. Thousands of years from now some scientist might figure out why Katz loves kickers so much -- not even Paul Ramey loves them more -- but for now it baffles everyone.
Now, let's give Katz some credit. He had the top receiver of the year in Devante Adams and a top ten QB in Kirk Cousins. But there was no one on his team that scared you. Four teams scored more points and his league wins total was 114.5-95.5, a good team but hardly a great one. Still, he played teams on the right week and was threatening to win the regular season title.
Next up is two-time defending Sweeney Bowl champ Penobscot. The Wolfpups were also a nice team. They had two top 10 WRs in Adam Thielen and JuJu Smith-Schuster. But, they were seventh in points scored and fifth in league wins. A deserving playoff team, no doubt. But any statistical comparison to Dugway, Bagdad and Baltimore they will come up short.
So of course it was Penobscot that won the regular season title, despite scoring 60 or more points only three times. In two of their losses they scored 34 and 37 points. Dugway, Bagdad and Hogtown had 0 games between all three where they scored in the 30s or less.
But the Wolfpups won when they needed to, including a key regular season showdown with Hogtown.
In the playoffs, the Wolfpups and Hogtown met again, and for the second straight year their playoff game ended in a tie. And for the second straight year, Penobscot advanced on the tiebreaker.
In the title game, Penobscot faced Mighty Dugway, and the Tubes delivered their worst performance of the season, scoring less than 48 points for the first time all season.
So Penobscot joins Baltimore and Anchorage as the only three-time winners, and the Wolfpups become the first team to ever win three straight T. Rexes.
Once again, it's better to be lucky than it is to be good.