It’s time to remove the training wheels and win a title

Don’t ask me how, but the other day in the newsroom we were discussing ‘The Color Of Money’, the pool-hustling movie of the ‘80’s with Paul Newman and Tom Cruise. In one of the most important scenes, Fast Eddie Felson (Newman, who won an Oscar for this role because he had never won before and everyone felt bad for him) tells Vince (Cruise)  that he’s taught him his final grifting lesson and basically tosses him out the door  to fend for himself.

This is where I am for you this week.

I’m forcing you to go out on your own and take on your own personal Grady Seasons (who for you is your opponent this week). It’s a “non-fantasy advice, fantasy advice” column as we head to Christmas, and you head to your championship matchup. Why am I doing this? Let me explain.

It’s not that I’m worn out from a season of fantasy, it’s actually quite the opposite. I’m lamenting that we only have a couple of weeks left. No, the reason this is a non-advice, advice column is pretty simple.

You know everything you need to about the fantasy season until this point.

Follow me here. There’s two kinds of owners who are still alive right now:

1. The guy who says “I can’t believe in my first season of fantasy football I haven’t made any free agent moves and here I am in the championship!” This is also the guy who, walking down the street, has a piano fall from three floors up and land ten feet behind him. Of course, he doesn’t realize it because his iPod is as loud as it can go and he strolls on merrily about his day, singing “Rolling in the Deep” under his breath. These owners just defy everything we try to accomplish in fantasy,  so we throw them out. And they’re not reading this anyway, because they’re shopping online and leaving their lineup the same it’s been since Week 5 – including having open spots during byes but because the computer drafted Aaron Rodgers, Victor Cruz and Reggie Bush for them, they’re still undefeated. Again, they don’t count.

2. You. You’ve seen all the trends, you know how the players have been playing. You know what to do with your lineup. It’s OK, you can take the training wheels off. This doesn’t mean you throw everything out the window – if you have injury concerns or need to know if anyone’s resting as teams get closer to clinching things, that’s what we’re here for. It’s what we get paid to do. But those lineup tweaks? Trust me, you know what to do. You’re playing for a championship, which means you’ve done a great job navigating all the potholes you’ve faced in 2011. You’ve listened to the experts and you think like we think.

Here’s another example: My daughter just turned three this past weekend. And as I read her stories to put her to bed on Saturday, she wanted to sleep with her new Mrs. Potato Head and clutched it like she would a teddy bear as she drifted off. This was the moment I realized that I wanted her to be three years old forever. At the same time, I know she’s eventually going to make decisions for herself and become her own person, which is how it’s supposed to be.

Eventually, we all have to fly.

Now it’s your turn to fly. And here’s my two big things I’d like to tell you in a non-advice advisory way before I send you off to your title game.

If you’re playing for a championship, enjoy this week. Enjoy the nervous feeling you get when you look at your matchup against your opponent. Enjoy daydreaming about your No. 1 running back going for a 30 burger (which Elliot Harrison swears is a saying, but I disagree), and you win by so many points you’re popping champagne on Christmas Day and boring your family with words of your fantasy title.

“Pass the ham, dad. And speaking of passing, did you see Eli Manning yesterday?”

Don’t stress out because your opponent’s quarterback has the greatest matchup of the season. What’s going to happen is going to happen, regardless if whether or not you stress over it. You have no control. My best friend tells me that all the time. I’ll say ‘I’m really worried about Player X’ on so-and-so’s team, and he’ll tell me that and I’ll get back to level ground.

The second thing is this –  if you’re really, really, really, really unsure what to do at a position, ask yourself this question: If I leave this guy on my bench and he goes off for a huge day, will I be lamenting that all off-season? The player you WON’T ask that question about is the one to sit.

Good luck, we’re all counting on you.

As it turned out, there were no more lessons that Fast Eddie could teach Vince, as Vince became a successful pool shark in his own right. And for my money, it’s really hard to pull off a scene in a film that features characters singing along to a song for an extended length of time. But Cruise’s ‘Werewolves of London’ riff is in the top five music scenes of all-time.

His hair was perfect.

See Jason Smith on “NFL Fantasy Live,” airing Sundays at 11:30 a.m. ET on the “NFL RedZone” channel, and Tuesday-Friday on NFL Network at 2 p.m. ET and 12 a.m. ET/9 p.m. PT. He writes Fantasy and other NFL pith on daily. Talk to him on Twitter @howaboutafresca. He only asks you never bring up when the Jets play poorly.

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