In this country, we believe in the American Dream. In the playoffs, it does not matter if you're a top seeded team, or a scrappy wildcard bunch. Everyone has a chance at glory, as long as they get hot at the right time.
Ranked sixth, with a 6-7 regular season record, nobody gave "Hernandez's Cleaning Crew" a snowball's chance in hell to win the 'ship. In fact, with a negative point differential, it was probably a miracle that he got in to the playoffs in the first place. Alas, Frank Stracke's team did make the playoffs, and his reward was a matchup against the hottest team in the league. Sal Rinaudo had regularly outscored his rivals in the regular season. In the wildcard round of the postseason, "The Flexecutioner" put up 114 points, more than anyone else in the league. Everyone else in the league, except for his opponent, Frank Stracke. Scoring just 86 points per week during the regular season, Frank's 121-point output was seen as a statistical aberration; he was lucky to be moving on. However, what some may call "luck", the fantasy gods called "destiny". Frank took down the #2 seed in the semi-finals, and then he defeated Charlie by 21-points in the title match.
Stracke proved that the underdog can have his day atop the mountain, and as his reward, I sat down with Frank to ask him what it's like to be the King of the World.
Frank: Thank you for the congratulations. It is evident that I had a tough time in the regular season, whether it was a lack of quarterback efficiency, or total mismanagement. I think I acutally gave up hope around Week 9. I didn't realize until the start of the playoffs that I had somehow managed to sneak my way in there, like (Ben Roethlisberger) in a bar down south. I pretty much mailed it in when (Aaron Rodgers) went down.
Sal: Big Ben is pretty sneaky, that's for sure. Who would you name as your team's MVP? Are there any moves you regret making throughout the season?
Frank: In regards to team MVP, as much as I can't stand anyone in the NFC East, I would have to say it was between (Demarco) Murray or Dez (Bryant), on the Cowboys. (Ryan) Matthews played well down the stretch in San Diego. I think my only regret was not drafting a better suited, backup quarterback, but in the 2nd half of the season, the Steelers protected Ben (Roethlisberger) and he had some of his better games of the season.
Sal: As a loyal Ravens fan, it must pain you to say those kind words about Big Ben. When we were matched up in the first round, I obviously expected a victory. After your upset, did you realize that you may be the team of destiny?
Frank: For years, we have had our friendly banter about my Ravens and your Patriots, dating back to Algebra I (Editior's Note: It was geometry, because I took Algebra I in middle school) in high school. After joining the league, I decided to make one of your ex-favorite, felonious players the inspiration for my team name. Originally, I had my team pegged as the, "Attleboro Assassin", but ESPN Hernandez'ed that moniker. Despite the Ravens choking down the stretch, at least I was able to obtain some payback by knocking you out of the playoffs.
Sal: Glad I could help, Frank... During our draft conversation, you mocked Joe Pa for drafting Moreno in the second to last round. Moreno was one of the most productive players in all of fantasy football this season. Do you have anything to say to Joe Pa?
Frank: Joe, from the bottom of my heart, I apologize. All I can say is, that was a steal. I believed that was the steal of the draft, and mocked you. Little did I know, that Hillman and Ball would have fumblitis all year long. Touche, sir.
Sal: That was pretty sincere, man. I'm sure it'll help ease his pain. Despite the league being lopsided, it seems that everyone participated and continued to set their lineups throughout the season. If you were commissioner next season, what would you do to improve the system?
Frank: If I were commissioner, I would think about proposing the league have some type of financial incentive. In all honesty, everyone loves money, so why not add some incentive for people to try their best (and hopefully not tank by mailing it in, or forgetting to set their lineups)? Furthermore, if that was a real possibility, it could be interesting to see a pay-for-player implementation. I am referring to waiver wire players, and free agents. Perhaps $2 for someone off the waiver wire, $4 for a free agent. That would add a little bit of spice to things. Also, it would be fun to see the draft order be a result of the standings. Have last place pick first, as well as being allowed 1 keeper.
Sal: Rewarding last place? That's pretty liberal for you, Frank. I'm sure our excellent commissioner will take your ideas into careful consideration. You alluded to your team name earlier. Do you think there is a correlation between a solid team name and winning? Who had the worst team name in our league?
Frank: Worst team name: 336 Mafia. Does he hail from North Carolina? Yes, I took time to look that up if that was the route he was going (area code). Otherwise, is he just a fan of Three 6 Mafia? If so, does anyone know if they have actually produced any music since the time we were in high school?
I certainly think having a clever team name goes hand in hand with success. It is along the same lines of looking good. If you look good, or have a team name that sounds good, success will come to your doorstep.
(Editor's note: please check out this link for clarity on Josh Sroka's team name)
Sal: I thought Josh Sroka's team name was fairly clever, but this isn't my interview. Moving on, who do you think will be the top pick in next season's draft?
Frank: If I had the first pick, I think I would have to go with Manning. He has put up unworldly numbers the past 2 seasons, and as everyone knows, the NFL is a passing league now. I say that, despite enjoying old school, ground and pound football.
Sal: Those days of Deuce Staley and Jerome Bettis are long gone,but that's besides the point. Too often, champions get complacent with their success.What will you do to avoid a Super Bowl hangover?
Frank: Getting to the top isn't the hardest; staying at the top is the real challenge. The only way I think I would get a Super Bowl hangover, is if I were actually drunk, or hungover during the draft next season. Funny story about this season: I was actually drafting while celebrating a friend's 21st birthday. I don't know if she was too happy that I was focusing more on fantasy football than her. Oh well, winning takes sacrifice.
Sal: Is there anyone that helped you accomplish everything? Anyone you would like to thank?
Frank: Since I must dish out some thanks, I would like to thank anyone who forgot to play players all season long, poor team mangement, or anyone who had players stumble...like Alfred Morris. Let's be honest, the Oompa Loompa (former Redskins' head coach) hates running backs, unless their name is Terrell Davis.
Sal: I see what you did there...Whatever. I can't take much more of this grandstanding. Since you have the hot hand, it would be wrong of me not to ask for your Super Bowl picks. Let me have them, Champ.
Frank: Umm, Super Bowl predictions... it's pretty wide open. Obviously, you have the favorites, Seattle and Denver. However, a logical person can see that each team is flawed. The htotest teams in the NFL are the 49ers and Panthers, who face one another, so that one will play their last game on Sunday. The Chargers are hot. Rivers is finally leading the team, and he rocks a bolo tie. If one thinks the Chargers would be a crazy pick, they've held the Broncos under 30 points twice this season. Only one other opponent has done that.... (Editor's Note: Frank went on to talk for 46 minutes about different playoff scenarios. Strangely enough, he did not select a Super Bowl team in that time. The rest of the interview has been stricken. You're welcome.)
Sal: I would like to thank Frank, and congratulate him on a great season. Hopefully, next year we'll be able to give him some competition. Thanks to everyone who participated, and good luck next season.
Sal Rinaudo is a member of the OBP Podcast. Want more Sal? Follow him on Twitter.