It builds character
Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Heartbreaking, gut-wrenching, devastating, torturous, cruel ... none of these are words you would usually associate with the game of fantasy football, unless you've actually played it.

Welcome to my glass case of emotion.

The wheels for disaster were already in motion well before Sunday. With Alfred Morris and Le'Veon Bell both on a bye, I knew running back could be a problem this week. What I didn't know was that Stevan Ridley, my reluctant backup, was going to be MIA because of a thigh injury. After missing Friday's practice, the Patriots officially ruled him out for Sunday's game against Cincinnati.

Had I known the extent of Ridley's injury beforehand, I probably would have given Willis McGahee a shot in the Thursday night game. Instead the veteran was buried on my bench, producing 13 fantasy points for no one in particular.

So with those options exhausted, I found myself on the waiver wire searching for a lottery ticket. The pursuit led me to the Rams' crowded backfield of Zac Stacy, Isaiah Pead and Benny Cunningham. I rolled the dice and took Stacy.

Hoping for a cheap touchdown against a favorable opponent, Stacy almost came through for me. The unproven rookie out of Vanderbilt piled on 78 yards before a rib injury caused him to leave the field early.

With my opponent sitting at 108 fantasy points, all I needed was three points out of Chargers kicker Nick Novak heading into the 11:35 game. Of course, Novak had a 37-yard attempt blocked early in the third quarter and finished with just two points.

The point I needed could have come from anywhere. The Denver defense that finished with -3 points versus Dallas. The two yards needed for Stacy's eighth fantasy point. But they never came.

I had only myself to blame. By switching in Novak for Niners kicker Phil Dawson, I sealed my own fate. After scoring a combined seven points in the last three weeks and ranking 29th at his position, I sent Dawson packing in favor of Novak, who should have been a home run against Oakland's famously inviting defense. Predictably, Dawson exceeded expectations by posting ten points against the Texans while Novak hit a brick wall, or in reality a pair of hands.

At least a tie is better than losing, right? Well, not exactly.

In the league I compete in, there aren't any ties. When two teams finish with the same total, the victory goes to whoever has the most bench points. With half of my team injured or on byes, my only hope now is a 19-point effort from Falcons halfback Jacquizz Rodgers on Monday night.

As painful as this loss will be, it may not even be my most crushing defeat of the weekend. Going toe-to-toe with my cousin Nick in the now legendary Pantuosco League, my dad gave me some depressing news on Sunday morning. His text message read, "I heard no Calvin Johnson today."

Stunned by this revelation, I turned on the television to see if it was true.

When it was, my heart sank. This news forced me to plug in benchwarmer Dwayne Bowe as my second wide receiver.

Bowe finished with three fantasy points. Megatron had averaged just under 18 fantasy points a game in his previous three contests.

But even without Johnson, I still had a chance, which makes my team's ultimate downfall all the more painful. Needing just five points for the win, the 49ers were deep in enemy territory. Frank Gore was three yards away from punching in his second touchdown of the day.

And that's when coach Jim Harbaugh set fire to my team's hopes and dreams. He took Gore off the field in favor of backup Anthony Dixon.

When Dixon didn't go anywhere on his first attempt, I thought for sure Harbaugh would call on Gore to deliver the knockout blow on third down. But there he was, helmet off, watching from the sidelines. The Niners eventually settled for a field goal while I threw things at my television and said words not suitable for a fantasy column.

As brutal as this Sunday was for me, someone, somewhere has had it worse.

Take my brother for example. A few weeks ago when we played each other, he decided to bench Victor Cruz in favor of Philadelphia wideout DeSean Jackson.

On paper it looked like the right play. It wasn't, Cruz (10 catches, 164 yds, TD versus Kansas City) outscored Jackson by 19 fantasy points. The final score: 99-81.

You can't make this stuff up. Back in Week 1, I rolled out Mike Wallace in the flex (one fantasy point) while Jared Cook tormented the Cardinals from a seat on my bench (24 points). I lost by three.

Perhaps my most embarrassing fantasy experience came when I was in college. Needing a win to wrap up a playoff spot, my team pulled out a clutch two-point victory to send me to the postseason. Instead of accepting the outcome graciously, I decided to rub it in my opponents' face. I posted a relentless video on the message board, gloating over my win.

Except I didn't win. I woke up Tuesday morning to find out that I had lost by one point because of a stat correction. Awkward, embarrassing and deflating to say the least.

Trust me, this weekend only scratched the surface. For all of my fantasy triumphs, I have had just as many debacles. And you probably have too.

But we're making memories, right? And that has to count for something.

As Calvin's dad in Calvin and Hobbes used to say, "It builds character."

I built a heck of a lot of character this week.




Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Jesse Pantuosco at jpantuosco@sportsnetwork.com.