Congratulations Baxter!

Ryan Baxter, of the Sophisticated Owls, is the Bad News Barristers 2013 Champion! This is Baxter’s first championship in five seasons since joining the League in 2009.

Like Rome, the Sophisticated Owls were not built in a day. In fact, the Owls’ championship strategy stands in stark contrast to that of the League’s previous two champions (Sampson and Dunfee) who achieved their respective success by alternating competitive seasons via their constant exchange of draft picks.

When they joined the League in 2009, the (then) Spanish Owls drafted Peyton Manning with their first pick and have never looked back. When Manning lost a season to injury, the Owls stayed the course until Manning found his new home in Denver. And while they must have second-guessed that decision a few times, Manning put up seven touchdowns in his first game in orange and it was clear the gamble had paid off.

Whether Spanish or Sophisticated (the name change came in the 2010 season), the Owls have always preferred to build with the draft, and they wasted no time in selecting Doug Martin as a rookie with upside in the 2012 draft. After his breakout rookie season, the Owls kept Martin along with Manning and entered 2013 season full of optimism.

In what turned out to be a Championship preview, the Owls faced the Jennis in Week 1 and lost narrowly by 33 points despite Manning’s 613 point virtuoso performance and another 294 points from Phil Rivers in what turned out to be the season’s highest scoring game. The two teams would take very different paths the remainder of the season, but they would meet again in Week 16 (to a different result).

After starting the season with two straight losses (falling to FLACC OFF in Week 2), the Owls were barely able to make it to .500 by the midway point of the season. And when Doug Martin went down last season in Week 8, the Owls had to act fast or risk their promising season. So the Owls traded the injured Martin and their 2014 1st Round Pick to the Weinermans for Shady McCoy.  Starting with their Week 9 devastation of the Yester Cooch in which the Owls prevailed by 400 points, the Noble Birds would go on to win 7 of their final 8 games (including the playoffs) on their way to the ultimate victory.

Happy as they must have been to have Shady on their side heading into the playoffs, the Owls had to be a little nervous after failing to secure a first round bye thanks to a 300 point loss to the 1-Legged Deer in the final week of the regular season. But Shady came through big time in Round 1 by putting up 356 points against the Caminker Hair Mousse AllStars. Peyton Manning tossed in another 435 points and the Owls topped the AllStars by 250 points. But McCoy disappeared in Round 2, putting up a measly 130 points. Even though the Owls put up one of their lowest point totals of the season, it was enough to squeak by the BOOs by 150 points and the Owls found themselves in the Championship against none other than… The Jennis. Manning and McCoy came through again, combining for 748 points and delivering the 2014 Bad News Barristers Championship by a margin of nearly 200 points.

So congratulations to the Sophisticated Owls! They have a tough road to hoe for repeat as champions without their 1st Round pick, but they also have Manning and McCoy as keepers. Good luck!