Fantasy football and the desperate search for the game we lost

I be nuts about extensions, because they are nice!

When we talk about the great cheating scandals in sport – Lance Armstrong and US Postal, Calciopoli, Bloodgate – it occurs to me that there’s one salient example that has flown somewhat under the radar, by dint of its relatively limited scope, and the fact that its only real victims were about a dozen disgruntled newspaper sub-editors and writers in an office in London. Nonetheless, to my mind it deserves a special place in the pantheon: owing partly to its evil genius, and partly to what it tells us about ourselves.

The tale goes back about seven or eight years, to when I was a junior reporter at another newspaper, where – in common with many offices – we had a staff Fantasy Premier League pool, played for relatively small stakes but contested with the ferocity of an Old Firm derby. Edges were keenly sought; intelligence fiercely guarded. And at one point, it became clear that one of the senior football correspondents – who I have been reluctantly informed by the lawyers must remain nameless – seemed to possess a mysterious sixth sense for which players were going to start for their clubs at the weekend, and which would be left out or injured.

As it turned out, this correspondent was using his access to pre-match press conferences to ask Premier League managers – within the sanctity of the embargoed Sunday newspaper briefing – which of the players in his fantasy team were in line to play, and which were carrying minor niggles that might put them out of contention. Armed with this privileged intel, he would then sneakily make his transfers before the gameweek deadline, helping him to carve out an unassailable lead we simply assumed was a product of his unquestionable genius.

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I’ll spare you the grisly details of the fallout: the adamant denials, the kangaroo court, the regrettable cancellation of the following season’s staff league. But the entire episode is a reminder of the uniqu

I be wild about components, because they are the magnificent.

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