Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Rant: Fantasy Football

Time for a rant about fantasy football.

I've been playing fantasy football since 1995. This was the infancy of fantasy sports by most standards and just about everybody (including serious sports fans) had no idea what the fuck fantasy sports meant, and if forced to guess, probably thought it involved Magic cards, slap bracelets or Pogs.

Back in these dark ages, you had to calculate your weekly score by hand from the box scores printed in the newspaper on Monday morning. The waiver wire was determined by whoever called the commissioner first. The only way you could watch your guys play was if you owned someone on a local team and they happened to be on TV or you could catch 5 seconds of highlights on SportsCenter (if you happened to be home when it was on). Most of the time, you drafted and traded based solely on statistics and tiny nuggets of occasionally useful information. Or in some cases, horrible information ("holy shit, Mike Cloud ran a 4.5 at the combine and is going to start behind the awesome KC line next season!").

Times have changed. Dramatically. Nowadays, there are more fantasy football commercials than truck commercials on ESPN. Every male 8-65 has multiple teams in multiple sports. Even my mom knows that Ronnie Brown is an obvious injury risk and that Peyton Manning won't miss a game. There's fantasy golf.

Technology is better (DVR, RedZone, Slingbox) and global access to ridiculously detailed and immediate information is at your fingertips 24/7 (ESPN Insider, Rotoworld, Twitter, local news websites, a billion blogs, etc).

The technology and access have completely leveled the playing field.

Anyone can be a fantasy guru now - just spend enough time reading Matthew Barry or Erik Karabell or Brandon Funston or any of the other ten million PROFESSIONAL fantasy analysts. There are no original ideas anymore. There are no savvy pickups. There are no sleepers. You're told the answers before you even have a chance to think of them yourself and in case you miss some information, Yahoo or any other site will help you automatically draft a team or evaluate trades based on researched point predictions and detailed analysis.

There are 3 major losses due to this evolution of the game:

1) We've lost (or at least significantly reduced the impact of) the token moron.

This was one of my favorite parts about playing fantasy sports. The token moron is the guy who doesn't look at matchups, only recognizes big name players and doesn't follow injury news. He's the guy who drafts Jerry Rice in the first round, four years too late. He's the guy that forgets to draft a TE. He's the guy who never has a strategy and ends up in last place every year. It's almost impossible to be that uninformed today.

2) There is no edge.

It is utterly impossible to have an information edge over anyone else. You can do more homework, scout through (youtube) film, read all the reporting and player news but at the end of the day, some expert will summarize your work into a bullet point telling the world to pick up Tony Moeaki before you've had a chance to do it on your own. I pride myself at being able to spot talent and understand opportunities. These skills are severely neutered by infinite over-analysis. You end up overextending yourself on extreme picks or moves just to try and prove your skills.

Some guy in my league took Finley and Spiller in the 2nd and 3rd round of a 14 team league. Sure, it was a dumb move but why is it fun to draft exactly according to the expert rankings and how else can you possibly prove that you know more than the next guy?

3) No love for your players.

This may be a personal thing but when I picked a guy back in the day, it was much more personal. You got to know a guy through his numbers. You understood what type of player and what type of offense he played in. You made assumptions about draft picks on your own and created strategies. Guessing right on Edgerrin James was much more validating than picking someone like Ryan Mathews is today, when everyone is telling you to do it. It's much harder to separate your own skill from someone else's suggestions. In that way, I don't fall in love with my picks as much as I used to.

Sure I loved having Chris Johnson at #10 last season when he was predicted at #16 (much like Jahvid Best owners feel now) but it's not the same... 10 years ago he might not have even been in the top 20 ranked RB's, since the magazines (which were all pretty much exactly the same) were always printed right after the previous season and rookies were mostly ignored. It's hard to take 100% credit for your own picks, sleepers and strategy. Just like it's hard to respect the guy who auto-drafted and is in first place.

Sure, I sound old and cranky as shit but I miss playing a small niche game that nobody else understood, with a group of diehard football fans and close friends where it was more fun to be right and when being right earned you more respect.




The TPC said...

I completly agree keggers. Passing notes in class to make trades was the pinnacle of my fantasy football existence. There is no way to bring back the good old days but hey at least we can win the kos.

Two Pump

Gepetto said...

Well, there's still the ability to change perceived value via a trade. Sure, you can't say that "Hey, I got a freebie pickup of Andrew Quarless because no one knows who he is", but you can argue that he could be as good as Jermichael Finley or worse than Martellus Bennett. All of that comes down to research and haggling.

Keggers said...

Yes, obviously there is skill in trading and drafting and making moves but I'd say far less than there used to be. It's impossible to say that your evaluations of players and their value aren't significantly affected by the endless crap you read/hear.

All of which only makes it more insane that a trade like yours last week could happen...