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WHAT HAPPENS when you gather almost 30 Minnesota Twins players, coaches, clubhouse workers and friends and ply them with burgers and Bud Light as they conduct their fantasy football draft? A night of endless trash talk and raunchy (but often gut-splitting) banter, only some of which meets the editorial standards for these pages. And if no one had regularly screamed at Joe Nathan's team to hurry up and pick, they all might still be there.
The idea was simple: Sit in on the Twins' Aug. 20 draft, two hours after the team had beaten the American League Central-- rival Chicago White Sox 7--3, and document the high jinks that ensue. The affair was held in the "VIP room of VIP rooms," according to the hostess at Trocaderos restaurant in Minneapolis, with food and drinks paid for by CBS SportsLine, the site the league uses to manage its season. "Open bar?" Twins manager Ron Gardenhire asks upon hearing the news. "I'll just take a keg."
There are 12 teams in the league, officially called the Bobby Dorey Fantasy Football League after a Twins clubhouse worker from the 1980s, one of the league's founders (in '82). Among the franchises are the Blasters, owned by catcher Joe Mauer, first baseman Justin Morneau, outfielder Jason Tyner and rightfielder Michael Cuddyer; the Plugs ( Gardenhire and third base coach Scott Ullger); and the C's (outfielder Josh Rabe and pitchers Johan Santana and Carlos Silva). Suffice it to say that the names of the Blasters, Plugs and C's have been shortened for reasons other than brevity.
The grand prize? A trophy and bragging rights--and nothing more, the participants say. That's their story, and they're sticking to it.
At 6:45 p.m., 45 minutes after the scheduled start time, righthander Brad Radke's team (Hi Rollerz) kicks off the 13-round draft by taking the Chiefs' Larry Johnson. Three picks later the upstate New York--raised Nathan, one of five owners of the Dumb Dumbs, confers with his partners and chooses the Giants' Tiki Barber. The needling starts immediately. "That must have been Nathan's pick," says third baseman Nick Punto, co-owner of Blue Steel with outfielder Lew Ford. "A New York guy."
The first two rounds, which speed by in most drafts, are moving a little too slowly for some. "Holy s--- farts," Rabe says as the Dumb Dumbs debate their second selection. "Hurry up!"
To end the second round, Radke's team selects Bengals receiver Chad Johnson. Instantly, jeers erupt. Punto jumps out of his chair and starts throwing Tiger Woodsian fist pumps across the room. Screams ring out that the Hi Rollerz should lose the pick. Punto then tosses a yellow paper napkin, weighted with a mint to impersonate a football referee's penalty flag, at the Rollerz. Immediately Radke and his co-owner, clubhouse employee Rod McCormick, realize their error: Johnson has already been picked. "Why don't you take Peyton Manning!" someone shouts. The Rollerz settle for Chester Taylor.
In the next round Gardenhire takes Lions receiver Roy Williams, which draws a "Nice pick" from Rabe, a rookie who has played in only one game in eight days. Punto, who by now has taken on the role as official referee, throws the flag again, this time at Rabe. Punto quiets the room, then says, "Rabe said 'Nice pick.' He's just trying to get playing time." People howl. (Rabe would be sent down to Triple A Rochester three days later.)
The rounds continue to move at a glacial pace. Perhaps it's the alcohol or the young blonde waitress in a skimpy black skirt that's barely more than a rumor, or the difficulty that comes with deciding among so many players of similar caliber. It's obvious, though, that the main culprits are the Dumb Dumbs, whose unwieldy membership--four relievers ( Nathan, Jesse Crain, Willie Eyre and Matt Guerrier) and clubhouse employee Nate Reese--has made it difficult for them to reach a consensus. "Where's [Dennys] Reyes and the rest of the bullpen?" shouts Morneau. Someone else adds, "Jesus, they have too many cooks in the kitchen."