State of Play


Somehow we are seven weeks away from 2021. Where did the year go to? Oh yes, lockdowns and pandemics and Donald Trump… It has been a spectacular year for deadpools and a bumper year for the Grim Reaper, so well done if you are still alive enough to read this. One might even call it an enema year – thanks for that repeat imagery, Mr Gooseberry Crumble, if that is your real name…

This close to Hogmanay we usually have a solid idea on who will win the Derby Dead Pool but as winter approaches, we can’t say for sure. Even if it looks good for one team in particular.

One record has fallen for the DDP. The Drop 40 is now at 16/40, a new record, with the death of popular game show host Alex Trebek. The record for most hits in a year is 275 in 2016 (what other year) so with the current tally at 235 and counting, time will tell if its a two for one deal. Currently surviving Drop 40 picks include Jean-Louis Trintignant, Jimmy Greaves, David Gulpilill, Linda Nolan, Tom Smith and Prince Philip, so it wouldn’t surprise if that number continues to rise in 2020. On the verges of the Drop 40 remain Angela Lansbury, June Brown and Doddie Weir, but Sultan Qaboos, Little Richard and Sean Connery all decided this was as close as they wanted to get.

The race is currently led by The Love Boat, alteregos of DDP Cmme member Reptile. Do I need to have my Father Ted running a bingo story ready in January? Time will tell. This co-host feels rather vindicated however. For years I have told Reptile that his teams are interesting and clever, but that he has a habit of overthinking and second guessing at the last minute. In 2020 he was busy with the programming side of this website with Grim, and had to put in The Love Boat’s team a week ahead of deadline. No second guessing and suddenly it’s their best result to date. Probably a lesson to all there.

One benefit for Reptile at this point is not only can he run out the clock (a DDP leader’s favourite tactic, although it can go badly wrong, see 2013), but that most of the big names still on the board are on his team too, so wont be of benefit to the challengers.

In second place as we go to press is Once You Go Black. They debuted last year and finished 3rd, in one of the more impressive Best Newcomer Award wins to date. Their routes to victory include some picks that wont be allowed in seven weeks time, but play to the rules, as we always say. Elsewhere the duo of Susan Bayh and Criscilla Anderson may yet prove crucial. This is clearly a team on the rise, though.

Joey’s Day in the Death currently holds on to the bronze position, and like the rest of the top three, this would be their highest finish to date. 17 points behind the league leaders this late in the day is tough ask. However the young team have several differential picks with the leader. Cricketer Gavin Robrtson and BBC executive Jana Bennett are both long term sufferers of brain cancer now, and New York Doll Sylvain Sylvain carries 12 points if he were to go this side of January 1st. Although by this point in the 2013 comeback, Spade Cooley was only seven points behind Octopus of Odstock.

In 4th we currently have A Trophy for Atrophy, on course for their best year by miles. Before 2020, in a dozen DDP years their best shot was 21st place in 2018. A combination of Drop 40 picks and those many others missed out on (Kamala, Michael Robinson) have led to massively improved form. What keeps A Trophy in the mix is having his joker still on the table, and if Tom Smith were to leave us before the years end it would reduce the deficit to 6 points. At which point, everyone’s looking at Leon Spinks. That being those with him on teams, and those hoping for an easy Drop 40 joker in 2021!

Also in the top five is last years champion Thomas Jefferson Survives, and To Kill a Gabor Sister. As benefits one of the best players in the game, TJS still has a number of picks which could prove crucial. Yet currently they seem to be suffering a bit of the commentators curse. (The one year I didn’t pick them to win it all since 2013… they won!) To Kill a Gabor Sister are currently on a deadpooling hiatus (although they are always welcome at the DDP. Doug Supernaw looks a great pick now (I’ll be cursing if that turns out to be a bad miss for Pan Breed) but Bernard Tapie and Peter Tobin have continued to disappoint the watching world by being far too healthy.

The rest of the top ten is filled out by Banana’s Peel Slippers, The End of the World As We Know It, I Will Not Die, and DDP Tofoa, all aiming for their highest finishes ever.

Meanwhile preparations are on course for DDP2021. (No, you can’t enter yet, wait till December!) . As mentioned already, picks deemed to be famous only for being ill are no longer allowed. This is primarily to stop people picking all these sad cases the Mirror likes to focus on: dying mum, 23, hugs little child at Christmas as she dies of leech cancer.

To compensate this, the qualifying obits have been expanded. The newly accepted obits (as of 1st January 2021) are: The Daily Record, The Scottish Express/Mail/Sun, STV/UTV, The Independent (back after a long campaign by DDP players), City Am, Yahoo UK, The Radio Times and The Economist. If you can’t get an obituary for your feminist writer, Nobel Prize winner or Doctor Who guest star after that…

Oh, and Reptile is making unique picks be worth 4 points instead of the previous 3. Well, myself and unique hits are often alien concepts but this might be useful to the rest of you.

As for me, I’m already at the bit of the year where you start wondering if Gloria Hunniford looks old on the TV because she’s 80 (!) or because she’s hiding pancreatic cancer. Presumably the former. Like every other DDP player, I keep my proposed key picks close to my chest. No ones ever heard of Jimmy Carter or James Whale, right? Thought not…