Guest Post and Excerpt: First and Goal by Laura Chapman

When Harper Duquaine’s no-nonsense approach to work unintentionally ruffles the wrong feathers at her new job, she joins her co-workers’ fantasy football league to prove she can hang with the guys. Only problem: she doesn’t know a sleeper from a keeper (or any of the other lingo thrown her way). 

Embroiled in a world of lineups, stats, and trades, Harper’s quest to make nice topples when her competitive streak emerges. And her promise to herself that she’ll be a strong, independent woman and leave the drama and heartache behind is seriously tested when she catches the attention of her two biggest competitors: J.J., a local celebrity determined to win a fantasy championship, and Brook, the mild-mannered coach who seems too good to be true. Both threaten her resolve to remain single… and, more importantly, her chances at winning the prize pool. 
With a slew of conflicting advice in her real and fantasy worlds, Harper must figure out how to play the game and come out a winner. 

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My Five Greatest Fantasy Football Fears
 Since publishing First & Goal, my latest novel about a young woman who gets caught up in the world of fantasy football, I have had a lot of questions about what prompted me to write this story. I’ve written about this a lot, but here’s the gist: A few years ago I joined a fantasy football league. I quickly discovered that just the game itself—and not even the potential hoopla surrounding the people who play it—comes with a lot of drama. So naturally I was consumed with ideas of how to write a story with a fantasy football background.

I’m now in my fourth season of playing fantasy football. I’ve learned a lot through the years—though apparently not enough to be crowned the champion of my league (I’ve come close twice). But what I’ve learned most is what can go wrong when you set out to be the victor. The game can change in a flash, and your once perfect season can turn into a major disappointment.

I miss my fearless days of managing a fantasy team. Now my worries about what can go wrong often fuel me to make the wrong decisions. I overthink instead of going with my gut. (But I guess my gut isn’t always right either.) If you ever set out to run your own team, I hope you’ll be like the old me who was confident and fearless. And to save you the trouble of worrying about your team, I’ll do it for you right now by sharing my five greatest fantasy football fears.

1. Something bad happens to your quarterback.
In my experience, your quarterback is one of the most consistent and quantitative point earners on your team. I’m spoiled in that I’ve traditionally had Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning on one or both of my teams, but even in other seasons, I’ve come to count on this player as someone who will routinely earn me anywhere between 15 and 30 points in one week. But sometimes bad things happen to good players. Aaron Rodgers (who wasn’t my QB that year) spent most of the 2013 season on the bench with a broken collarbone. Peyton Manning was out a whole year while he recuperated from major surgery. This year, I drafted Andrew Luck—who was supposed to be one of the top three QB picks of the year—only to have him out injured for multiple weeks. It’s a huge, sometimes irreplaceable blow to your team to lose the one player you can count on the most.

2. Your number one draft pick gets injured.
This is similar to my number one fear, but it usually involves a top tier running back or wide receiver. Unlike your old reliable quarterback, some of these flashy players are hit or miss. But when you pick someone as your number one pick, you’re typically building the rest of the team around that position. That’s why it’s particularly painful when that person is out with an injury. This happened to me a couple of years ago when my number one pick Calvin Johnson (Mr. Megatron himself if you like) was out for a few games, which nearly blew my games. And this happened again this year when not one, but all three of my top picks were out with injuries. If I ever figure out how to come back from that kind of a blow to your confidence, I’ll let you know.

3. One of your starters turns out to be a giant turd.
Look, football players are humans just like us. And sometimes they make stupid decisions just like us. And other times they do incredibly awful things that make you question everything. You probably have an idea of what I mean if you’ve watched the news at all in the past couple of years. But sometimes these players are punished and they aren’t allowed to return to the game (or even live anywhere but prison). And sometimes they’re still out there playing every week. While I know of some people who have no qualms with cheering for players who have run into trouble (or maybe just turn out to be really big jerks), I haven’t found a way to do that. It grosses me out to imagine cheering for someone I can’t stand, which tends to limit my draft pool.

4. Someone on your bench plays the game of his life.
Do I even have to explain why this sucks so much? I mean, not only is it terrible to lose out on all of those points, but you don’t even get to wonder what could have been. You know because a) you can do math and crunch the numbers for yourself or b) you get the weekly recap from Yahoo, and they tell you just how stupid you were to leave that player on the bench. Ouch. Thanks for kicking me when I’m down.

5. Bye weeks.
Ugh. As I write this, I’m experiencing a bye week nightmare. A great deal of my talent is taking a week off to recuperate—and I’m happy for them—but I’m not left with many other players to earn me points. I mean, maybe I could have avoided this fate if I’d planned ahead better, but I’m just not that smooth. I fear weeks like this where I just don’t have many options. It’s nice to have choices.  

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While I dig through piles of green and yellow shirts, I call my younger brother, Christopher. I need advice before the draft. I may not be in this for the glory of victory or the money, but I don’t want to embarrass myself by coming off as an idiot.
His sleepy voice answers a second before it goes to voicemail. “What’s going on?”
Not wasting any time, I explain the situation. After giving him a minute to get the laughter out of his system, I tell him what I need from him. “I need a crash course in drafting a team.”
“Why do you care if it isn’t about winning?”
He snorts. “Fair enough. Do you have a pen and paper?”
My hands freeze on a long-sleeved green and yellow rugby style shirt. “Not on me. Should I grab some?”
He busts out laughing again. This time I struggle to stay patient while he pulls himself together. “Can we get through this?” I ask. “Today if possible?”
“Calm down, BK.”
I glare at the pile of shirts. “I told you not to call me . . . that.”
“Technically, you told me not to call you—”
“Don’t even say it. And don’t pretend saying BK is any different.” I walk over to a rack of jerseys. “Tell me your ‘rules.’”
Christopher clears his throat and begins. “Rule number one: Don’t draft a kicker or defense until the last few rounds.”
“Why not?”
“It doesn’t matter if they show up as the highest-rated available player or if someone else makes a grab for kickers and defenses early. It’s a wasted pick. The guys in your league will make fun of you for the rest of the season if you do something so amateurish.”
Noted. Saving myself humiliation is the primary objective.
“Number two,” Christopher continues. “Don’t try to draft every player from your favorite team.”
“Why not? The Packers are good.”
“Yeah, but what happens if they have a bad week?”
I feign mock outrage. “Are you actually suggesting our beloved Packers would have anything less than a perfect season? What would Dad say?”
“Trust me on this one, Harper. Your Sunday . . . or Thursday or Monday will be a million times worse if you’re dealing with a Packers and fantasy loss.”
“Okay, avoid drafting the entire Packers starting lineup. Got it.” I’m going to have to do some fast research to find out who else I might want on my team. Basically, all the players I know are in Green Bay. “What’s next?”
“Have you found out what pick you have?”
My eyebrows furrow in confusion. “Pick?”
“Where are you in the draft order?”
Oh. “Fourth.”
“The first three people have selected the top three running backs in my mock drafts.” I want to ask what he means by ‘mock draft,’ but there’s no time. “You can have a little fun with being fourth, but I say you should take the Pope. You’ll impress the guys in your league.”
“Who’s ‘the Pope?’”
“John-Paul Massa. An underrated but totally badass running back.”
“Massa it is.” I stare at the Chad Baker jersey in front of me. “When can I draft Baker?”
“No sooner than the second round, but try to hold off until the third. You want to make sure you get a solid wide receiver, and they tend to go fast after the top six running backs are off of the board.”
“But I want Baker.”
“He’ll be around,” Christopher assures me. “And if things get hairy during your draft, you can always text me.”
“Is there a fourth rule?”
“Yes.” He clears his throat again and hesitates. Content with my clothing selections, I walk toward the checkout line. “My fast and final rule: Don’t let the guys seduce you into giving them the best players.”
My gasp of outrage draws attention from the person standing in front of me. I dart an apologetic grin, before hissing at my brother. “Why would you even go there?”
“Harper, you’re smart and driven.”
“But . . .”
“You’re an idiot when it comes to men.” He releases a heavy sigh. “Maybe it’s because deep down you’re a sweet person or maybe you’re too trusting, but you have a talent for giving it up to douchebags.”
I want to argue back on principle. I am a strong, independent woman, who doesn’t need a man to succeed. But, a glance back at my dating track record gives Christopher’s commandment some weight. Maybe I should tell him I’m a new woman after what happened with the last guy. Instead, I thank him for his advice and pay for the new football gear.

    About the Laura
Laura Chapman is the author of First & GoalThe Marrying Type, and Hard Hats and Doormats. Her work also appears in Merry & BrightA Kind of Mad Courage, and All I Want For Christmas. A native Nebraskan, she loves Huskers and Packers football, Netflix marathons, and her cats, Jane and Bingley. Laura is currently in pursuit of a fantasy football championship while penning her next novel.

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  1. Thank you for kicking off the tour!

  2. Thanks so much for featuring FIRST & GOAL on the blog. I had a lot of fun writing this scene and putting these fears together. :)

  3. I've seen this book around and I have to admit it sounds really good ;) Thanks for sharing!

    Zareena @ The Slanted Bookshelf