Welcome to the inaugural Sly Awards where we will be recognizing the most amazing and maddening performances of the 2011 fantasy football season. Why the Sly Awards you ask? Because Sylvester Stallone kicks ass and I just watched First Blood again last night (and Galt might be the most under-appreciated villain ever to grace the big screen (have you ever been so happy to see a middle aged guy fall out of a helicopter to his death?)).
Without further ado, live from the 10th floor of a nondescript apartment complex in the Lion City:
Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot Award (recognizing a season that was a disaster): PEYTON HILLIS
OK, this award could have easily been named the Oscar Award, the Demolition Man Award, the Judge Dread Award or the Over the Top Award. It is important for people, especially performers, to know their range. What could have been going through Stallone’s mind to convince him that staring along side a gun-totting Golden Girl was a good idea (to be honest, who am I to judge? I am in my late 30s, a father of two and a corporate drone who just went eight months without cutting my hair and then grew a mustache (which was less Magnum PI and more Vote for Pedro)–I am sure there were quite a few people questioning my decision making)? The best thing about this movie is that it is less than 90 minutes long. This season saw many top 25 selections succumb to the injury bug (see: Johnson, Andre; McFadden, Darren and Manning, Peyton), which can’t be held against them, and no one completely imploded a la Larry Johnson in 2009 when he was cut by the 3-12 Chiefs after gaining only 377 yards. That said, the 2011 Madden Cover Boy lived up to the Madden Curse. After churning out 1654 total yards and 13 TDs in a fairy tale 2010 season, Hillis only mustered 717 total yards (and 3.6 YPC) and 3 TDs this season while playing 10 games and demanding to be paid like a star. Hillis just played himself out of a lot of money and caused much angst for owners who selected him with a top 25 pick. Honorable Mention: Rashard Mendenhall
The Expendables Award (what could have been): KENNY BRITT
Cool English dude: Check
Asian tough guy: Check
Real life bad ass Randy Couture: Check
Pretend real life bad ass Stone Cold Steve Austin: Check
Hell, even the buff dad from Everybody Hates Chris, Randy “The Ram” Robinson and John McClane were in this movie. This film should have rivaled the best that Hollywood has ever produced; instead, we got a lame story with buffoonish characters (Couture’s character’s name was Toll Road–that’s when you know someone just threw up their hands and said “forget it, I just don’t care anymore”). What a shame, much like Dirty Britt’s season. Rutgers’ first ever first round pick had a busy offseason–he was charged with three offenses following an alleged car chase with the 5-0 in April and was then arrested in Hoboken less than two months later for resisting arrest. But things soon brightened for Britt and his fantasy owners. After Goodell opted not to suspend him at the start of the season, Britt erupted for 271 yards and three TDs in the first two games. Everything was aligned for a huge, break-out season, then disaster stuck in the form of Rahim Moore, whom Britt tried to dodge in the third game of the season and tore his MCL. Needless to say, Britt was on the Cereal Killers this year.
Rhinestone Award (doing the best with what you are given): STEVEN JACKSON
Rhinestone was destined to be a big bust, and even the awesomeness of Stallone couldn’t adequately support Dolly Parton’s large presence (I know, I know, I am really going for the low hanging fruit here). Jackson suffered the same fate this season. We might as well just give him this award for the next few seasons right now unless the Rams can beef up the O-line and bring in some receiving threats (Lloyd was a nice addition). In the year of the quarterback and with a former number one pick under center, the Rams managed only nine passing touchdowns (Brees threw for that many in just the last two games of the season). It is amazing that Jackson was able to gain 1145 yards on the ground and 1478 total. Welcome to the nine man box next season, Mr. Jackson. Honorable Mention: MJD
Lock Up Award (to the player whose last few games made the season worthwhile): C.J. SPILLER
To paraphrase former Vikings and Cardinals coach Denny Green, “this movie is what we thought it was!”–you know what to expect with this genre and Lock Up delivers. I think casting a prison drama has to be one of the easiest jobs ever. You just need to fill a combination of the following roles: sadistic/morally corrupt warden, sadistic/morally corrupt guard(s), stern, yet compassionate guard, psychopathic inmate, large loveable inmate, new fish, mole and, of course, the upright citizen serving a questionable sentence. While this movie is generally solid (although, like most movies in this genre, it relies heavily on predictable story lines like prison gym violence, cheesy male bonding and escape attempts with double-crossing inmates), the ending truly rocks. For Spiller owners, watching him breakout for over 300 total yards and 3 TDs during weeks 15 and 16 en route to being the highest scoring RB during the fantasy playoffs must have been almost as satisfying as watching Leone put Drumgoole in the electric chair.
Victory Award (best reward on low expectations): MARSHAWN LYNCH AND CAM NEWTON
A soccer/POW escape movie, set during WWII (and not staring Lee Marvin), with Sir Michael Caine CBE and Pele? No way am I watching this genre blending bastard. Add Stallone? OK, why not. In the end, much to my surprise, Victory was really enjoyable (although Stallone’s goaltending left a bit to be desired). Going into the season, many pundits advocated staying away from this year’s Victory Award winners. Lynch was viewed as a washed up RB playing behind one of the worst O-lines in the NFL and Newton was a rookie quarterback who many thought would hold the clipboard for Jimmy Clausen. Yet, as Victory has taught us, sometimes what looks like crap is in fact gold (which is also the case with Lynch’s teeth). By the end of the season, Lynch was the fifth rated RB (and he scored every non-bye week from week 4 through 16) and Newton was the third rated QB (who ran for a QB record 14 TDs!!).
Rocky Award (breakout player of the year): VICTOR CRUZ
In 1976, Stallone, who only six years prior starred as “Stud” in The Party at Kitty and Stud’s, burst onto the scene portraying one of Hollywood’s most iconic characters, Rocky Balboa. I am going to refrain from writing about Rocky as I truly believe that I cannot give justice to this film with mere words (maybe one day I will do an interpretive dance showing how this movie captures the meaning of life). Just as many movie buffs probably had never watched Stallone before Rocky (other than for roles in some minor films like Lord’s of Flatbush and Death Race 2000), I had never heard of Cruz until his week 3 2 TD, 110 yard performance. Cruz came from nowhere to star in the NFL’s biggest market with his 82 catch, 1536 yard and 9 TD season. Just as Stallone was perfect for the role of Balboa, Cruz was a perfect fit for the G-men’s offense with his solid route running, dependable hands and ability to make big plays. Honorable Mention: Gronk, Graham and Newton
Now the point in the ceremony we have all be waiting for…drum roll please…
Rocky IV MVP Award (most valuable picture/most valuable player): AARON RODGERS
Not only is this Stallone’s finest achievement, but Rocky IV may be cinema’s greatest triumph (if not the greatest, it is on a short list along with Gone With the Wind, Shawshank Redemption and Ghostbusters). The plot arc was superb, with a stirring denouement that arguably lead to the collapse of communism (c’mon, it is more than a coincidence that four short years after a battered Rocky Balboa declared to a once hostile Soviet crowd that “if I can change, and you can change, everyone can change!” the Berlin Wall came down (and don’t believe the hype, Hasselhoff had nothing to do with it)). The characters and their development were fantastic. Drago represented all that America feared about the USSR: he was a big, powerful, unfeeling, single-minded machine created to do one thing–destroy what ever is in front of him. Yet, by the end of the film, he becomes a sympathetic figure who was used by an abusive, self-serving system that cared solely about perpetuating its appearance of dominance. Our beloved Rocky faces his own crisis of confidence, as Adrian’s lack of support causes his world to collapse as he prepares for his biggest challenge. Ultimately, it was the one thing the Russians could not inject into Drago that allowed our All-American hero to be victorious and that, my friends, is heart. Plus, Rocky IV lays claim to the most kick ass soundtrack ever (save for the lame song coming out of Paulie’s equally lame robot). It doesn’t matter where I am, if I hear the training montage, I have to find a cart full of people so that I can do some shoulder presses and then off to find a mountain to conquer–DRAGO!! THIS. MOVIE. IS. AWESOME. And, as much as it pains me to say it, so was Rodgers’ season. While Brees ended up with more TDs on the season, Rodgers’ performance through the first 16 weeks was superior. He scored at least two TDs every week and lit it up with 5 TDs week 16. I must add, the best thing about Rodgers’ season is knowing that, just like me, he and the rest of the Packers will be at home watching the Super Bowl–take that cheeseheads!! Honorable Mention: Brees