When The League premiered in 2009, Michael Turner, Maurice Jones-Drew and Steven Jackson were consensus top-five fantasy picks, “daily leagues” only existed in gamblers’ fever dreams and last season’s passing TD leader, Andrew Luck, was starting at Stanford.
Obviously, fantasy football has changed since then – though the game’s main draw remains the same: It’s not just about defeating your friends and coworkers, it’s about humiliating them.
At least that’s been the guiding principle behind FXX’s comedy, which kicks off its seventh and final season Wednesday night at 10 p.m. ET/PT. In theory, it’s a show centered on a fantasy league, but its most memorable moments have always come from the group of friends (and we use that term loosely) willing to do anything – no matter how underhanded – in their pursuit the vaunted Shiva championship trophy.
Created by the husband-and-wife team of Jeff and Jackie Schaffer, The League has given real-life NFL stars like J.J. Watt and Marshawn Lynch a chance to show off their improvisational skills and introduced terms such as “fear boner,” “vinegar strokes” and “eskimo brothers” into the American lexicon. Now, as the Schaffers prepare for one last run, they’re looking back on that legacy, revealing their favorite athlete guest stars and admitting that this might not be the end just yet.
What can people expect in season 7?
Jackie Schaffer: I think that people will see that The League keeps evolving. The worlds keep expanding, we keep meeting people from other parts of their lives. We’re also going to be doing another “Rafi and Dirty Randy” episode this year. Every year I think we manage to surprise people and I think this year we will surprise people even more.
Jeff Schaffer: We’re also going to be reintroduced to a lot of characters that we haven’t seen in a while. Leslie Bibb, who plays Pete’s ex-wife Meegan, we haven’t seen her for five years and Pete’s going to bump into her. She will play a very big part in their lives this year. Will Forte, who plays the most wayward member of the league, he’s going to be back. We haven’t seen him since he was resting his balls on Ruxin’s head like he was wearing a tiny hat. And then Seth Rogen, Aziz Ansari, Zach Woods, Rob Riggle, Rob Huebel and Shiva. A lot of great guests that we haven’t seen in a while.
Did you focus on wrapping up certain storylines because you knew it was the final season?
Jeff: The only way to really wrap things up completely is to kill them all. People’s lives keep moving and evolving so we just want to end the chapter, not the book. We wanted to make sure that at the end of the season it felt like, “Oh that was a satisfying wrap-up to all the things they started in the beginning of the season.” We’re just focused on making a really funny season. There will be certain big life changes, but that happens every season. We’ve had a divorce, a baby, a stroke, a wedding that was annulled when Andre’s semen blinded his fiancée. We’ll just have some more things like that this season.
Jackie: Even now we’re probably supposed to be writing a series finale but we don’t see it like that. We’re writing a really amazing season finale and we’ll see what happens.
What NFL players can people look forward to seeing this year?
Jeff: Marshawn Lynch comes back for a command performance, which is sort of the highlight for Jackie and I. As huge Seahawks fans, after the way they lost the Super Bowl, getting a chance to have a very public comedy therapy session with Marshawn was a dream come true for us.
Jackie: What would have been more amazing would be to do the story we had written when we thought they were going to win the Super Bowl. Over Christmas vacation we wrote a great thing about Taco’s EBDBBnB, with Marshawn basically doing an “I’m going to Disneyland” scene. We’d put Marshawn in an EBDBBnB bathrobe, and that’s where he’s going to go after the Super Bowl. So I think we jinxed ourselves when we wrote that scene and got really excited about it. As exciting as it was to have a public therapy session with Marshawn, we would have much rather done the other one. We also have Golden Tate. That’s another wish-fulfillment therapy session, just wondering why he didn’t stay with the Seahawks. Tate was kind of therapy for you too, Jeff.
Jeff: We’re really working out my own issues. We also dipped into the GM pool and John Schneider is on the season premiere. Calais Campbell and the Honey Badger [Tyrann Mathieu] from the Cardinals. Randall Cobb does a very funny bit; Jenny’s team are all slot receivers and Pete is “slot shaming” her, so Cobb comes to her rescue.
Marshawn grew quite fond of hanging out with Jon Lajoie, who plays Taco, didn’t he?
Jeff: Marshawn Lynch loves Jon Lajoie. He looks at him and says, “Are you high? You’re high right now, aren’t you?” He loves Jon’s videos, he loves “High As Fuck.” We were shooting the scene with Marshawn and Jon on the beach and Jon comes up to us and says, “I thought this scene was really funny, Kevin catches on fire and stuff, but I didn’t realize this was about the Super Bowl.” It’s Marshawn and our lovely French-Canadian Jon Lajoie sitting there shooting the shit for three hours on beach chairs and I can honestly say that Jon has never even seen Marshawn play. He and Taco are not so different. I would watch them together on a show. That’s the travel show I want to watch: Marshawn and Jon traveling around the world together.
Jackie: We got Marshawn in and out in two hours and he was supposed to be done, but he wanted to stay and eat lunch with our crew. He was hanging out, signing autographs, shooting the shit. He was a super-fun guy.
Which NFL players have stood out as great improvisers?
Jackie: Terrell Suggs was amazing. Suggs was really, really funny. Aggressively funny. Though I have to say, as far improvisers go, it’s hard to compete with J.J. Watt.
Jeff: I don’t know what it is about the defensive lineman, but they know how to talk smack. You’d think it would be the cornerbacks, but these guys were really funny and were giving as good as they got it. Suggs is just a funny person. He could be a stand-up if he wasn’t so goddamn good at what he does.
Jackie: And another one that you might not expect is Jay Cutler. He was super fun; a total pleasure to be around. He doesn’t want to talk to the media but he had no problem talking to us, which was great.
Cutler was on the show with his wife Kristin Cavallari. How did that happen?
Jackie: Kristin is a mommy friend of mine and she’s really talented, very likeable. So I wanted to have Kristin on the show because she’s the celebrity mom that we could run into and – like with Antonio Gates in season one, when everyone’s using Antonio to get information about LaDainian Tomlinson – everyone is using Kristin to get information about Jay. So I thought it was a good way in for Jenny, as a mom, to try and get inside information from the wife of a player. Her and Jay couldn’t have said yes faster, they were really into it.
Jeff: In the story Jenny and Kevin are like, “Oh my God, I hope we get to be friends with Jay Cutler and Kristin Cavallari!” and we’re shooting the show saying, “Hey, maybe will get to be friends with Jay Cutler and Kristin Cavallari?”
Jackie: I will tell you that Jay and I sat at lunch for a good hour talking about various homemade baby-formula recipes. The guy was so well researched. He’s a diabetic so he’s really knowledgeable about health and nutrition. He talked about how he makes homemade baby formula every morning in a blender and he emailed me the recipe. That is the least prickly NFL quarterback you could ever imagine.
I know that Jeff was really into fantasy football before the show, but did you start playing because of it, Jackie?
Jackie: I did. First of all, I am a diehard Seahawks fan, I was screaming and yelling and crying in New York [Super Bowl XLVIII] and Arizona [Super Bowl XLIX] as much as anybody, but I grew up, as my father would say, “Bleeding Orange Crush.” I grew up as a huge fan of the Broncos, my whole family is from Denver. For me, the player or person who I wanted on the show that we didn’t get was John Elway. I worship at the altar of John Elway and always will. So it was very hard for me at Super Bowl XLVIII. My dad asked me if I would wear my Orange Crush shirt or some Broncos paraphernalia underneath my Seahawks paraphernalia, but I didn’t, because I didn’t want to jinx it, and they won. But I do feel kind of guilty. I played fantasy football very little but I’m a huge football fan.
Jeff: We have a league of The League, which is the cast and Jackie and I, and let’s put it this way: Jackie’s won it twice. She’s the only one to have won it twice. When we started, Steve Rannazzisi was the only one of the actors who had played fantasy football before. He looks at me and he goes, “Dude we got this. I’ll see you in the Super Bowl every year.” And he has not sniffed the championship. In six years, he’s done nothing of note. He gets so frustrated. Last year in the makeup trailer, Steve is cursing about his team and he’s complaining to Jon who is right next to him and Jon says, “Who’d you lose to?” and Steve look at him so angry and says, “You! I lost to you!”
Do you see the show living on in some form after this season?
Jeff: We’ve spent a lot of time with these characters and I don’t think we’re ready to say goodbye to them and I’m not sure we’re going to have to. For us, the legacy of the show is that seven years ago we shot a pilot never thinking anything was going to happen with it and now they’re talking about “eskimo brothers” on The Bachelor, at every March Madness tournament there are McGibblets in the crowd and people name their dogs “Ruxin.” Just hearing things that we talked about on the show that have gone out into the world is a cool thing. All we’ve ever tried to do is make the funniest show we could.
Jackie: I wish I could say that people have tired of it, but nobody has. We certainly want to be Barry Sanders rather than Brett Favre, but at the same time people keep begging us for more so who knows what we’ll do.
Jeff: Will we see these guys again? I think we will. We’re not quite done with them yet. We still have a lot of really funny stories that we never got to this year that we want to do. It’s not over till it’s over.
The final season of The League begins tonight at 10 pm ET/PT on FXX.