They were a lowly bunch. A 1-12 season rarely breeds much confidence. They couldn’t win. They couldn’t compete. They barely remained relevant. Scorned by their constituents in the Pearce Fantasy League, the 2009 Compton Honkies were a disgrace to fantasy football. Only one team — the Covington Tsunami — was kind enough to roll over and die for the Honkies, bestowing upon the CPT a gift in the form of their only victory.
They entered the offseason with zero expectations and little hope. The league was getting stronger, while they were getting weaker. Their owner had mitigated the Honkies’ future by trading away draft picks during a failed run at the 2008 PFL championship, a quest for immortality that was halted with a title-game loss to the Bitter Lake Bastards in the vaunted Pearce Bowl. That very same man then compromised even more draft choices by attempting to salvage the 2009 campaign when everyone could see that the year was a lost cause.
He was not stupid, this man, so much as he was passionate. He loved his ballclub unconditionally, and never was content to let his players hang their heads. He talked their game when they failed to walk it. He instilled faith in them when no one else was by their side. He wanted the best for them when they didn’t know what the best was. He was brash, bordering on cocky, but he truly believed in his players and his franchise. He was nothing if not devoted. A consummate optimist, even in the face of extreme pessimism.
Part II: The Stage
The game was to be a cake walk. It was the 2010 season opener. The visiting Tehran RoosterIllusion, PFL champions the year prior, taking on the cellar-dwellers in Compton. The Honkies were lucky to open the new year at home, but would it even matter? A notoriously tough place to play in years’ past, Compton Stadium had grown quiet in 2009. Fairweather fans had abandoned their team. Death threats had rained down on the owner. A loss was to be expected, but the few supporters who remained loyal to the black-and-gold colors of the CPT wouldn’t stand for defeat. They had been through too much already. They demanded a victory. Their owner pledged it to them.
He was mocked, of course. Mercilessly. By everyone. Including his Week One foe, Peter Lawrence, mastermind behind the team from Tehran. No one gave the Honkies or their blustering owner a chance, least of all the opponent. And make no mistake about it. Lawrence and the RoosterIllusion were more than worthy of their lofty status as reigning PFL conquistadors.
You see, while the CockMirages were winning games in ’09, they were simultaneously stocking up on draft picks by shrewdly pawning off unnecessary spare parts to desperate, playoff-thirsty teams. All the maneuvering left Lawrence with a bevy of early-round draft selections in 2010. By the time that game day rolled around, Tehran featured a starting lineup that included Chris Johnson, Andre Johnson, Randy Moss, and DeSean Jackson, among others. They stashed the likes of Knowshon Moreno and LeSean McCoy on the bench. They were a force to be reckoned with and the odds-on favorite to take home the 2010 PFL crown.
And then there were the Honkies. Despite the proclamations of triumph from their owner, things looked bleak in Compton.
To counter the star-studded roster of the RoosterIllusion, the CPT trotted out a ragtag bunch of misfits who were simply happy to be playing fake football. Sure, they had Tom Brady at quarterback. But beyond Brady it was a crapshoot.
C.J. Spiller was the flex. Hines Ward and Percy Harvin held down the receiving corps. Jason Witten manned the tight end slot. The Arizona Cardinals defense and special teams would contribute, and Lawrence Tynes would handle the kicking.
Beanie Wells was to be the featured back, but he was ruled out prior to game time. In a last-second desperation move, the owner of the Honkies placed Wells on injured reserve at precisely 12:28 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time on Sunday afternoon. The team then snatched veteran Willis McGahee off the free agent scrap heap and immediately plugged him into the starting lineup.
If Compton was to live up to their owner’s promise and win, it would be a team effort by a patchwork staff of employees. The deck was stacked against them. But they never had any doubt.
Part III: The Legend
One day, many years from now, they will look back on this game and refer to it as the moment when underdogs the world around were blessed with hope. David versus Goliath this was not. Goliath had nothing on Tehran. David had nothing on Compton. This was something more, something greater, something more meaningful. This was sports in all its Strat-O-Matic glory. Fantasy football on a day when reality seemed to take a back seat.
Was it a dream? Was it a myth? Did it even happen the way they say it did? There will be debate. There will be rumors. There will be stories passed down from generation to generation. But rest assured that the truth lies in the ensuing paragraphs. The game they deemed the greatest upset in fantasy football history went down like this.
Part IV: The Game
It started slowly. Percy Harvin notched just one fantasy point in Thursday’s early game, failing to live up to his projected output of 14 points. Compton’s 1-0 lead lasted 48 hours. If nothing else, that lead, however slim, should have been seen for what it was: an omen.
On Sunday morning, the balance shifted to Tehran. By early afternoon, RoosterIllusion running back Chris Johnson had exploded for 29 points. The Steelers defense/special teams chipped in another eight points. All of a sudden, Tehran had 37 fantasy points from two sources.
But alas, not everything was going as planned for the RoosterIllusion.
The standout receiving trio of Moss, Andre Johnson, and Jackson was a veritable non-factor. The three pass-catchers combined for a measly 11 points.
Then there was tight end, Jermichael Finley, he of ridiculous preseason hype and a made-up first name. Finley managed just four points, further endangering Tehran’s supposedly-easy victory.
And finally there was Kevin Kolb, the RoosterIllusion’s ill-fated starting quarterback. Kolb had mustered zero points before he was hit hard, concussed, and then removed from Philadelphia’s game against Green Bay. He would not return to action, thus guaranteeing a goose egg at the position for Lawrence and his band of previously-merry men.
Tehran was floundering quickly. By Sunday evening, once all the day’s games had come to pass, the alleged juggernaut had mustered a mere 52 total points. With only kicker Nate Kaeding left to play on Monday, things were suddenly looking bleak for the reigning PFL champs.
In Compton, the mood was considerably brighter. The day started out promising when Brady produced a 22-point outpouring of fantasy love. The fans in Honky-ville hadn’t seen a performance like that in years.
Ward joined the party with 11 points of his own, providing a ray of hope for the Compton faithful.
But as was the case with Tehran, this matchup was not to be won easily. Spiller ensured that by matching the total points scored by the RoosterIllusion’s Kolb. At tight end, the usually-solid Witten eked out just two points, putting the Honkies’ owner on suicide watch for the time being.
Yet then the tide turned once again. The Cardinals defense/special teams, taking on the lowly St. Louis Rams, exploded for 16 points. And Lawrence Tynes, the Giants kicker, emerged with seven points of his own.
As Sunday came to a close, Compton — little Compton — held a 59-52 lead over its counterpart from the Middle East. The news was wholly unprecedented. And with only one player on either side left to take the field, it would come down to the Honkies’ McGahee and the RoosterIllusion’s Kaeding to carry their respective teams the rest of the way.
Of course, it wasn’t even supposed to be McGahee. It should have been Chris “Beanie” Wells. But Wells got hurt and changed everything. Never had so much pressure rested on the shoulders of the Ravens’ aging tailback. Compton’s hopes and dreams lay squarely in his arms. He had been a part of big games before, but this was quite possibly the biggest of them all.
Kaeding, on the other hand, was all nerves. He had ended the 2009 campaign on a low note, struggling to connect on his kicks in the playoffs. He was still one of the highest-rated fantasy kickers for 2010. But a rating means nothing when the game is on the line.
Compton needed McGahee to put the matchup out of reach.
Tehran needed Kaeding to knock down at least a couple field goals.
McGahee and the Ravens had the early Monday night game. The ex-Miami Hurricane received little opportunity with feature back Ray Rice getting most of the touches. In his reserve role he would carry the ball six times for a grand total of -2 yards. He would catch one pass for a loss of six. In fact, he would have actually cost the Honkies fantasy points if not for one divine intersecting of the moon and the stars at the end of the second quarter. It was then that McGahee — forever hailed as a hero in Compton — vultured a touchdown from the starter Rice, rushing from one yard out to get himself back into the black and bump the Honkies’ fantasy points up to 63. The 11-point lead seemed insurmountable. It would take a Herculean effort from Kaeding to overcome this deficit. An effort that Tehran would not receive.
In the late Monday night game, Kaeding’s Chargers would score two touchdowns. He would convert two PATs. It was all the scoring he would achieve. The RoosterIllusion totaled 54 fantasy points. Nine shy of forcing a tie, ten away from a win. It was over. The once-lowly Honkies had toppled the behemoth. The day, the night, the week was theirs. Bedlam ensued.
Part V: The Aftermath
When the final horn sounded, the party began in Compton. It was absolute mayhem. Cristal flowed like water. Boom boxes blasted the team anthem, Straight Outta Compton, by NWA. Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg stopped by. The ghost of Eazy-E appeared. The streets were decked out in black and gold, and it had nothing to do with the Latin Kings. Bloods hugged Crips. Crips hugged Bloods. World peace, at least in this microcosmic dot on the map, had been achieved.
Honkies owner Alex Akita, the man who had promised his fans and his team so much, who had been criticized and crucified, who had fought like hell to bring his ballclub to heaven, took the podium and addressed the Compton faithful. He gave an impassioned eight-minute-long speech. There were cheers. There were tears. There was laughter. Pride oozed from the audience. He talked of the past, of the present, and of the future. He emoted the pain of the losing season a year prior. He remembered the good times and, yes, even the bad times. He saluted his worthy adversary from Tehran, Peter Lawrence. He praised his ballclub, calling out each individual by name, then bringing each player on stage for a round of applause.
When it was all said and done, the mood had been altered in a city once more renowned for gang violence and Chuck Taylors. Compton, for the moment, belonged to the Honkies.
It was the epitome of the upset. The Little Engine That Could huffing and puffing its way up the mountain. Appalachian State over Michigan. The U.S. hockey team trumping the Soviet Union. Compton besting Tehran. They would hail it as the most significant victory in the history of the Pearce Fantasy League, but it was more than that. In a world where outcomes are often predetermined, often anticipated, often expected, this triumph was more than just a notch on the belt of the oppressed. It was the greatest upset in fantasy football history.