We have all been able to watch the maturation of the league's second youngest owner throughout the years. From wild and crazy hockey boy who was too hungover to send in his lineups Sunday morning to drafting drunk and bashing Steve's girlfriend to a career-motivated 90 hours per week banker on Wall Street. Aceto's evolution to the YFFL pantheon has been a long and dark journey but he made it with ease in 2006. In a year in which we saw Andre Agassi retire, he himself once a rebel in the public eye, it's only fitting that an owner who has matured so similarly find himself on the league's grandest stage, Super Bowl XIV.
Sylvester Stallone couldn't have written a better "underdog" script. Down and out owner, outcast of the league, scapegoat for the AFC East's chronic struggles, perennial "Refugees are now on the clock" jokes, suddenly takes the league by storm all the way to the Championship game. As if that weren't enough, two weeks in a row he'll have to go against the clear-cut best teams in the YFFL and if that weren't enough, they happen to be owned by the reigning Owner of the Year and long time best friend, Mike Kinsman.
The Kinsman-Aceto rivalry dates back years. When the league needed comic-relief, Anthony and Mike took the stage. They played many meaningless games back when they were in boarding school struggling to find a computer with internet so they could get their lineups in. Oh yes, they were the laughing stock of the league. Fast forward five years and you could make the case that no two owners have been more successful, both on and off the fantasy field than Mike and yes, Anthony. Mike as an up and coming player in the fast and furious world of sports agency and Anthony in the "No Sleep 'Til Brooklyn" anthemed brokerage agency. Both owners have great respect for one another and that is likely why trash-talking will be minimal this week.
In the long run, the White Guys probably cost any chance Aceto had at Owner of the Year but you could make a case that no owner had a year better than Aceto. It started with the days leading up to the draft when he approached me about Rex Grossman. "Rex Grossman?" I thought to myself. "Who would want this bum? I have Mark Brunell and Trent Green and I'm about to trade for Drew Bledsoe, I'm so set!" I threw in Losman too because I couldn't keep both if I wanted to keep Doug Gabriel and Ernest Wilford. At the draft, Aceto continued his storming of the YFFL by boldly drafting Laurence Maroney and then the 5'6" Maurice Jones-Drew. Aceto was so satisfied with his draft picks that he didn't even fill out his roster to 16. He calmly said "I'll win with these 15."
Off the field, Aceto was starting to turn heads too. His forum posts were remarkably well-written and practically contained footnotes referencing the league rule book and past winter meetings. Some of us wondered if Aceto had morphed into ESPN know-it-all John Clayton. The "If Jon ever steps down as commissioner I'm taking over"-themed posts in the forum along with the unexpected organization of Jon's appreciation gift certainly have been well-received. I don't know when Anthony put down the Bud Light 30-bomb and picked up the Habitat for Humanity shovel but the league is certainly better off that's for sure.
Perhaps the most over-looked contribution on Aceto's behalf was how he single-handedly saved the YFFL from realignment. He carried the pathetic AFC East on its back as it struggled through yet another season. When the Bear $#@% gained momentum and the other owners classified the Refugees as "pretenders" Aceto stepped out and blew the Bear $#%@ out of the toilet bowl 39-18. When the Eaters and the powerful AFC West met the Refugees and the 0-for-the century in playoff games AFC East in the Wild Card round, once again it was Aceto who prevailed. This past Sunday, with the AFC East getting realigned on the line, Aceto shut the mouths of myself and others with perhaps the greatest come-from-behind victory in YFFL history.
Aceto didn't end up winning Owner of the Year, in fact, he didn't even finish second but his contributions in 2006 won't be forgotten. If you have a chance to talk to him this week, he'll tell you he isn't satisfied with this "Feel Good Story of the Year" that's been cast upon him. No, Anthony wants his first YFFL Championship now more than ever. Despite their success in recent weeks, the Refugees will be double-digit underdogs against the Chickens. However, it's incredibly eerie that this game takes place on the same weekend that the 6th installment of the greatest underdog story ever hits theatres in Rocky Balboa.