Sabremetrics geeks love it. Regular businesses hate it. ESPN loves it. Our significant others hate it. While this categorizes a couple of things, I’m of course referring to fantasy sports – a way for the GM inside of us all to put our vast array of sports knowledge on the line. We can actually test ourselves against our peers (instead of just claiming after ever play that we would have told the coach to do whatever else at that point.) Fantasy sports started simply enough, and has morphed into a multi-billion dollar industry.
The start of it all is quite fascinating. ESPN’s 30 for 30 series documented a group of friends that developed the first fantasy league, built rotisserie style, around baseball naturally. They came up with the relatively simple idea over lunch one day, and continued on with the league for years, scoring it every morning by tallying all the numbers from the box scores in the local newspaper.
My father actually ended up going through this same routine for his fantasy baseball league until somebody finally developed some software that would update everything after some simple data entry. I laughed at this story because he said he actually had to go to the only floor of his company that had computers at that time to do it.
The tragic part of the tale is when you find out that this group of pioneers never really took this idea by the reigns. All of them could have potentially been flush with cash for life once fantasy sports took the world by storm with the right combination of patents and business acumen. They made guidebooks for people to start leagues and keep track of the numbers. They sold a few copies here and there and netted a couple hundred bucks. That one has to sting.
Years later, as I write this, I’m taking a break every minute to check and see if Johnny Cueto has managed to get out of the 3rd inning without his ERA climbing over 8.00. It’s pretty remarkable to think about how much time many sports fan devote to fantasy sports. Certain companies have found unimaginable success because they were one of the first ‘experts’ to formulate fantasy football tips. FX created “The League”, an entire show based around a group of friends and their cut-throat fantasy football league. As for nearly every other business, a universal decrease in productivity has occurred because every morning, people devote the first 15 minutes of work to check and see if their starting quarterback status has changed from “questionable” to “probable”. I’m actually writing this on my lunch break. I suppose I could be calling somebody about season tickets, but Votto is on deck and Romero is one decent inning away from getting me another Quality Start point.
I have tried almost every fantasy sport possible, even a makeshift World Cup fantasy draft (really neat idea combining pool play predictions, golden boot player draft, bracket pick and betting the lines). The baseball season has just begun and I can already feel myself getting sucked in. I have made roster moves and shifted strategy after 4 games – probably not even a good idea, but I really can’t help myself. I always feel clever when I find a player buried on the waiver wire that might be able to get me a few extra roto point for stolen bases down the stretch.
Pouring over baseball numbers like this might seem like a new-age fad, but seamheads have been doing it for years simply because they wanted a deeper understanding of the game, not a fantasy league advantage. If you haven’t tried fantasy baseball yet, I think you should give it a try. There are a couple of formats that are enjoyable, and really help make games like Cleveland at Kansas City worth a watch when there is nothing else on TV during the middle of the summer.
If you are like me, you agree that fantasy football has been king for a while. I’m in multiple leagues, the majority of which require decent sized entry fee to sweeten the pot. Bragging rights still retain the greatest value for most participants who are in leagues consisting of close friends and coworkers (nothing better than ending a post on the league message boards with -Brandon Preece 2x League Champion 2007/2010). One of my favorite weekends of the year is when we meet in my friend Ryan’s garage for our yearly offline football draft. Our draft kit (a large poster and stickers with each players name on them) is accompanied by scribbled-on notepads, Sporting News magazines, coolers filled with beer and loads of trash talk. Certain Las Vegas casinos have actually put together packages where you can book conference rooms in the hotels in August for your draft. They have options for food and alcohol and the whole nine yards.
Whether you do it at the Bellagio or in your buddy’s backyard, I highly recommend getting everyone to commit to that one weekend a year to have your draft offline. It’s a perfect excuse to get the crew back together and drink.
Everybody likes to follow sports. Everybody likes to pretend they are Phil Jackson and George Steinbrenner. Fantasy sports are the perfect way to show off your skills. If nothing else, it gets people to follow sports more intently. Now there are the people who make the argument that fantasy sports take away from true sports loyalty. For example, of course I want the Texans to win, but if Reggie Wayne still catches two touchdowns that’s ok. Right? I’ve honestly done that myself, but as long as when it comes down to a do or die (fantasy win vs. Texans win) and you are routing for the Texans, I’m ok with it.
Just have your priorities straight out there.