MIAMI — Miami Heat center Chris Bosh last month stopped an interview in mid-sentence. He had more important things to worry about.
The Philadelphia Eagles were playing on Monday Night Football. So Bosh gazed at a television.
“I’ve got Michael Vick in fantasy football and I need 10 points from him,” Bosh said.
It didn’t work out too well that night for Bosh with Vick, or later in the season considering his quarterback got injured. But like any good general manager, Bosh was able to make adjustments.
Bosh inserted his backup quarterback, Andrew Luck. And now he’s made his fantasy league playoffs.
“I’m fired up,” said Bosh, his fantasy prowess helping make up for his Heat being in a two-game losing streak, having lost Tuesday at downtrodden Washington and being wiped out Thursday by 20 points at home to New York. “I’m going to be fired every possession in the playoffs.”
Talk about fantasy football has taken over the Heat locker room this season. Bosh and Dwyane Wade are in their first years of playing. Shane Battier is commissioner of his league. Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller also are avid players.
All of this talk has gotten LeBron James thinking he might make a return to fantasy football. James was active two years ago, and it didn’t go well.
“My friends didn’t tell me the right rules and I got cheated. I was dead last,” said James, a Dallas fan who remembers one of the few highlights of his fantasy foray was then New York Giants running back Brandon Jacobs scoring nine touchdowns for him in 2010. “But, yeah, I’ll return.”
It’s fortunate for James that two years ago he wasn’t in Battier’s league. The last-place finisher gets a pink patch that reads “DFL” for “Dead Fricking Last,” and must be attached to an article of clothing.
The winner receives a patch that reads “World Champion.” Battier only can hope some day to add one to a championship ring he won last season with the Heat.
“It’s the Bruin Lake Fantasy Football League,” Battier said of the league he has been in for four years with friends from his native Michigan. “It’s a very competitive 12-man league. The winner of the league gets to choose the draft location, so it’s a traveling road show. The draft was in Chicago (this season), was in New Orleans a year ago and two years ago it was in Milwaukee.”
Alas, Battier won’t be picking the location for next fall. He got off to a 1-6 start and rallied to finish 5-8 but missed the playoffs in his weak division.
“With coaching and heart, we climbed back into the playoff race and fell one game short,” said Battier, who said he was victimized by the injury to Vick, a slow start by running back Chris Johnson but rallied behind running back Trent Richardson, wide receiver Dez Bryant and what he called his “great waiver pickup” of quarterback Josh Freeman.
Others in the Heat locker room have fared better. Bosh has made the playoffs by also getting good production from Richardson and running backs Ray Rice and Marshawn Lynch.
Miller is tied for first in his league due to big years by receivers Andre Johnson and Calvin Johnson and running back Adrian Peterson. Wade is in second place in his league thanks to quarterback Tom Brady, receiver Demaryius Thomas and the Chicago Bears defense, although he’s been hampered by injuries to receiver Greg Jennings and all-purpose back Darren Sproles.
“I play with my brothers’ family, and I’m doing all right for being in my first year,” said Wade, a Chicago native. “I get into it. You take it seriously. It changes the way you look at the game. I’ve been a Bears fan my whole life and that’s all I’d cared about. Now, you kind of root for other guys . . . Let’s say if Tom Brady were to play the Bears. I want the Bears defense but I need Tom Brady to have a big game, so it messes it up.”
Even though all the Miami players are in different leagues, Wade said there is still plenty of banter in the locker room about who is having a strong season and who is not doing so well. Battier has been know to rib many a player who has struggled.
“When a guy has a bad day, I’ll say, ‘It must have been coaching. If I had coached that team, I would have sat (wide receiver) Steve Johnson last week,”‘ Battier said.
Nobody in the Heat locker room has taken this season harder than Haslem, perhaps the team’s most avid player. Haslem, a Miami native whose team name is Mr. Miami, missed the playoffs in the two leagues he is in, going 8-5 in one and 7-6 in the other.
“I take it too hard,” said Haslem, who got a big year out of quarterback Aaron Rodgers but was hampered by injuries to Jennings, tight end Aaron Hernandez and wide receiver Hakeem Nicks. “If my team loses, it messes up my whole day. I really do my homework. I research the games. I look at the offense and defense my guys are matched up against. I really do my work. I feel like a real GM.”
Everyone knows Sundays are the big days, but for Haslem, who plays in two leagues, Tuesday is critical.
“I get up early on Tuesday morning because you can’t make adds and drops until 9 o’clock on Tuesday mornings,” Haslem said. “So I’m up at 8:30 checking the waiver and seeing my adds and drops. I’m into it.”
Haslem said he’s in a 10-team league in which each throws in $200 at the start and an eight-team league in which each player tosses in $100 to participate. Miller said his 16-team league, comprised of friends and family members from his native South Dakota, has a $100 entry fee. The winner takes all, and Miller is still alive for the $1,600 prize.
“The pot (in the Bruin Lake league) is significant, but, out of respect for the league and for the integrity of the league, I will keep it confidential,” said Battier, who said the main complaints he gets as commissioner have to do with a format that sometimes results in a team in a weak division making the playoffs while a team in a strong division with a better record stays home. “There’s higher stakes than money. There’s pride if you win.”
Win or lose, there’s also plenty of enjoyment to be had.
“It’s cool because it gives you something to watch and it makes the weekends a lot more fun,” Bosh said of being in his 12-team league with friends. “Sundays are fun. I do a better job knowing the guys on the teams . . . It makes you kind of identify more because I’ve had people telling me for years that I’m on somebody’s fantasy basketball team. Now, I can identify with that. I’m like, ‘OK.”‘
So would Bosh, a seven-time NBA All-Star, ever let an NFL player know he is on his fantasy team?
“I wouldn’t tell him,” Bosh said. “I have thought about it plenty of times but that would be corny.”
Wade, the 2006 Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year, hasn’t informed any NFL players he has them in fantasy play. But one wonders if it might come up if Wade ran into the 2005 Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year.
“Tom Brady, he’s carrying me right now,” Wade beamed about his season.
Miller hasn’t met any such guys, but has no doubt he would express gratitude to anybody who has been a stalwart on his roster.
“I would tell them for sure,” Miller said. “I feel like I’m friends with my fantasy guys.”
As excited as Bosh is about being in the playoffs, it sure sounds as if he’ll have some good friends in the NFL if he has a successful postseason run.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter@christomasson