Thursday, September 16, 2010

Fantasy Football: So easy a caveman could do it

My team logo for my fantasy football team, The Libertines. This is exactly how I am with anything sports related. [credit to Hyperbole and a Half for the drawing]

This year, for the first time ever, I'm playing fantasy football. I had heard multitudes of my friends talking about it the past few years and had always wanted to play. I didn't, however, because I didn't have a league or know anything specifically about fantasy football, and because I could never bring myself to cheer against my own team, the Steelers, or for the teams I hate the most, Ravens, Bengals, Browns, and Patriots, simply because it conflicted with my fantasy football interests.

I decided to set the latter bias slightly aside this year and give it a shot when I was invited to join several fantasy football leagues by my guy friends who, I guess after seeing my blog, decided I actually knew enough about sports to be worthy of being the only female in their leagues.

After I was invited to join two leagues, one with a substantial buy-in, I decided it was time to beef up my football knowledge. For those who don't play fantasy football, you basically choose a team consisting of a quarterback, 2-3 running backs, 3-4 wide receivers, a tight end, and a team defense which you select as a whole.

My knee-jerk reaction was "Draft the Steelers... ALL the Steelers." But, even if I wanted to stick with that plan, there are simply too many slots available to fill up a fantasy team and bench with solely Steelers players. Plus, like any draft, the players you want may be taken by other teams. Additionally, Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger started the season serving a four game suspension and won't be playing until week 6, so I would need a backup plan.

This wasn't going to be as easy as I thought. I started researching top players on teams. I called up my father, the all-sport guru, and talked on the phone with him for several hours about who he thought would be the strongest choices for each position. We discussed our thoughts and I wrote down all the top options.

I went out and bought a Fantasy Football Draft Guide magazine which advertised "#1 Rated Cheat Sheets" on the cover. How sneaky of me, I thought... Between my dad's input and my fancy $10 magazine with its important looking gold lettering on the front, I was going to blow the competition away. I combed through the magazine, highlighting my personal preferences and also highlighting where the Steelers' players were located, so that should I let my personal bias get the best of me on draft day, at least I'd know in which order to select the Steelers, based on their comparative rankings.

The magazine. Oh you fancy, huh?

I started doing additional research online. I printed out a "Fantasy Football Top 200 Rankings" sheet, which listed the top 200 players overall, regardless of position, and studied this. I found a 2010 ESPN Fantasy Football Draft Kit online, which claimed to be a "positional cheat sheet", and listed the top players by position. It turned out there was a lot more information out there than I thought, so it was even more important for me to take it all in so I would be sufficiently prepared.

Though this information was public, still, I thought, I've done the research and undoubtedly found things *no one else* in the league will have. I could not be foiled. After all, I had a $10 magazine with "#1 rated" cheat sheets. Mwahahaha!

Before I knew it, draft day was upon me. I signed up on the websites for the league on the day of the draft.

Select a team name? Are you kidding? I can name things like a motherf*cking champion! I was already going to have a leg up on the competition. At first I thought it would be funny as the only girl in the league to name my team something like "Fluffy Pink Unicorn Pretty Lovelinesses & Princess Kitties", so that way everyone would immediately go, "Oh, that must be the GIRL'S team...", but then I remembered that not everyone picks up on my irony.

So I decided to go with Jesus' Velociraptor, and then for the team logo use a historically accurate picture of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, riding a dinosaur with a saddle. Unfortunately, the name had too many characters for ESPN to allow it. I guess that's for the best because I would probably still have had that whole irony problem to deal with...

My third and final choice was The Libertines. The name was sufficiently bad ass (go ahead and Wikipedia it. I'll wait...) AND fit within ESPN character limits.

Now, it was draft time. Buoyed by the self-proclaimed tremendous success of my team name and logo choice, I readied myself. I sat on my floor and surrounded myself on all 360 degrees with my hand written out top choices, my magazine, and my many printed out and heavily highlighted and analyzed cheat sheets. I can't not win.

"Begin draft" is the button we all clicked at the pre-set draft time. I saw everyone else's logos and team names across the top of the site, lined up according to draft order.

I pictured them all seeing my team name and logo for the first time, knowing i'm "the girl" and underrating me in their minds. "Excuse me", was the smug, hypothetical response in my head, "but perhaps you haven't seen my magazine."

...Then I saw it... right there below the team names. A list of all the players. But not just ANY list of all the players. No. This was much more sinister. It was a list of every single player in the NFL, pre-sorted by position, and pre-ranked by the experts and the website according to who in each position were to be the best choices. Exactly what was in my magazine and in all my heavily researched information sheets? That's exactly what was essentially all right in front of me and all the other competitors online, on the draft page, on draft day.

You must be kidding me. All my coveted secrets in all their $10 magazine filling glory, exposed for all to see. Basically, you could show up on draft day and not know a single thing about football, and just click on each position you need and choose the best available player. Not sure who the best available player for each position is? Not to fear! It's right in front of you! Why should you have to do any work?

Seriously, a monkey could do it. Ever heard of the infinite monkey theory? It basically claims that a monkey hitting keys at random on a keyboard for an infinite amount of time will eventually produce the complete works of William Shakespeare. If a monkey can type a Shakespearean play, it can sure the hell choose a winning fantasy football draft team with the tools the website provides right there on the draft day page.

In fact, if you're too lazy or otherwise engaged to show up on your own draft day, you can simply have auto-draft do it and it will select the best available players for you on your turn. Did I say monkey? Hell, my dog could do this. And he eats his own vomit.

Alright, I thought, screw this. Time for plan B. What is Plan B, you ask? Why it's the original Plan A: Draft the Steelers. ALL the Steelers. As a result, including benched players, both of my fantasy teams in my fantasy leagues include my first round draft pick, Rashard Mendenhall, in addition to Hines Ward, Mike Wallace, Heath Miller, Jeff Reed, and Roethlisberger. I still used the rankings from my cheat sheets and research to determine in which order to draft these players. For instance I held off on drafting Reed, and Roethlisberger until I locked down some players in other positions from other teams because I know they weren't exactly hot commodities. Also I still had to plan for things like bye weeks.

My other choices which I rotate in (such as my quarterback choices while Big Ben is suspended) are much more nuanced and were also heavily thought out and researched. To be sure, I had a lot of fun on draft day and am incredibly happy with my choices. The players are not only strong and players in whom I have tremendous confidence, but I also get to root for my NFL team and thus my fantasy football teams simultaneously.

To be fair, this post isn't meant to be critical of the idea of fantasy football. I had a great time drafting and have been enjoying the season immensely. My only criticism is that fantasy football websites such as ESPN and CBS do all the work for you then put it right in front of you, and even provide auto-draft, so that no real expertise in football is required.

My team in each league won big in week 1 against seasoned fantasy football team owners, so I must be doing something right. One thing is for sure, I'm definitely playing fantasy football the way I want to play it.
Both of the two things pictured here are capable of drafting a winning fantasy football team.

1 comment:

  1. I'm a Fantasy Football junkie this season. However, big wins in week 1 and 2 for me haven't translated into a perfect season. I'm in a 24 player league and was proudly holding my own amongst former SEC football players with a number 3 ranking and then last week... my top players didn't produce my benched players were rockstars and now I'm sitting in 8th place.

    I hope week 6 turns things around for me. :P