Axe Elf - A Retrospective

Now that the SuperBowl is over and the casuals have gone back into hibernation for the summer, it’s time to put the wraps on another successful Axe Elf fantasy football season–and, as it turns out, on a whole lot more than that. Those of you diehards who are already planning your first fantasy drafts of 2024 deserve to be the first to know, because it will mean more to you who are intimately familiar with Axe Elf than it will to those who have only heard the whispers.

But I don’t want to get ahead of myself…

First of all, get your "Thank You, Axe Elf!"s out of the way now–did I kill it in 2023, or what?? Raheem Mostert, Zach Moss, Adam Thielen… just about every sleeper who carried a team through the year came from Axe Elf–and of course way back in the preseason Axe Elf gave you the TE who was worth more in Championship Weeks 16 and 17 than Travis Kelce–Mike Gesicki–so as usual, you’re all welcome!

As you know, though, Axe Elf battles not against mere flesh and blood, but against the very gods of irony and retribution themselves, so largely through being cursed by too many good players to choose from each week, coupled with the slings and arrows of outrageous scheduling fortunes, Axe Elf cashed in less than half of his managed leagues AND less than half of his Best Ball leagues this season, which I’m sure will come as a bottomless fount of amusement to all of the ubiquitous haters out there. Heck, I didn’t even finish in the top 5,000 in Yahoo’s postseason Champion of Champions tournament this year! On the other hand, I did win half of my Consolation Brackets, and correcting for all the games in which I had the points to win on my bench, but the guy I started instead got hurt on the first play or something, my Corrected Overall Record™ was 72-42 on the season, finishing at .500 or better in every league.

That’s awesome, but it’s not all about Axe Elf. Just judging from the rotisserie of player talent from which I was choosing each week, one can only imagine that any of you who followed Axe Elf’s drafting lessons this preseason enjoyed a similar level of success–and that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? Your smiling faces hoisting aloft your Championship Trophies while chanting “Thank you, Axe Elf!”–THAT is what Axe Elf always remembers about every fantasy football season, not how many leagues he personally dominates (although, there is that).

But this year, a new enemy has arisen to face Axe Elf–or perhaps I should say an old enemy, one that can never fully be defeated, even though I might have won the first round of battle to send my life into overtime.

If I had lived at any other time in history other than in the past 50 years, I probably would have died before I turned 48. But I got a two-minute warning at the age of 47 in 2010; a series of heart attacks that apparently had passed themselves off as heartburn eventually led to a Saturday morning 3am trip to the emergency room, diagnoses of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes–and an emergency triple bypass open heart surgery scheduled for Monday morning. I was in the hospital awaiting surgery over the Hall of Fame Game weekend that August, and I watched the Cowboys and the Bengals open the season on the Sunday evening before my surgery, wondering if it would be the last football game I ever watched.

The triple bypass ended up only being a double bypass, since part of my heart was already too damaged to hold a graft, but it was good enough to give me a 12-year overtime period–a “fifth quarter” to my life, so to speak.

But this past fall, I haven’t been doing too well. I have zero stamina; walking across the house makes me pant and get tightness in my chest, and my legs feel more like blocks of wood these days anyway. I wake up to throw up about half the mornings, and once again, as I approach the end of my 60th year on Earth, I wonder if I have seen my last football game, now that Mahomes and the Chiefs have brought another Super Bowl Championship to my home town.

That achievement axually marks the culmination of another high water mark in Axe Elf’s storied history of calling longshots–being on record at FFToday saying that the Chiefs would win three of the next five Super Bowls, sometime after Mahomes’ first season as a starter.


Now it would be nice to see if they could do what has never been done before by winning three in a row, but at this point, I really don’t know if I will make it to next season–and if I do, I don’t know if I will make it to the end of next season–but I’m really ok with it. After decades of being a football fan living in the land of football futility that was Kansas in the 20th century, the Kansas Jayhawks, the Kansas State Wildcats, and the Kansas City Chiefs all won their final games in what could be my last season of my favorite sport. No sports fan could ever go out happier.

And that’s why, after exactly 30 years of dominating fantasy football from 1994 to 2023, I think it’s time to draw a line under the career of Axe Elf, and let someone else take on the role of the World’s Foremost Authority on Fantasy Football.

I’m sure there will be "Dread Pirate Axe Elf"s that pop up here and there–I’ve already been cloned on a few boards already–but don’t be fooled. Even if I make it to next season, the most I would do would be to play some daily fantasy or something. I’m drawing a firm line on participating in season-long leagues, right here, right now. And as much as I want to give you some hints of who you should be looking to draft next season, the line is that much thicker if I don’t. I don’t want there to be any of the Axe Elf legend to linger into next season; the 30 year line needs to be drawn. So if you see “Axe Elf” playing in season-long fantasy leagues next year, or giving advice on a fantasy football site–it ain’t me.

Having now retired, I plan to post this notice to whatever communities still allow Axe Elf to post on their sites, and I’d like to spend the rest of this announcement looking back at my memories of all of you.

(To be continued below…)

(…Continued from above)

I don’t even remember what my first league in 1994 was called, but I think I must have signed up for it through a fantasy magazine or something, because the Commissioner was in New York, and there were members all across the country, but it was still all offline–scored by USA Today stats, and we’d get a hard copy league newsletter by US mail on Thursdays–and thus my first draft was conducted via a landline conference call.

Axe Elf’s first (ever) overall draft pick was Oilers’ QB Cody Carlson, at something like 1.04, but I redeemed myself with Chris Warren in the 2nd round. When I lost Week 1, I had a high Free Agent priority and picked up the undrafted Terance Mathis, who had just had a pretty good first game for the Falcons after coming over from the Jets–and he went on to have like 1350 yards and 11 TDs on the season. So even from the very beginning (well, not the VERY beginning, but after that Cody Carlson pick), Axe Elf was pulling studs off the scrap heaps.

1994 was also the year we first signed on to AOL, so this was also the year that the name “Axe Elf” was born–it was initially a name for my first wife and I to share on AOL. “AXE” stood for “Animal X Enterprises” (I was “Animal X” in college because I went everywhere barefoot and had a bleached blond streak in my hair, like a skunk) and “ELB” was my wife’s (maiden name) initials, so she went by “Elf” a lot growing up. Plus we both liked heroic fantasy, so it seemed natural.

By the time 1995 rolled around, “Axe Elf” had pretty much grown to be my own online alter ego, and I had gotten deeply involved in AOL’s fantasy football community. Chef919, Snoopy98, CARLRHORN, Jetzz1993, MNSports83, Nagle2998, Cowboy1288, dang, I know I’m forgetting a whole lot of you!

That core group of AOL fantasy football fanatics was probably around 25-30 strong there for a few years, and that was the nexus of the online fantasy football community over the back half of decade that invented online communities. Since of course we all knew that we were the best of the best, we had to settle it on the field, and the PUSUFFL (Put Up or Shut Up Fantasy Football League) was born. Obviously, 25-30 people is too many for a single league, so we had a farm system of 2-3 total points-based “feeder leagues” that you had to join first, and if you finished in the top 3-4 of a feeder league, you moved up to participate in the main PUSUFFL league proper, which operated on a head-to-head basis instead of total points. Each team cost $25, and I held all the money, first establishing Axe Elf as the cornerstone of fantasy football integrity among the online community way back in the days when shady commissioners were causing the formation of sites like LeagueSafe to protect league members’ fees. “You’re in good hands with Axe Elf,” they always used to say to reassure newcomers. Of course, Axe Elf participated in the Main PUSUFFL league each and every season of its existence.

There was another league that grew out of the AOL fantasy football community in the late 90s; a bunch of us who wanted to do an auction league. But at that time, there was no software or platform to do auction leagues. So Axe Elf created a spreadsheet that tracked player purchases and owner monies, and we nominated and bid on players in an AOL chat room, using ? for “going once,” ?? for “going twice,” and !!! for SOLD, tracking everything on the Excel spreadsheet. That league lasted four or five years, but from then on, Axe Elf did auction drafts whenever possible, and probably helped to hasten the arrival of online auction draft formats through his influence at various sites.

As Chef919’s Arizona Fantasy Football Association grew to nationwide prominence through recruiting several of its new members from the PUSUFFL, Axe Elf was himself drafted into the AFFA by the year 2000, assigned the duties of Treasurer for that league as well, and promptly won the league’s next Championship. As the outgoing champion, Snoopy had to buy Axe Elf an NFL jersey of his MVP, and my white #28 Marshall Faulk jersey still hangs proudly in my closet to this day–a symbol of my everlasting dominance over a formidable early rival.

Meeting the members of the AFFA in person at Caesar’s/Bally’s in Las Vegas while Hurricane Katrina was pounding New Orleans in August of 2005 (and getting a hummer from the mother of the gal I had been flirting with online at the time) was by far the highlight of my AFFA tenure–I still have that t-shirt signed by all attending members, too!

Axe Elf remained the treasurer of the AFFA until 2006, but also ran roughshod over the rest of the online fantasy football community in the early years of the new century, establishing his now-legendary dominance in the game.

The year 2000 saw another landmark in the developing mythos of Axe Elf, the Shut Up and Draft Fantasy Football League (SUDFFL) on Fantasy Sports Wire. This was my first message board home outside of AOL, a now defunct fantasy football message board that I frequented enough for its other members to develop a burning itch to beat Axe Elf at his own game. While the PUSUFFL and the AFFA were created to compete against some of the best fantasy football players in the country, the SUDFFL was created to compete against Axe Elf. You’ve probably heard the saying, “If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best.” The target for making a name for oneself in fantasy football was clearly shifting onto Axe Elf’s back.

The SUDFFL was a 14-team league with premium QB scoring; I had the 14th overall pick. I was also the last team to select a QB; with 7.14 and 8.01 I drafted has-been Vinny Testaverde and second-year QB Jeff Garcia, predicting that they would combine for 8000 yards and 50 TDs for my team that season–to cacophonous laughter, of course (this was back when maybe 2-3 QBs per year would hit 4000 yards passing). Axe Elf won the league, and Testaverde and Garcia combined for 8010 yards and 52 TDs that season, solidifying Axe Elf’s legendary ability to defy the fantasy odds and pick winners from the scrubs.

The owner of the Fantasy Sports Wire site also made a $200 bet with Axe Elf regarding some aspect of Daunte Culpepper’s performance in his first year as a starter–which was Axe Elf’s first taste of losing, but I probably gained more in terms of reputation when I paid off that bet than I would have if I had won–and I probably wouldn’t have been paid off if I had won anyway! The owner made a big deal out of being paid–“You know how you make a bet with people online and nobody ever expects to be paid? Well, Axe Elf actually paid off his bet!” which was great in terms of further establishing Axe Elf’s integrity, but it made me wonder about his intentions if I had won. And I kinda felt good about losing; he said he used the money to buy some textbooks for his college classes at ECU, so at least it was for a good cause–and Axe Elf is nothing if not the eternal philanthropist.

Fantasy Sports Wire was also the first board that Axe Elf led to victory in the Interboard League, a mega-league of representatives from 8 different fantasy football message boards. Several years after Fantasy Sports Wire went under, I found the Fantasy Live Wire board, and brought them an IBL Championship too. That board also folded after a couple of years and I found Sports Outlaw, where many of my old Fantasy Sports Wire teammates had settled, but the ungrateful wretches kicked me off their IBL team halfway through the season–after I had already guided them in the expert crafting of their teams–so that Championship was kind of an absentee victory–but still fully creditable to Axe Elf’s preseason prescience. After that, the IBL kind of got together as a group and decided they wouldn’t let Axe Elf compete any longer, because it gave whatever board Axe Elf was playing for an unfair advantage. I mean, 3 for 3 with 3 different boards? By that point, the reputation of Axe Elf as a fantasy football wizard was fully established.

(To be continued below…)

(…Continued from above)

Moving back and forth to and from (ironically enough) Phoenix Arizona (home base of the AFFA) from 2006 to 2008 ultimately caused my retirement from the AFFA, as well as almost all other leagues for a couple of years. On the plus side, I was in Phoenix for the SuperBowl following the 2007 season, where the previously undefeated Patriots fell to the Giants (though I didn’t attend the game), and then in 2008 the Cardinals themselves went to the SuperBowl, so I picked a good couple of years to be in Phoenix–but the adventure ended up costing me a lot of time and money that I therefore did not have to invest in fantasy football as much as I had been–but I kept my hand in it a little each year, just to stay in practice.

And that brings me back to that 2010 Hall of Fame Game that I watched from my hospital bed. Thankfully, I made it through surgery the next day–because that was the year Axe Elf spent most of August on bed rest recuperating and joining fantasy football leagues–and that was the year that Axe Elf unleashed Arian Foster on many an unsuspecting foe. Given a new lease on life and raking in several leagues’ worth of prize money again–Axe Elf was BACK, baby!

I must have discovered daily fantasy games through FanDuel in 2011. I had enough beginner’s luck at that site to be fairly interested in the format for a couple of years, but once there started being “sharps” at it I went back to focusing on season-long fantasy. I still do the occasional daily game if there seems to be some anomalous pricing on some good players or something, but it’s not the moneymaker for Axe Elf that season-long leagues had come to be. For a while, I was investing $1000-$1500 a year in season-long leagues and cashing $2500 to $4000 on the reg–but it’s never really been about the money; I’ve never done a league with more than a $250 entry fee. And yet, the money comes…

2013 was a pretty impressive year, even for Axe Elf. For starters, that was the year I discovered Best Ball auction leagues at RTSports. I entered 11 leagues and cashed (1st or 2nd place) in 8 of them; to this day no one believes I posted a .727 winning percentage in my first season doing best ball leagues–but that’s Axe Elf for you, making the impossible commonplace.

By 2013 I’d also had enough time at the LuDawgs site and the Huddle message boards to have a league’s worth of people frothing at the mouth to give me their money in each community, so more challenge leagues were formed. Like the SUDFFL before it, the LuDawgs league was a 14 teamer–I want to say there was a $25 entry fee, but most importantly, the site owner pledged to pay Axe Elf (and Axe Elf alone) an additional $200 IF Axe Elf won the league. (You can see it coming now, can’t you?)

It was all the more sweet because Adrian Peterson was the overwhelming consensus #1 overall pick in every fantasy football draft in the country that season, having just rushed for 2097 yards in 2012–but Axe Elf drew the #1 pick, and on a homer hunch chose Jamaal Charles. Axe Elf’s biggest rival on the board had the #2 pick and howled in delight and mockery as he then snatched Peterson for himself–but Charles was the one with nearly 2000 combined yards in 2013–and yes, Axe Elf won. I still remember the site owner’s public admonishment to the rest of the league when he had to pay out–“You all need to take a good, hard look at yourselves.”
And that’s why it’s not about the money. It’s about being the Billy Jack of fantasy football. Axe Elf tells you how he’s going to beat you, and then he beats you, and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it.

The Huddle Handicap Challenge league was one of the most unique leagues–and most remarkable cashes in Axe Elf’s storied history. $20 entry fee, ten team league. Nine teams participated in a regular snake draft, and then Axe Elf selected his team from the free agents left over. As compensation for this handicap, Axe Elf received the #1 waiver priority each week (just one player), and if he won the league, he would receive the entire 1st/2nd/3rd prize pool. I did cash third place, but with 7 more points in the semifinal, I would have advanced and won the final, giving me the entire prize pool. Still a fairly exceptional performance.

2013 was also the year I did one of my most consistent features ever–“Sleepers & Stinkers”–which also turned out to be one of my most successful features ever (also hosted on the Huddle message board). Each week, I picked “longshots” in each direction–studs who you should sit against the consensus, and scrubs who you should start against the consensus–and despite picking nothing but longshots, I had “hits” (within 3 fantasy points) on 50% of my picks for the season, and “bullseyes” (within 1 fantasy point) 21% of the time. Sometimes Axe Elf even impresses himself!

And to top it all off, I got married 11/22/13 to my still current supermodel, Linda. It was a really good year.

In 2014-2015 I was with my second IBL-winning site, Fantasy Football LiveWire, until they folded, and sometime thereafter I found my third IBL-winning site, Sports Outlaw, where I was delighted to meet up again with some of my old students from Fantasy Sports Wire, but then I already kind of covered that. Too bad Fantasy Football LiveWire is gone; I wrote the world’s foremost magnum opus on fantasy football Kicker selection for that site, and I would have shared it with you if I could.

I played with a few “theme teams” in the mid years of the past decade–“The Jackson Five,” which had Tarvaris, Steven, Fred, Vincent and DeSean; “The Jaycees,” on which all team members either had “JC” or “CJ” as their initials (Jay Cutler, Jamaal Charles, Chris Johnson, Jordan Cameron at TE, JAC for a DST, etc.); and even an “All Falcons” team–must have been 2016 or 2017 when they had both Freeman and Coleman as viable fantasy RBs.

2016 was the year of one of my other most successful features ever–Axe Elf’s BattleVotes at the now-defunct NBC Sports message board. Axe Elf posted 25 separate polls for participants to vote between two players closely positioned in ADP, and then awarded the participant with the most correct votes a $25 Amazon gift card at the end of the season. (Out of 137 participants, Axe Elf finished 10th.)

In 2017, I tried to find a 4th IBL team to lead to victory in the fledgeling Sleeper U site, but by then, Axe Elf was a known ringer, so I signed up at the Sleeper U site as “Wildc@t” or something like that. But I was too cocky and I posted something to the Sleepre U site that I had written for another site as Axe Elf, and one of my acolytes busted me for being the same guy. It’s just as well; they didn’t really seem competent enough to win an IBL Championship anyway, even under Axe Elf’s tutelage.

It looked like if Axe Elf was going to get back into the IBL, he was going to have to have his own message board. Hey, there’s an idea! I’d been kind of thinking about something like that for some time, where I could implement my ideas for Superhero fantasy football leagues (where owners could use superpowers on their players to adjust their fantasy scores), Fantasy Football Poker (be dealt a hand of players and bet on the strength of your “team”), and maybe even a fantasy football dating forum. And by this time, I was pretty much retired anyway, so I’d have the time to devote to it–and Axe Elf’s Fantasy Football Emporium & Nightclub (It’s ÆFFEN Great!) was born over the summer of 2018…

And then one of my old bosses called me up in August of 2018 and wanted me to come work for her in her new job trying to resuscitate a non-profit business that hadn’t been thriving very well, so I signed up with her, and that kind of took away any time I would have had to work on the site. I’m still kind of working part time there, and we have increased our budget by about 500% in that time–we’re a good team–but I never really got back to fixing up my message board site. It’s still there if you want to see the ghost town that is

(To be continued below…)

(…Continued from above)

2019 was the year of “Purple 3; The Draft They Will Talk About Forever”–my last and probably most impressive feat of extraordinary fantasy football skill yet.

“Purple 3” refers to a league in the RT Sports mega-tournament RTFFC, a league with a $250 entry fee, and several “colored” divisions with twelve 12-team leagues in each division; thus I signed up for the 3rd 12-team league in the Purple division. In his usual style, Axe Elf bragged for days leading up to the draft that his would be “The Draft They Will Talk About Forever,” and I bet if you ask any of the old-timers over at RTSports about “Purple 3,” they will still be talking about it. It was even talked about on Sirius sports talk radio–a couple of times–but I’m getting ahead of myself.
Axe Elf was sitting at 1.08 in the Purple 3 snake draft, and you could feel the tension mount in the unprecedented audience of onlookers as his much-ballyhooed pick approached–who could Axe Elf possibly pick at 1.8 that would make this “the draft they will talk about forever”??

The place exploded as the pick was revealed–“With the 8th pick in the first round of the Purple 3 draft, Axe Elf selects Greg Zeurlein, Kicker, LA Rams.”


The RTSports official in attendance conferred for a moment with his peers, then allowed the pick to stand. And in Round 2…

“With the 5th pick in the second round of the Purple 3 draft, Axe Elf selects the Chicago Bears, D/ST.”


Another guy in Purple 3 even went so far as to call up the Jeff Mans show on Sirius (“Mans’ Day” I think?) and rant about this guy who was throwing drafts and running shill games on RTSports with a partner who was going to clean up now that he had torpedoed his own team. So I called up the show the next day and explained myself on air. A recording of Axe Elf’s appearance on Mans’ Day is still hosted at

I have to give props to RTSports, though. Despite threats of lawsuits for allowing Axe Elf to corrupt their tournament, they stuck by Axe Elf’s right to draft a team that will be talked about forever–and it didn’t hurt that Axe Elf won his first game, too, just to quiet everyone who said he was throwing the league. Any remaining whispers of suspicion vanished as the passage of time revealed that Axe Elf had drafted the second-place team in his league (but did not place in the larger tournament).

I stopped playing managed leagues at RTSports somewhere shortly after that, though, because they have a ludicrous flaw in the way they seed teams for the playoffs. For their 12-team leagues, 3 division winners make the playoffs and then the team scoring the most points that was not a division winner. Thus in one of my leagues I finished tied for the best record in the league, with more total points than the team with which I was tied. In most any league out there, I would have been the #1 seed in the playoffs; under RTSports seeding, I missed the playoffs entirely. The team with which I was tied in record was in my own division, and the tiebreaker in a division is not total points, but division record–the other team had a better division record than I did. And then there was another non-division-winner who scored more points than I did, so he was the Wild Card–and I was out of the playoffs.

In a way, that’s just another really unusual accomplishment to be listed under Axe Elf’s rather impressive list of unbelievable accomplishments–Axe Elf once tied for the best record in a league (scoring more points than the other tied team) and missed the playoffs. Who else has done that?

These past five years have been fun to be a Chiefs fan in fantasy football, allowing me to be more of a homer than I ever had been in my previous 25 year career (while still maintaining Axe Elf levels of success). Thanks Mahomes. Thanks Andy. Three Super Bowls in Five Years, just like Axe Elf said. Suck it, scoffers!

And then in 2022, Damar Hamlin died for my team. I was up by less than 3 pts in a Championship Game, with my opponent having QB Joe Burrow and myself having WR Stefon Diggs to go on Monday night. I didn’t like my chances, especially since Diggs hadn’t hit double-digit fantasy points in like three weeks. And then Damar Hamlin died so that my team could live. The game was called, the stats didn’t count, Axe Elf won another Championship, and Hamlin was resurrected again–so all was good in the world.

Much of the last five years or so I have spent primarily at FFToday, but then over this past summer I spoke to someone there to whom I had vowed the year before that I would leave the site if I ever spoke to them again–so I left the site. The past couple of years I’d been frequenting the Fantasy Pros message board, so I kind of concentrated on them this year–but that place appears to be on its last legs, and I don’t think even the presence of Axe Elf will be enough to rejuvenate it.

And then also this year, the Bettor in Green forums were formed from the ashes of the old NBC Sports forums, so I’ve been helping them a lot this past season as well. I’m not sure they deserve it though; the same problem those forums used to have with mouth-breathing mods who delete any posts that disagree with them have carried over to the new site–I even had to ignore one of the mods within like a month! And then another mod axually threatened in a PM to ban me if I ever took credit for the hits proceeding from my own incredible foresight again! I guess the number of "Thank you, Axe Elf!"s that was littering the boards was getting on their nerves.

So who knows how much longer that place can sustain itself. Shortly after that odd threat was made, the site suffered some kind of technical difficulty and went down for a few days–as did my health–so it was pretty easy to make a clean break from them as well. A younger and healthier Axe Elf probably would have continued to take credit for his own successful advice, though, and forced the mod’s hand to actually ban someone for being an accurate advisor–just because that makes for a better story in the obituary.

And so now here we are in the Damar Hamlin role… facing the end of another cycle of a life lived so that others could prosper, in our beloved world of fantasy football. I really don’t know how long I have left–it could be a few weeks and it could be a few years–or I might rise Phoenix-like as Hamlin did himself to see another season. I’ve never died before, so I don’t know what it feels like, and I’m not sure what to think about what my body is telling me. I do know that every couple of weeks now, I get used to a “new normal” level of discomfort and/or exhaustion. If nothing else, it’s the end of a 30 year fantasy football career that has never been anything short of remarkable, thanks to all that you have allowed Axe Elf to give of himself back to you. Axe Elf will miss you all.

Remember that good health is merely the slowest possible rate at which one can die, and thus, in the spirit of competitively comical camaraderie that has been the hallmark of Axe Elf, I wish you all a very slow death.

tldr; So Long, And Thanks For All The Fees!