Thursday, September 18, 2008

Dredging For Answers

Here is this wonderful thing.
It seems to be a model of some kind of dredge.
It's 100 percent brass and is very well made.
Perhaps it is a salesman's sample
Perhaps someone just made it for his own enjoyment.
I obtained it from an antique store going out of business in Woodland, Calif. The owners knew little of its beginning or history. I was told a person could hook up a garden hose to the tap on the end and that the water would flow through the little piping and exit through the lattice-type conveyor belt, to be ejected through the downward pointing end. Overall, it's about four feet long and three feet wide with both tanks in place.
I can imagine this dredge floating in a pond of its own creation, dredging up gold-filled soil and somehow separating it from the mud, silt and sand.
Am I going off the deep end here? (No pun intended.)
In any case, if you know what this thing is, how it works and why it was constructed in this fashion, I'm open to suggestions.
Have a nice day.

My Time With Fantasy Football

A well-padded football player in the early part of the 20th century. The thing hanging from the elastic strap around his neck is a hard rubber combination mouth and nose guard. These were used only for a few years -- and no wonder!

It must have been a slow day, back in 1978. I was reading Sports Illustrated and noticed a small story in the column titled “In the Spotlight.” Some fellow (see below) in the San Francisco Bay Area had thought up this little game with a bunch of guys selecting American Football League players from the offensive side of the ball, toting up their scores from each weekend’s action and comparing their scores.

I thought that sounds like fun and the next thing I know, we’ve gathered together 12 fellow workers at The Sacramento Bee, established some very basic rules, held a draft and the All Points Football League was born. I cannot recall how much money we put in the pot but I do have an account of the winnings: The 12 players were divided into two divisions and each division winner earned $20; second place was worth $15 and third was $11. Also, the team with the most points at the season’s end earned an extra $2. In addition, the team winning each week’s head-to-head, collected a dollar (ONE DOLLAR!) from the losing team owner. Wow!

We played that league for more than 25 years, until disbanding a couple years ago. But it was so simple. The only things that mattered were touchdowns, field goals and conversions. No yardage bonuses, no points per yard, no points per catch, no points for fumbles or fumble recoveries or sacks, no waivers, no free agents, no play-offs. Just pick a team of 15 players, select a QB, a couple runners, a pair of receivers (tight ends, OK) and a kicker and off we go.

The newsletter that I produced at the time indicates the league would hold a secondary draft halfway through the season, which actually was held in Week 11. Curiously, the league also allowed teams to add or drop a player at any time. Trading players also was allowed -- and there was no limit on the number of players on your roster so you could trade two for one. It was first come, first served. The schedule worked perfectly for a 16- week season. Each team played against each squad in the other division once and each team in your own division twice. Perfectly square. No byes.

I recall team owners scrambling each Friday to figure out which athlete might be injured, and how badly, and whether he would start that weekend’s game. I don’t recall the NFL publishing an injury list in 1979 but if they did, it was very difficult to find. Some newspapers would publish it and I can recall trying to hunt down a SF Chronicle for an updated injury list. We had sports writers in our little group and it seemed like they often a had a bit of a head start on the rest of the team owners. But they would often share their information – especially if they were not going head-to-head with you that weekend. Of course, there was always the team owner who forgot to turn in his lineup or didn’t know his QB was on injured reserve or wanted to trade for a player with a broken leg.

And the scores reflected the simplicity of the game. The first week’s scores ranged from 9 (nine!) to 46. And check this out: the 46 came from 4 TD by Ahmad Rashad, Vikings WR; 12 by Sherman Smith, Seattle RB, and 10 by NY Jets kicker Frank Leahy. The lowest scoring game? A 1-0.
But establishment of yardage bonuses and defenses changed all that. And for a while, we even played "team quarterback:" If you drafted Joe Montana, you would also get all the other QBs on the 49er roster and their scores would count if they got into the game. This was done at the time when quarterbacks were getting knocked out on a regular basis and we felt it offered some kind of insurance. Of course, when a team was ahead in the final moments of a game, a sub would come marching in and want to prove he could throw a TD, causing much teeth-gnashing. .

There was action, however, as shown by the 73 I got in week two from Steve Grogan, NE QB; Sidney Thornton, Pittsburgh RB; Harold Jackson, NE WR; Jean Fugett, Washington TE, and Rafael Septien, Dallas K. As commissioner at the time, adding up the scores was simplicity itself. Only a few years later, the game became a bit more complex – but in all that time, it was always fun!

The first player chosen in that 1979 draft: Seattle QB Jim Zorn. The top scoring player at the end of the season were (stand-by for this!) Brian Sipe, Cleveland QB with 180. The top scoring runner was Earl Campbell, Houston Oilers; best kicker Jim Breech, Oakland Raiders (!) kicker, and Stanley Morgan, NE, was the high scoring WR. The high-scoring team for the year got 500 points and went 11-5 in head-to-head. At the other end of the spectrum, one player got 225 points and was 0-16 in match-ups. Five teams finished 10-6, indicating a very competitive league

And when it was over, we couldn’t wait for 1980.

It was a couple years later when we developed a singular method for handling post-season games. Instead of reducing the regular year to 14 games and holding a league play-off with top scoring teams, we convened for a complete new player draft, choosing players from teams in the play-offs. I always thought this was very successful and really added a lot of excitement to the play-offs, concluding with the Super Bowl and trying to figure out how many players you could choose who would get that far. Much fun!

*Modern fantasy football can be traced back to the late Wilfred "Bill" Winkenbach, an Oakland area businessman and a limited partner in the Oakland Raiders. In 1962, Winkenbach, along with Raiders Public Relations man Bill Tunnel and Tribune reporter Scotty Starling, developed a system of organization and a rule book, which would eventually be the basis of modern fantasy football.