Ah, the start of football season. Fresh-cut grass, pristine uniforms…and people totally freaking out about the relative fantasy value of Matt Schaub vs. Joe Flacco. Yes, it’s a special time of year, and who better to welcome it with than America’s favorite fantasy analyst, Matthew Berry? From a jumbo-sized Q&A, here’s the ESPN star’s candid advice on booze, women, work and what’s really important: the secret to acing your fantasy draft. (Hint: McGahee, dude. McGahee.)
MM: What’s your go-to smartphone app?
MB: I use the ESPN fantasy apps, of course, for my fantasy teams. And I tweet almost exclusively from my phone, so I use Echofon for that. Big fan of Shazam, and I use Flixster all the time when I want to see movies. Call a Cab has saved me multiple times. I’m a Words with Friends player, and I have kids, so more often than not, they’re playing Angry Birds.
MM: What’s your drink of choice after a tough day?
MB: I’m a tequila guy and a Jimmy Buffett fan, plus I have the taste buds of a sorority girl. So usually a margarita.
MM: What grooming, style or fitness thing can a guy do in the morning to look and feel good all day?
MB: I’ve found showering is always a winner. Brushing your teeth usually brings good results. And, of course, I bench a quick 3 bills every morning just because I can.
MM: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received about women, and who gave it to you?
MB: My Uncle Lester. “Never chase a woman, a streetcar or a deal.” As I have often found in all aspects of life, the less you want something (or at least have the appearance of that) the easier it is to acquire.
MM: You made a big career change, going from working on Married with Children and writing Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles to becoming the Talented Mr. Roto. Any advice for guys stuck in a job they don’t love?
MB: The only thing that matters is happiness. When I decided to leave show business to make a go of a full-time career in fantasy, I was making a really good living in movie writing and my website was profitable—meaning we made more than we spent each month, but it was not a lot to live on. My thought was only that I wanted to be happy and if it meant a lot less money, so be it. As it’s turned out, I’ve made more money in fantasy sports than I ever did at show biz, but it’s in large part, I believe, because I didn’t focus on that. I only focused on getting as good as I could at what I was doing. Improving my writing, my public speaking, my analysis, the content of the site, everything. When you’re happy doing something, it shows in the work. And when it shows in the work, it’s good and when it’s good, they find you. Trust me, there’s no career in the world where they don’t want another person who is good at it.
MM: What’s the biggest drafting mistake fantasy noobs and even more seasoned guys make?
MB: Going into the draft with a rigid plan. Have an idea of what you want to do, but every draft and auction is different. Let the draft come to you, and grab value where you see it. A draft or auction is about assembling the best overall team and how all those pieces fit together, not about any one particular pick.
MM: What’s the simplest thing any guy can do to have a better draft experience?
MB: Be prepared. It’s like a test. Think back in school. There were times when you knew the stuff cold and there were times you didn’t know what half the questions were asking, let alone how to answer them. Panic is no fun. Be prepared before you walk in. Also, do the draft in person, with your buddies, in a bar or Vegas or somewhere you can spread out, be loud and have fun. Draft day is the best day of the year—don’t scrimp.
MM: Who’s the most ridiculously over-hyped fantasy player going into this season, and who’s the best player no one’s talking about?
MB: Hard to say since often I’m the guy doing the hyping. I’ve been talking Vick a lot but most people seem to think I’m too high on him. But he’s among the most hyped. Everyone loves—and rightly so I think—Jimmy Graham of the Saints. He’s pretty universally hyped. I think there are a lot of mid-tier wide receivers that no one is talking about. Guys like Anquan Boldin, Austin Collie and Santana Moss. All three will return a lot of draft-day value. Also, a guy like Willis McGahee isn’t sexy but will finish the year with double-digit touchdowns.
MM: Let’s imagine fantasy football had existed long before, say, Slingin’ Sammy Baugh took the field. Who’s the greatest fantasy player ever?
MB: Well, Brady in ’07, Tomlinson in ’06 and Vick potentially this year are all up there, as would be Jim Brown. But I’ll say Paul Hornung in 1960. Not only is it the second-highest total-point season in history (only ten fewer points than LT in ’06), but he did it in just twelve games. And compared to the kind of stats others were putting up in the league, it would have been the most dominant fantasy season ever, I believe. He got you kicking points too, remember, and had fifteen touchdowns along with almost a thousand total yards in twelve games.
MM: What can fantasy football teach guys about being better men?
MB: That there’s gonna be lots of stuff we can’t control and don’t see coming, both in life and fantasy football, so put yourself in the best position to win and hope for the best. Good fantasy players have patience and know that one week does not make a season. Same goes for life and any one episode or event, no matter how huge it might seem at the time.
MM: Any parting words of wisdom, about life, fantasy, or otherwise?
MB: Yes, and they are from my Uncle Lester, who I wrote about in my pre-season fantasy baseball “Love/Hate” column on ESPN.com. Here are a few of my favorite “”Lesterisms”—good advice for life and fantasy.
“Don’t risk what you cannot afford to lose.”
“If you can get 80 percent of what you want in a deal, take it. Most guys screw it up trying to get the last 20 percent.”
“Don’t trade something you need for something you don’t.”
“Do not presume an outcome before it occurs; more times than not you will be wrong.”
“In the old used car sales days, if a guy was trying to trade in one car for another and asked if the car leaked oil, that meant his car leaked oil.”
And my favorite: “You never know how big of a ditch you can jump over until you fall in.”
Finally, it never hurts to remember: “Be excellent to each other. And party on, dudes.”