Celebs take fantasy out of football

BY Peter Schrager • July 19, 2012

There may be no more bizarre event on the sports media calendar than SiriusXM’s annual "celebrity" fantasy football draft.

Though I've never seen a looser interpretation of the word "celebrity" (Pilar Lastra! Scott Engel!), I must say — the event’s a winner.

It always is. I never leave the thing disappointed.

“Hey, MJD,” shouted gravel-voiced SiriusXM Howard 101 host Scott Ferrall from across a dais in New York’s Hard Rock Café at Maurice Jones-Drew. “The Jaguars are worse than my fantasy team. And my fantasy team sucks!”

This was just the start of some of the fabulous NSFW banter that was exchanged during Thursday’s event.

“I’m a degenerate gambler, so this is kind of like a trigger to me. My GA sponsor didn’t even want me here,” said former Howard Stern Show sidekick Artie Lange from a pre-show red carpet. “After my third pick, I’ll end up running guns to Cuba.”

Lange was on fire. He told Adam Schein that he looked like a cross between Sarah Silverman and "Adam Samberg," Not Andy Samberg. Not Adam Sandler. But "Adam Samberg." That slayed me.

Lange, then, asked an overweight fan in the audience who’d traveled hundreds of miles to attend the event in person, “Sir, what didn’t you eat this morning?”

The poor guy just kind of grinned and returned to his Blackberry.

“I’m only going to draft guys from the ‘80s,” comedian Nick DiPaolo, who picked his team with Lange, said before the show. “We’re going Gale Sayers at the top, then Brian Piccolo.”

Sure enough, DiPaolo took Piccolo in the first round. A few picks later, Lange selected Darren McFadden, introducing him as "The running back from Ohio State . . . McFadden!"

McFadden, of course, went to Arkansas. When told this, Lange just shrugged his shoulders and put his sunglasses back on.

It was like this for hours. Train wreck or not, I couldn’t stop laughing and cringing. A professional wrestler named “The Miz” is the league’s defending champion. He showed his mettle by taking a player that’d already been drafted in just about every round. George Wendt, aka Norm from "Cheers," was there, too. He did his “Da Bears” shtick right from the get-go, then said about five words the rest of the day, looking bored and confused throughout.

Former New York Mets GM Steve Phillips came dressed in a khaki suit. Lange undressed him immediately, “Steve, how much money did you lose from Madoff?”

Schein, then, tried jumping in on the action, by saying, “From the man who brought Mets fans Mel Rojas . . . Steve Phillips!” to which Lange promptly responded, “Just shut up, Adam.”

Jay Thomas, another one of Sirius’ on-air personalities, took Dez Bryant in the first round. Ferrall nodded along in agreement, only to add, “I wanted him. I wanted a team filled with the guys with the best mug shots. Have you seen his mug shot?” He then did a face that I guess kind of sort of maybe looked like Bryant’s mug shot. “It’s amazing.”

Two other guys — Steve Covino and Rich Davis, from “The Covino & Rich Show" — boasted that they were only going to take guys “who had the hottest girls,” and drafted Tom Brady in the first round.

Alas, Brady was taken two picks before them.

Cool story, bro. They took someone else.

Yes, I was at this thing. And so were a few dozen fans. Voluntarily!

A fantasy expert named Nathan Zegura was dressed in sequin sparkles. He was described as a “butler” and there seemed to be an inside joke that I was missing. I don’t think he picked a team, but he was on stage. No matter, he was one of the celebrities involved in the event.

All the while, as this pure chaos was going on around him, former NFL MVP Rich Gannon analyzed picks quite seriously, giving his critique to the radio-listening audience at home.

Maurice Jones-Drew sat at the end of the table, too. He was digesting it all. Schein, to his credit, asked MJD about his current contract status before the start of the draft. But Jones-Drew wouldn’t address the subject head-on. Not in that forum, at least.

He then proceeded to draft himself with the first overall pick. I guess he will be on the field by Week 1, after all?

I stayed for a few rounds, crying from laughter at some of the things Lange was saying, before getting out of there with my senses still intact. I tweeted out a few of Lange's one-liners, shook my head at Ferrall’s nonstop mentioning of Sirius’ stock price in front of his bosses, and I got a sense of how most fantasy drafts will go this August. Running backs still go first, tight ends still go in the middle rounds, and kickers don't go until the very end.

Julio Jones, Ryan Mathews, and DeMarco Murray were all taken surprisingly early. Andre Johnson and Roddy White surprisingly went pretty late.

I guess it’s almost fantasy football draft time. And this year, more than ever, fans are gearing up for the 2012 season.

And yes, even the "celebrities" play.

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