As a driving force behind the creation of the DynaBowl, Benjamin Hendy has a lot to live up to. It’s clear that the stresses and strains of such a linchpin position have started to take their toll the moment you see just how far his hairline has receded over the past 20 years. When I ask him about how he’s coping he jokes “I just wish my beard would start to go grey and cover up the ginger flecks.” Self-deprecation seems to undercut everything he says, and while he’s clearly desperate for his franchise, the Dynablaster Bombermen, to succeed, he’s also wary of raising expectations too high.
“It’s a double-edged sword,” he says, when asked about his twin roles in formulating the league and rule book and running a franchise. “I know the rules probably better than anyone else, but the time I spend working in the league central office is time I’m not spending scouting players and formulating our draft board.”
It’s lucky, then, that he’s teaming up with Dan Smith. “Yes and no. And the only negative there is that Dan won’t be at the auction. I’ll be playing the role of auctioneer and GM bidding on players. Dan is doing invaluable work valuing players and formulating strategy, but it’s all for nought if I can’t pull it off on the day.”
Ah yes, auction strategy. The start-up league requires a method for all players to be assigned to teams and the auction provides a fairer way for players to be distributed, allowing every team an equal shot at any player they wish to chase. It’s a format which is unfamiliar to most of the league members.
“I ran an auction start-up last year” confides Hendy, “Eight teams, deep rosters. I learnt a lot of lessons from the way I ballsed that up.” He allows himself a chuckle, but the implications of messing up the DynaBowl auction run much deeper. Every player will be assigned a contract and each team will be stuck with what they have, unless they can trade or draft (or more likely a combination of the two) their way out of it.
Hendy’s team in The Chatterbowl was also unsuccessful, ending up with a 15th place finish, after coming 3rd in year 1. “I had a terrible draft. Just terrible. I reached. I took too many rookies. Things went wrong right from the beginning when I kept Ray Rice instead of LeSean McCoy. I ummed and ahhed over that one and went with conventional wisdom rather than gut, which was a mistake. But then my entire draft was gut instinct and I buggered that up too.”
“But I’ve learnt an awful lot over the last 12 months. I feel that year 1 of the Chatterbowl was almost beginners luck. Like the guy at the card table who sits down and turns over aces first hand. Second year I got dealt a bad hand – I dealt myself a bad hand – and then spent the rest of the season dealing with that. I made some good trades and waiver pick-ups, I improved my draft position for this year and have a strong keeper in Gio Bernard.”
“I’ll be disappointed without a much stronger Chatterbowl showing and I expect to be able to pull together a decent roster for the Bombermen too. And Dan is integral to that.”
He places a great emphasis on that last part, making sure that it’s clear this is a team effort. Smith has been a Chatterbowl contender in both seasons and is a strong team member and it’s clear that Hendy wants to make sure those strengths are utilised.
“You can’t waste those talents. He knows his stuff. He can evaluate talent better than I can. It’s vital to ensure that, despite the 3,000 miles between us, we work as harmoniously as possible.”
And looking forward, I ask him, how have you strategised for the auction?
“We know the players we are targeting, we feel we have some values worked out. But it’s a mystery, right? We have no idea how any other team is going to play that auction. Is someone going to come out and blow $200 on Calvin Johnson [the budget is $500 for 50 players]? That’s what makes this so tough. You can’t have one strategy, you’ve got to have 10, or 20. You’ve got to be prepared for everything that gets thrown your way.”
“We know the team structure we want, we know what we’d like to spend and who we’d like to spend it on. We have our eyes on some sleepers, but in 3 months time will they still be sleepers? Who knows?”
But then that’s what this is, a journey into the great Fantasy unknown, I say.
“Aye, that it is,” he says. “That it is.”