The Thinking Chair

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So, last week I ended by talking about the fact that election season is upon us -- a fact not lost on anyone with access to TV, the radio, or the Internet (and you, dear reader, fall into at least the last group by the very nature of you reading this column). And because of that massive amount of saturation, this is the last place you'll find me talking about who is a better candidate, etc.

But what I do want to say is ... Barack Obama plays fantasy football. Or, at least, he did for a week by agreeing to a Rick Reilly request. (John McCain declined, though in his defense he did work football into a recent debate, which, at the least, Arizona Cardinals fans appreciated.)

Soak this in for a second and enjoy. I'm not going to link to Rick Reilly's article directly (use "The Google" and find it easily), but Obama and Reilly worked on a fantasy team (a salary cap format) for one week. Here's what impressed me -- Obama lobbied for (er, argued for) players such as Brandon Marshall and Drew Brees over Reilly's choices of Adrian Peterson and Carson Palmer. Now, in any one week, you never know -- but here's the thing: Marshall is a player that only pretty serious NFL fans know yet. This is true besides the fact that he was fifth in the league last season in receptions with 102, and currently leads the league in catches despite missing a game due to suspension. Yet, if you asked the average fan who he is, they'd probably have to think about it.

I love this. And regardless of who wins the election, I think it's worth arguing that this should be a federal requirement. Look, these are hard times -- the economy is in the dumps, we're fighting two wars, and the 49ers are a shell of their former selves. (That last one bothers everyone else as much as me, right? Right?) Wouldn't the country be better if the president used his weekly radio address not just to talk about the challenges the country was facing, but to also inform us that he was going to start the Jets defense against the Chiefs? Or that he, too, feels the pain of Tom Brady owners everywhere?

As they say, I'm just sayin'.

In my corner of the country, the week's news was that the 49ers fired Mike Nolan, replacing him on an interim basis with Mike Singletary. It's the third mid-season coaching change this year, which, well, is a lot. The other two teams, the Rams and Lions, have responded well -- as have their players from a fantasy perspective. Steven Jackson has, much like Stella, gotten his groove back. And though it was far less impressive, Justin Fargas put in a capable, workman-like effort against a stout Jets defense in Week 7. (Sorry about the last sentence -- there's a contractual obligation to use the phrase "workman-like" in football columns, and I'm way below quota.) And Javon Walker, of all people, showed up, as did kicker Sebastian Janikowski. When the Raiders can be fantasy-relevant via a coaching change, there's hope for everyone.

So what Niners should you be targeting? My gut tells me that Frank Gore will continue to be eminently startable, and that you (like all of his current owners) should simply forget about his 11 rushes for 11 yards last week. (Wow, that hurts to write.) QB J.T. O'Sullivan should cut down on his errors -- six turnovers last weekend -- so if you are in a league that deducts for things like this, that's good news. And I'd also expect the passing game to start being forced to utilize guys like Vernon Davis, Josh Morgan and Bryant Johnson while Isaac Bruce should continue to put up decent afternoons most weekends. The defense is already a decent bye week fill-in, depending on matchups, and the remaining matchups this season only have a handful of tough games for the defense, so I'd expect that to continue and possibly improve.

Moving elsewhere around the league, do you think Tony Romo is hearing it from fantasy owners to just make it clear whether he's coming back soon or in a few weeks? Romo didn't play in Week 8, and I personally don't expect him back until after the Cowboys' Week 10 bye. In the meantime, he's a game-time decision.

I loathe game-time decisions. Because here's the thing -- I used to be able to just sit with my laptop for hours before kickoff, adjusting my lineup, reading online chats and injury updates (and there's no better place to do all of that than, by the way) -- but time is short these days, and I can't always be quite as involved.

But, you know what's worse than a game-time decision? The nonsense that guys like Jericho Cotchery and Marques Colston pulled in Week 7. That's called putting up a bagel, a zero, but playing -- I scrambled to find out what injuries they'd suffered (and in Cotchery's case, there apparently was one, just not reported until mid-week), only to realize they'd played but failed to be productive in any sense of the word. And both of their NFL teams lost -- and I'd guess the same is true for their fantasy teams as well. Guys, that's not change we can believe in.

I'll throw a nod to baseball here and note that apparently all Tampa Bay had to do to be successful was change the franchise name -- from the Devil Rays to, simply, the Rays. It's worth noting that in my longtime fantasy league, one of our owners did just this last season, changing his team name mid-season and going on to his best finish ever, playing in the Super Bowl. I spend way too much time worrying about my fantasy team names, but they are one of the things that make fantasy team ownership amusing. As a native of Philadelphia, I have been rooting for the Phillies, but my true allegiance is for the San Francisco Giants, who I think may want to consider a renaming operation themselves. Sure, there's some strong history -- but why not go with Gigantos, as announcer Mike Krukow calls them? Failing that, they could sign legitimate bats to play at pretty much every position. (That would be nice.) Heck, I'll call them the San Francisco Lincecums if that helps.

I just read that, in order to appease their fan base, the Los Angeles Dodgers have tentatively offered Manny Ramirez $60 million over two years. That might play in Los Angeles, but it's not very fiscally responsible. Forget about the fact that Manny is a Hall of Fame player; I think I can make the fan base happy for 10 percent of that offer. Yes, folks -- I'm willing to take a mere $6 million over the next two years, even if it would make the Dodgers fan base happy. That's just the guy I am.

By the way, if they were remaking that Lee Majors TV show from the 1970s, they couldn't call it The Six Million Dollar Man anymore, could they? Six-billion dollars? It's hard to name a show with a title that is the average salary of a middle infielder. (And don't get me started on the remake Bionic Woman that came out last year. Rarely have I been so disappointed.)

The fantasy football season is about halfway to the playoffs, and leagues are starting to shape up. My main league just had a flurry of trades by teams trying to fix their problems to position themselves for a playoff berth. If you aren't at least looking at doing the same, you're not paying attention.

So, check out your roster and do yourself the favor of being honest about the talent level. Can you make it to the playoffs with David Garrard as your quarterback, or Jamal Lewis as your RB2? If you've been riding Matt Forte this far -- like I have -- you need to wonder if he's going to break down soon, or end up in the top 10 in rushing. My gut tells me he'll help out enough to get you to the playoffs, but it gets tough after that. These are just a few questions, and they are more about my roster than yours. The email below is for your questions, so fire away.