The train pulled into the station at Chenati, India. Its final destination would be Dehli, so there were many aboard. Businessmen with important appointments at Connaught place. Families planning picnics in scenic Lodi Garden. A desperate band of violent thieves looking to snatch jewelry from passengers. Teens planning to hit the shopping scene of Chandni Chowk.
Also on the ride was Arunima Sinha. Sinha was traveling to her entrance examination for the Central Industrial Security Force, India’s version of armed police. The 23-year-old woman was looking for a career change, her job as a national volleyball player wouldn’t last forever. No-doubt distracted by her plans, she didn’t notice when one of the robbers approached her and tried to clutch her neck.
They wanted her gold chain. However, Sinha was an athletic force, and attempted to fight off the ambush. Unable to subdue their intended victim, the gang instead pushed her out of the moving train.
Sinha hit the ground hard, and lay there stunned. She was in great pain, and there was a peculiar thumping coming from underneath her. Horror dawned as she realized the rhythmic pulsing wasn’t her back screaming in pain, but vibrations from the tracks on which she lay. Another train was coming, but Arunima was helpless to do anything but watch it bore down upon her with the force of my friend Steve when Ryan Mathews is called (look, this will make sense, later).
At the hospital, Sinha needed a rod put in her right leg to support all of the shattered bones. This was the good news, as her left leg needed to be completely amputated. But, one thing left intact was her resiliency. While lying in her hospital bed, Arunima Sinha made a shocking decision that would shape her entire life.
More on that later.
In terms of fantasy football auctions, the metaphorical equivalent to “getting pushed out of one train and run over by another” happened to my friend Steve in 2010. Steve is the best fantasy football player I know, but he has a problem that hinders him in almost every auction: He has giant tells.
2010 was the rookie year for Ryan Mathews. A vaulted running back out of Fresno State, Mathews had been selected 12th overall by the San Diego Chargers. The fit seemed perfect: This was relatively the same Chargers squad that made Ladanian Tomlinson the greatest fantasy asset of all time, and Mathews’ skill set seemed just right for him to produce similar backfield success. However, he was a rookie, and his early 2nd round price tag made many drafters uneasy.
I’m sure I’ve mentioned it, but I’m in an auction that has been going on since 2001. On a scale of 1 to 10, our competitiveness level rates somewhere around “Tonya Harding.” We take this stuff seriously. So, we were all eager to see how the closed market would value Mathews, however things took a very odd turn. When Mathews’ name was called for nominations, we hear a loud, rhythmic thumping from somewhere in the house. It was Steve barreling up the stairs from the bathroom. Rushing to the auction table, he leapt into his chair, and smiles leapt on to the faces of everyone else. Steve was going to bid on this guy. Hard. And everybody at the table knew it. Steve was the kind of guy to just bid until he got a guy. As a group, we don’t usually play price police, but it was too much of a sure thing not to bid Mathews up. He ended up going for $60, which is top 5 player money in a $200 auction.
Having already spent almost 1/3 of his budget on a guy with zero professional snaps, Steve made one more key mistake. Bidding on Brett Favre had gone 23-24-25-26-27. Hoping to scare off bidders, he jumped to 35. This had the opposite effect, the other players figured that if he was willing to jump $8, surely he wouldn’t mind bidding a few dollars more, and pushed him all the way up to $40. That’s $100 spent on two players. One of whom would finish as QB28, the other (Mathews) wound up RB32. That’s a pretty big waste of half your budget.
But the point of this anecdote is not to ridicule Steve, believe it or not, but to celebrate him. Steve also had resilience. He worked the waiver wire and got two top 12 quarterbacks, trading one for a top 12 RB. At a time when he could’ve given up, and no one would’ve faulted him, he redoubled his efforts.
He managed to sneak into the playoffs, and won the whole thing.
The point of me relating this, as you may have guessed, is to buoy those of you who may have had sub-par drafts and auction disasters. Sure, your initial team can pave the way to a fantasy championship if managed well, but that doesn’t mean a bad starting squad dooms the owner to basement-dweller status. If someone can waste half their budget in a high-end competitive league and still take the title, so can you. And yes, I’m including those of you who spend $60 on the wrong David Johnson.
While lying in bed, her right leg newly missing, Arunima Sinha resolved to become a mountain climber. Just two years later, she climbed Mount Everest. Now, I know, winning your fantasy league is a much bigger achievement than climbing some mountain. So, next time you find that you’re feeling sorry for yourself about your draft fails, slap yourself so hard your leg falls off.