SBD/November 8, 2012/People and Pop CulturePrint All
The popularity of the NFL and fantasy football has never been higher, and FX’ “THE LEAGUE" attempts to capture the essence of the fantasy football player and all that it entails, albeit in a somewhat dysfunctional way. The sitcom, which airs at 10:30pm ET on Thursdays and is currently in its fourth season, revolves around six friends, their everyday lives and their fantasy football league -- and the lengths they will go to win the league. MARK DUPLASS plays Pete Eckhart in the show, and the New Orleans native recently talked about his childhood love of the blocking tight end and his real-life commitment to the fantasy football lifestyle.
Q: Who is your favorite NFL player?
Duplass: To me, that’s like asking me, like, favorite movie of all-time. I could go by category easier. My favorite all-time player is a little bit obscure but it’s HOBY BRENNER. He was just the solid workhorse, the completely unsung hero of the NFL. The current favorite for me is probably WES WELKER just because he doesn’t get all the credit in the world but he is the kind of guy that makes the team go around.
Q: What was your favorite team growing up?
Duplass: Always the Saints. In fact, when I was growing up it was during our terrible years where we went 3-13 for about five years in a row. I don’t know if you remember "The Bagheads" -- I think it played into my love of underdogs everywhere, which is what I like making in my movies.
Q: What sports event would you most like to attend?
Duplass: This sounds crazy but I have never attended a college hockey game. I’ve been to see the Kings but I hear this lore of just like there’s this special quality to the teams when they’re in college. We’re heading up to Maine for Christmas and I’m going to check out (the Univ. of Maine hockey team).
Q: Are you involved in a real fantasy league?
Duplass: We have an eight-team league with the whole cast and crew of "The League" that we play off-camera. We actually all play together. It’s not our teams that are represented on-camera but we have our separate league. The league is just called "The League of The League." My team is called "The Cob Eaters" and if you watch Episode Three of this season, you’ll get the reference. I only started when we started "The League" because I’m pretty much a workaholic and I do a lot of different things, so I don’t have a lot of time. I also know I have an addictive personality, so I’ve stayed away from it because it would suck up all my time. But then I was like, “You know what, I really need to start playing this so I can seem somewhat educated on what I’m talking about on the show.”
Q: Do the writers try to incorporate current NFL injuries and storylines into episodes?
Duplass: We improvise every line of dialogue on the show because there are no scripts. It’s just an outline and then improvise everything from there. In terms of how we handle the season is we make what we feel are solid guesses and then we shoot a couple of versions. For instance, there are those players that tend to just get injured halfway through the season. What we do is we shoot the backs of everybody’s heads and then if we got it wrong we loop it and we fill in what’s really happening based on what’s going on. It’s a lot of work but it pays off to stay up-to-date.
Q: Is there a “fantasy football quality control person” who monitors the football dialogue to ensure authenticity?
Duplass: The knowledge comes from (co-Creator, Exec Producer, Director & Writer) JEFF SCHAFFER, who is up there with (ESPN's) MATTHEW BERRY in terms of fantasy football knowledge and prowess. That said, he has never won our league, which is the most hilarious thing.
Q: The show has featured many high-profile players and owners, including ROBERT GRIFFIN III, JASON WITTEN and JERRY JONES. Are they now clamoring to be on the show or does the show have to reach out to them?
Duplass: The first season was a lot of groveling and begging, and a lot of NFL players saying, “Who the hell are you?” Then the show kind of picked up steam and now it’s really wild to see the players who love the show and want to come on. This season in particular we’ve actually had an embarrassment of riches and we haven’t even been able to accommodate all the people that want to come on.
Q: Has anybody ever declined to appear on the show?
Duplass: Oh yeah, of course they have! I won’t use their names but let’s make no mistake about it. Those who come on this show know that they will be ridiculed and embarrassed and made fun of, and that is why this show is funny. Some of those players are smart enough to know that they should stay away.
Q: Among the players and owners who have appeared on the show, who was most natural in front of the camera and who struggled?
Duplass: FELIX JONES is goddamn natural. He and Ruxin (NICK KROLL's character) started lighting into each other and he was better than a lot of us in terms of just digging into Ruxin because Ruxin’s hard to beat in a verbal duel. That was really, really impressive. Most of the people that have come have been really good. I think what it is, if you want to do it and you’re excited to do it, you’ll probably be good at it.
Q: Is there any NFL personality you want to be on the show?
Duplass: I would love to just see what BILL BELICHICK is like and see how he would react if someone was making fun of him. In particular, these coaches with these huge egos who are so powerful and everybody always listens to them because they’re the bosses, I would like to put them in our bar and see what happens to them.
Q: Are there any legal issues involved with the NFL and does the show work with the league in any way?
Duplass: There are legal issues and most of these probably won’t be that interesting to your readers. But let’s say the NFL knows who we are and we know who they are and we have a nice and healthy, copasetic relationship. But the NFL is very smart and very protective of their brand and it’s family-oriented, and "The League" is not a family-oriented show. So we are integrated but we are not so integrated.
Richard Childress Racing promoted RICK PENN to VP/Business Development (RCR)....The Royals yesterday announced Coordinator of Cultural Development SAL ARTIAGA has retired after three seasons (Royals)....German TV channel Sport1 Program Dir and Editor in Chief ALEXANDER RÖSNER "has resigned from his positions with immediate effect." Rösner, "who resigned at his own request," will be replaced by the channel's football Dir OLAF SCHRÖDER (QUOTENMETER.de, 11/7).
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SI.com's Ian Thomsen wrote "amid the polarization of America there is one outcome on which we can all agree ... BARACK OBAMA's re-election is a victory for basketball." Basketball will "continue to be more prominent because he is in the White House." The sport had "stood last in line and largely neglected among presidents for the last century." The "larger goal now for Obama is to emulate the champions of the sport he loves." He needs to "somehow pull together the talent around him and create a sense of team" (SI.com, 11/7).
AUCTION BLOCK: Basketball HOFer OSCAR ROBERTSON's jersey from the '60 Rome Games and his '64 NBA MVP trophy will be available in an online basketball auction beginning Nov. 14. Fellow HOFers DAVID THOMPSON and SAM JONES will also have memorabilia in the auction. Jones' collection includes his '59 and '69 NBA championship rings. Thompson led North Carolina State Univ. to the NCAA championship in '74 and his "ring commemorating that is among the 49 lots from his personal collection" (AP, 11/8).
NAMES: A's VP & GM BILLY BEANE was named Sporting News' MLB Exec of the Year. Beane was "presented with the award" last night at the league's annual GM meetings. It is the first time Beane has won the award (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 11/7)....Blackstone Group is "seeking to block subpoenas from former [Dodgers] owner FRANK MCCOURT's ex-wife, JAMIE MCCOURT, in her bid to set aside a divorce settlement." Jamie McCourt, who "claims her $131 million settlement is unfair, issued subpoenas that seek information related to valuation of assets" (N.Y. POST, 11/8)....CBS has “given script orders for ‘THE CLUB,’ a comedy set in the golf world.” The show “revolves around a flamed-out bad-boy golf pro and the out-of-control employees at a country club who are forced to change their ways when the owner brings in a no-nonsense woman to run the place” (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 11/7)....Tour de France winner BRADLEY WIGGINS has been "left with rib injuries and a dislocated finger after being hit by a van while out training" last night. The injuries "are not thought to be serious and he is expected to make a full and speedy recovery" (GUARDIAN, 11/8)....CAA Sports has signed Bengals OT ANDRE SMITH. Smith, who was formerly represented by ALVIN KEELS, will now be represented by CAA Football's BEN DOGRA (Liz Mullen SportsBusiness Journal).
VIEWING FOR DURHAM: The family of ESPN Radio NBA announcer JIM DURHAM, who died earlier this week, will “receive visitors during a viewing" Sunday at 2:00pm CT at Salem Lutheran Church’s Old Parish Hall in Rose Hill, Tex. Funeral services will be at 10:00am CT Tuesday at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago, with burial in Prairie Dell Cemetery near Watseka, Ill. Charities “designated by the family for memorials include the V Foundation, the American Red Cross disaster relief fund and Chicago Bulls Charities” (CHRON.com, 11/7).