We threw down the gauntlet; Buccaneer fans responded. We may end up regretting this decision.
The Bucs FANtasy Challenge driven by Mercedes-Benz is underway, as the league has been formed with nine impressive and confident Buccaneer fans (unfortunately for us) ready to take on the team's three Insiders: Casey Phillips, Scott Smith and Carmen Vitali. Those nine were selected from among more than 350 entrants who believed they could represent the fans in a battle of fantasy football wits…and potentially walk away with some impressive spoils at the end of the season.
The challenge: Beat our Insiders (and fellow fan competitors) in a fantasy football league run by the Buccaneers using the NFL.com fantasy system. The league will begin with a live draft held on August 22, exactly where it should be: the actual Draft Room at the AdventHealth Training Center, where Jason Licht, Bruce Arians and their assistants conduct the team's efforts in the real NFL Draft. If one of the nine fan entrants manages to top Phillips, Smith and Vitali and win the league, that person will be invited back to Bucs headquarters where he or she will receive:
- A league-champion trophy
- A custom Buccaneers game jersey
- Pregame field passes and four Mercedes-Benz Hall of Fame Club tickets to the Buccaneers game against Atlanta on December 29 at Raymond James Stadium
And, of course, the winning fan (should there be one) will also possess the single most important prize: bragging rights. We happen to think we know football pretty well, and by extension we think we're pretty good fantasy football players. We've chosen nine Buccaneers fans who think they know it better. Now it's on!
Each entry submitted for the FANtasy Challenge was judged by a panel of three based on the following criteria
- Completion of the requested information (40% of the score)
- Quality, Uniqueness and Creativity of your Entry (30%)
- Passion, Enthusiasm and relevance to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (30%)
There were many, many submissions that our judges found to be passionate and creative, enough to fill multiple leagues. Quite a few entrants chose to emphasize how thoroughly they could beat our Insiders, suggesting that the only reason they wouldn't be selected was fear on our part. Many, many others wrote about their love for the Buccaneers, and that too was persuasive and appreciated. All fair points, but in the end only nine could be selected as our most unique and enthusiastic entries.
After the nine entries with the highest scores were determined, the three Insiders each got to choose their favorite three. You can call it three "teams" within the overall league, which gives us another chance from some bragging rights. Casey, Scott and Carmen all think they picked the fans with the best chance of beating the three of them; now they will try to make sure that doesn't happen.
Below are the nine fans chosen to participate in the inaugural Bucs FANtasy Challenge driven by Mercedes-Benz, along with the case each one made to be selected, in 150 words or less. Our three Insiders will explain why each one received high scores. The entrants are presented in order of which Insider chose them as their favorites, not in the order of their final judged scores.
Jason Swinford, Naples, FL
"Being selected for a league put on by the Buccaneers would allow me to argue the importance of time that I spend playing fantasy football with my wife. No longer just "wasting time with friends" but competing with NFL analyst. Justified."
Becky Hartman, Davenport, FL
"Football is not just for the guys. And think, what better way to enjoy your Sundays with the family. That is right – fantasy football."
Christopher Hatton, Tampa, FL
"It started with me and my Dad in 1976, we never missed a game, including that glorious Super Bowl win in SD! Similarly, I've been playing FF since 1990 & have 6 fantasy championships! My passion and love for both makes this THE ULTIMATE bucket list!"
Casey's Thoughts: All three of my "teammates" mentioned family in their descriptions, and I'm a big fan of that. Of course, Jason's was less sentimental and more about winning an argument with his wife. I'm not married yet, but I know those moments are precious, so if I can assist with that, I'm all in. And Christopher mentioned this being a bucket list item, so now I've helped a someone win an argument and someone else check something off their bucket list…I'm feeling pretty productive today. And then you give me a woman saying football isn't "just for the guys?" I know I've said that same statement several times in my life so you know she had to be on my team. We may all love family, but Team Casey is also feisty.
Campbell Sears, Tallahassee, FL
"First off, I am probably the best Fantasy Football player of all time. I am a direct descendant of Blackbeard. My gameplan includes psychological warfare combined with outrageous optimism. Add me to the ticket if you dare. #FireTheCannons #Iwillwin"
Nick Russin, Tampa, FL
"I was almost fired from my new internship because I beat my boss in my work league championship last year and broke his winning streak."
Brandon Durfey, Davenport, FL
"I am a very old school fantasy football player. I was one of the pioneers, who used stats from the newspaper and a calculator to add up scores late on Sunday night. Since 1999 I have lived for fantasy football. Just hand the trophy over now #gobucs"
Scott's Thoughts: Campbell had my single favorite entry among the hundreds. Sure, plenty of other entrants went the boastful route, but he did it with flair. I find myself wondering if he's actually telling the truth about his piratical lineage, and I'm eager to see what shape this "psychological warfare" will take. Nick's entry was one of the shortest ones but it was economical…that's just good writing to tell a great story in so few words. And if Nick isn't afraid to put his career on the line in its infancy, I don't think he'll be too scared to come after us. Finally, Brandon's entry made me think of my own fantasy football roots. I, too, have been playing since the days in which you had to wait for the newspaper and tally up your scores by hand. Somehow, I was always the guy in the league who was tasked with that. We're kindred spirits, Brandon, but I'm not planning to just hand over the trophy now. See you all on August 22!
Christopher Dombrowski, Wesley Chapel, FL
No risk it, no biscuit
That's my motto in the ffb lotto
The team reporter, I'll thwart her
The demise of Mr. Smith, certainly no myth
I'll even fend off the rally of Ms. Vitali
From the doubters, you'll hear crickets, as I take home the tickets
Justin Beetz, Brooksville, FL
"If you want someone who lives and breathes Buccaneer and fantasy football I HAVE to be a part of this league. I have two children who love the Bucs who I could tell this story to for years! I would love the opportunity to compete in this league!"
Justin Morris, Tampa, FL
"If selected, I can guarantee two things: I will be in the playoffs, and my last pick will be a kicker. GO BUCS"
Carmen's Thoughts: First off, I know it was bending the rules a bit, but I had to take Justin Beetz's persistence on Twitter into consideration. Nearly every day this contest was live, we heard from Justin in some form or another about how much he wanted to be a part of this league. And you know what? He was super-polite about it, walking a fine line between being persistent and annoying that I still have yet to master, if you were to ask Scott Smith. Needless to say, Justin got full points on passion for the Buccaneers. Justin Morris (wow, I guess I like the name Justin) was succinct but had a kicker there at the end. See what I did there? Plus, I'm a sucker for a guarantee. We'll see who's in the playoffs at the end of this thing, Justin. And even if you have the name of one of *NSYNC's members, It's Gonna Be Me. Moving on - you know what else I'm a sucker for? Poems. So thank you, Chris, for bringing the heat – that poem will make competing with you that much more sweet.
See you in the war room, guys!