Early in 2015, I was invited to partake in a nine-year-old fantasy football league called the MFL — the Moscatiello* Football League.
My girlfriend’s father, his brothers, nephews, and friends get together each year for a fantasy football league more competitive, time-consuming, torturous, and, frankly, fun than any league I’ve ever heard of.
“Most leagues, it’s all about money,” John Moscatiello, one of the founding members and host of the draft each year, told me. “Our league — it’s all about the wins, it’s about getting the silly trophy, it’s about trying to get a gold jacket, it’s about trying not to be a clown.”
The MFL, as John told me, “is a unique league for reasons.”
First, a little background….
The league started in 2006, when Patrick, John's son, suggested starting a fantasy league. Though nobody was necessarily a big football fan, the family knew their competitiveness could make something special.
Early on, they drafted a literal constitution, protecting the league from factors like collusion and negligence. John told me, 'It was almost like something our Forefathers wrote.'
My entrance into the league was a result of a rule made up in 2011 by John's brother Tom: The Clown Rule. When one of the 12 members dropped out at the end of the last season, the MFL opened a spot for a new team and GM. I was one of several people invited to compete for the lone spot in the league.
The Clown Rule states that the member to finish in last place the year before must wear a full clown suit to next year's draft. At some point, the clown must get up in front of the league and do a dance while circus music plays.
Tom describes his inspiration: 'What could be worse than not winning? Becoming the clown.'
When the clown for the 2014 season dropped out, the MFL began accepting applications to join. Candidates had to receive votes and support from current members. I jumped at the opportunity, knowing what awaited was a fraternity of competitive, fun individuals with a penchant for pranks and a desire to create a new Best Draft Ever each summer. To apply, I had to write a letter of intent. Here's a sample of my letter:
Upon being voted in, I learned the long process of deciding the order of the draft. While going with the previous year's records or drawing names out of a hat might do, the MFL figured, why not make it competitive? Here's how it works:
Each member's name is placed into a hat. When the Kentucky Derby rolls around, names are drawn out of a hat and assigned to a gate at the Derby. The horse in that gate becomes the horse for a member of the MFL, and the order is decided upon the finish of the Derby.
Thanks to some late gate switches at the Derby, I ended up with American Pharoah as my horse. Thus, I got the No. 1 pick in the 2015 draft.
The pressure was on. The draft was set for September 6. As you could guess, this is no ordinary draft. A wrap-around table with a spot for each member circles a giant draft board for the rosters. Behind it are refreshments for everyone -- sandwiches, snacks, sodas, etc.
There is a private room reserved for previous champions, stocked with shrimp, a cheese platter, fruit, desserts, and eventually, steaks and champagne.
Back to the draft. To begin, a motion is held for proposed changes to the constitution. One rule change this year was to institute a penalty for any owner that leaves a player on a bye week in their starting lineup. Doing so could be considered negligence.
Me, sweating from the pressure of the No. 1 pick as the draft got started. The tension in the room was palpable.
John, dressed in a referee's uniform, built a personal ref's replay hood to protect his privacy while drafting.
During the draft, each owner gets two time extensions, for when the picks are an especially difficult decision.
Halfway through the draft, there was a break for the clown ceremony. Since the previous clown had dropped out, Tom made a puppet for him. The sign reads, 'Pain is temporary. Quitting lasts forever. I am a clown for life.'
To 'immortalise' the clown, Tom danced the puppet around the room while his nephew Danny (John's son) rang a bell. Meanwhile, other members yelled 'Shame!' referencing a controversial scene from the most recent season of 'Game of Thrones.'
The draft finished after about two hours, and steaks for the champions were thrown on the grill, thus concluding the draft.
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