Why you never NEED to have an Ezekiel Elliott


I did it.

I chose troubled Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott in my fantasy football draft. It’s not just any draft. It’s a league of four. That’s me and my daughters. The league winner gets a trip with me to an NFL game.

Madison said she didn’t want Elliott and she didn’t want Colts quarterback Andrew Luck.

The reasons were different. Luck is hurt. Elliott is in a battle against a six-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy. They say he abused a woman he says wasn’t dating (not that it matters) but that evidence says otherwise.

Speaking of evidence: The league says it’s sufficient enough to warrant a suspension; the players association says Elliott’s being dealt with unfairly.

I won’t go into more specifics, because from the floor of my home, when my daughters and I drafted our fantasy football teams, all that mattered was perception. These girls once loved Tiger Woods. They all three cast him away after his troubles.

So in a league and in a sport I’ve grown up loving and passed on that love to these girls, there exists an ugly side that doesn’t stay hidden, not even in fantasy drafts.

The Parcells approach

I’ve taken a decidedly Bill Parcells approach to fantasy team management. Parcells, former Cowboys, Jets, Patriots and Giants head coach, used a numbers-driven approach. Basically, it was “what have you done for me lately?” for anyone on the team.

The final 10% of the roster? Always subject to being dropped for an upgrade.

It sounds heartless. In real life it is. In fantasy football, it’s allowed me to win with players who play for dreadful teams such as the raiders and patriots because it’s all about the points we get from these players – any players – to win games in our league.

Fantasy football allows us to learn about players not on our favorite teams or from our favorite colleges, and gives us interest in almost any game on any given Sunday.

So I decided to draft Elliott. I didn’t know the full story (who does?) or even part of it. And when the pick appeared on the screen, I had the rapt attention of all three of my daughters as – try as I might – I rarely can muster with any other tactic known to me.

You drafted Elliott?? they chimed together, and I dismissed the dismay.

He’s just a player, girls. Nothing’s been proven. The ‘en’ hadn’t been out of my mouth a full second before I could feel the slime covering my soul. How’s a dad of girls give a knucklehead like Ezekiel Elliott a free pass?

The McDonald’s incident

It had been just weeks since the McDonald’s incident.

Camdyn and I stopped in for a parfait between soccer training sessions. A band of teens hanging out in McDonald’s made fast friends with her. Among them two boys, one shy, one a bit brazen. I’d find out how brazen soon enough.

Camdyn bent over to pick up her phone charger when the brazen kid ogled her and muttered something disgusting to his friend.

Dumb kid forgot the girl’s dad sat right behind her. I had full view of what she did, what he said, and what he did. I fought the fatherly urge to launch him like a hormone-laced javelin (because laws and Buddha) and we moved to another table.

The other kids asked if they’d offended us to make us leave.

I said they hadn’t. I said He knows why we left as I glared at this kid. And then to him You’ve got to have a lot more respect than that for a girl. I also fought back the urge to blame his upbringing or TV or Disney and instead just left it at that.

The kid was embarrassed and I hoped embarrassed enough to not act that way again.

When do we forgive and forget?

People we like and love do dumb things every day.

When do we forgive and forget? Am I reprehensible for having 3Oh!3 thumbs-upped on my Pandora, given certain lyrics about women? If I choose a quote to end a post with a quote from Bill Cosby? Am I wrong to feel empathy for someone like Michael Vick?

There are things we do that define who we are; there are things we do I pray to Jesus don’t define who we are.

Whose job is it to dictate good and bad, to vilify or saint a linebacker or line cook by what they’ve done? How long is long enough to forgive? How long should we hold someone accountable? Are there deeds that can’t be redeemed, ever?

The day after the draft I picked up Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford – which is notable, because he’s a fantastic player.

It’s also notable because to make room for him I dropped Ezekiel Elliott. I dumped this guy not just to make a point to my girls. I did tell them, though. None of them picked him up off the waiver wire. I’m not sure any of us ever will.

What I do know is that when you feel in your bones whether something is wrong or right or whether it’s been too long or not enough or there’s reason to doubt or not to doubt … well, that’s about the most honest barometer out there, don’t you think?

sterne quote respect


  1. Beth says:

    Tough to say for sure. I know in the Cosby case I don’t think I can ever look at him the same and it’s a shame, that show was groundbreaking and important but I just don’t know that I can ever watch it again. You are right that we should go with what feels right inside. Good lesson for your girls.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      We need advocates during and after dark moments, Beth. You’re right though: The line sometimes crossed is a point of no return.

  2. Good for you for teaching that boy a lesson (and for standing up for Camdyn). As for the big-picture questions you asked… it’s hard, but I also have certain moral lines I will not cross. If I had an argument with a guy, I’d forgive him eventually. But if the same man did something like what Elliott is accused of, I’d have a harder time forgiving him for that. But I’ve also never been in that position… so I can’t honestly say that I’d know how I’d think or feel.

    I agree with you on the barometer part, btw. When, deep down, you know or believe that something is right or wrong, don’t question it. Ever.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      I just hope I made him feel as uncomfortable as Camdyn might have had she heard him. We all have this moral framework personal to us, with concessions for this and hard-line absolutes for that.

      You begin to look at body of work in this world. A man (or woman) can err and regret. A man (or woman) can also place him or herself in situations repeatedly that call upon abhorring behavior. It begins to become your character.

      Sometimes our instincts give us an answer we don’t like, and then what do we do?

  3. “What I do know is that when you feel in your bones whether something is wrong or right or whether it’s been too long or not enough or there’s reason to doubt or not to doubt … well, that’s about the most honest barometer out there, don’t you think?”

    ^^^^^^^ That, right up there. It’s the truth by which we all should lead our lives by. Our honest barometers know what’s right. Our bones know what’s right. And I firmly believe that if we start letting these things guide all of us, our world would be such a better place.

    Thank you for these words today, Eli.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Our instincts, Core. What if we always listened to them? Even when they steer us “wrong,” I’ll never regret following them.

  4. ksbeth says:

    i think that was an excellent move for many reasons, and most of all because it was such a wonderful lesson and move of solidarity for your daughter. i’m proud of you, eli –

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Camdyn said yesterday, “I almost picked up Elliott yesterday just looking at his stats, and then I remembered who it was.” And I’m proud that you’re proud of me, Beth, most of all.

  5. i remember a few years ago reading about an incident — a woman accused ben roethlisberger of rape, that they’d been partying at the same bar, and then ended up at another bar by “coincidence” (i put that in quotes, because i don’t believe that)… and that the incident ended with some of his guys keeping guard outside a bathroom while she and ben were in it. i don’t know what’s true. i know that from that point, i started calling him ben rapelisberger, and my loathing for the pittsburgh steelers (save for antonio brown and le’veon bell… and DON’T tell me anything negative about them, please… let me enjoy their brands of awesomesauce a little longer), intensified exponentially.

    on the other hand… i can’t stand tom brady… i think he’s a pitiful excuse for a man, but god do i love watching him play football. and yeah, i shouldn’t like him. he’s a cheater who plays for a cheater. i don’t respect him. i don’t necessarily respect the way he plays. but when he marches down that field, it’s like watching darth vader and his storm troopers… i can’t help but be enthralled.

    i’d pick aaron rodgers over him any day. every day.

    i think we allow ourselves to be swayed when we want to be swayed and prevent it when we don’t. if your girls wanted to like tiger woods, they would, no matter what his history is. if they wanted to like ezekiel elliot, they would. if you did, you would.

    there’s good in every one. there IS. there’s good in him. there’s good in that boy who mistreated your daughter. there’s even good in ben rapelisberger, though it pains me greatly to type that last one.

    i do wish, though, that the nfl took the accusations against elliott more seriously. i wish their standards with regard to treatment of women… of people in general were much improved.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Wow, what an incredible comment. I can’t believe I’m just seeing it.

      I interviewed Big Ben during that era. He was a dismissive punk during our interaction. I understand married life and maturity have had a positive effect on him. I always hope for that.

      I saw Ezekiel Elliott’s face on the sideline Sunday against Denver. He looked like a punk sometimes. Other times, he looked like an overwhelmed young man.

      I won’t disparage either Antonio Brown or La’veon Bell. They’re such incredible fantasy players. I can’t stand Pittsburgh or New England, so it’s easy to find something! I tend to hate who gives Denver fits at the moment.

      You are correct – if we want to like someone, we’ll find a way. Same for the opposite. I wonder if Camdyn watched Odell Beckham Jr. play, how she’d feel about him. He’s on her fantasy team.

  6. I so love this! Love all your questions, as I’ve asked them myself. Moving on can be so freeing. And our bones and guts are indeed our best barometers.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Thanks, Susan! There aren’t clear-cut answers in most cases, but there is usually a feel. We liberate ourselves when we move on.

      Bones and guts know so much if we’d only listen sometimes.

  7. stomperdad says:

    You are a better man than me. Had it been my daughter he did/said something to I would have stuck him on a rocket to the moon. Glad you said something to him, though. That inner barometer, our gut instinct, is right more often than not. As for those celebrities… it’s a long fall from grace.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Well, in the same situation, I bet you’d have been cool too, Eric. I would have stuck a rocket somewhere, though. I just wanted him to be uncomfortable enough to think twice next time he thinks that way.

      We just have to learn to trust our instincts.

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