Fortunately, I had a bye last week and didn’t have to pay too much attention to fantasy. However, I did see the craziness that was Week 14 in Fantasy Football. Duds by Aaron Rodgers, Dwayne Bowe and Adrian Peterson probably lost many managers their leagues. Meanwhile, Deion Branch, Jason Witten and Derrick Mason ushered many to Week 15. So, how do you plan for this stuff?
What could be the better system for executing fantasy playoffs in the NFL? For one, ESPN Standard Leagues need to eliminate the idea of playing the championship into Week 17. Plenty of players are unusable at that point. But what about weeks 15 and 16?
Playoffs in fantasy sports are so unique because oftentimes the team that has led the league all season, for one reason or another, gets knocked out in the playoffs. Last year, I dominated my league until Week 16, when I started Chad Ochocinco over Jonathan Stewart. Stewart of course had a monster week and I lost by three points. But the common methodology for approaching fantasy playoffs differs depending on who you talk to. Some experts say to play the players that got you there. In other words, don’t get cute about lineups at this point of the season. However, some would argue that matchups and situations are never more important than the playoffs. In my example from last year, Stewart became the primary back and had a great matchup against a bad New York Giants defense. I should have played him, but Ochocinco had been my guy all season.
Which brings me to this year. So, I got Kenny Britt who I just picked up and have never played all season. He’s got a great matchup against the lowly Houston Texans secondary. Do I start him over the proven, fairly consistent Mike Williams of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers?
Is there a better system for fantasy playoffs? I’m not so sure there is, but it does tell you one thing: anything can happen.
Let’s be clear here. The Schumpeterian moment did not skip over fantasy sports. This multibillion dollar industry got its wings from the Internet and exploded into where we are now.
I’ve focused much of this blog on the five W’s, but have avoided the H. How did the meteoric rise of fantasy sports happen?
I remember playing fantasy football as a kid. My family joined a league with friends and neighbors and we drafted in somebody’s house with pens and paper. Weird, huh? To prepare for the draft, we bought fantasy magazines. Yes, magazines still existed back then. The magazines broke down draft order, strategy and sleepers, like ESPN.com, Rotoworld.com and Rotoexperts.com do now. I remember our “steal of the draft” was Bam Morris and our team name was “WPB,” which stood for “We Prefer Baseball.” If I can recall, we finished in next to last place.
Home drafts and paper magazines gave way to the glitz and glamor of online fantasy sports in the late-90’s. Two online innovators, Commissioner.com (now CBS Fantasy Sports) and RotoNews.com (now RotoWire), altered the fantasy landscape. They gave users the ability to easily customize leagues and also offered accessible analysis. League customization and analysis are the two major factors in the growing popularity of online fantasy sports.
First, league customization is vital to playing online. In fact, it may be the leading decision point for players. In recent years, personalization has emerged in fantasy sports. Players will refer to the traditional rules of fantasy football as “Standard Scoring;” however, these settings are not so standard anymore. Nowadays, many leagues are PPR leagues, or Point Per Reception. This means that a player gets a full point for a reception. While this may seem minor in effect, it can have a great impact on a season and greatly influences strategy. There are head to head vs. rotisserie leagues, auction vs. draft and even more obscure settings like return yards for punt and kick returners. All of these customizations are offered online.
In addition to the ability to customize, the Internet has offered quality and timely analysis. Each site has its own unique way to offer information and opinions to help fantasy players. For instance, Yahoo! offers live fantasy analysis for three hours every Sunday morning. If you are on the site, the Yahoo! fantasy experts appear on your team’s homepage giving injury news, advice and answering lineup questions. ESPN even implements a semi-paywall for fantasy information. ESPN Insider gives in-depth analysis and research on nearly every aspect of fantasy sports, but you need a subscription for access. More importantly, however, for the casual player, most of these sites make it very easy to access the information. Typically there will be some sort of marker next to the player’s name if there is news. Therefore, players can access all the necessary information for fantasy success from one page for free.
While major customization and in-depth analysis can be pricey, it is often much cheaper than the hundreds of dollars Commissioner.com cost over a decade ago. What does that mean? More money in the pot. The less money each player has to spend on the website, the more they can spend on the buy-in. Each year, the major fantasy sites introduce various nuances that take advantage of the Internet. Like Yahoo!’s live video analysis, ESPN takes advantage with its global competition. They have ESPN Uber Challenge, a competition where each player tries to accumulate as many points in every ESPN Fantasy game as possible. Seems pretty intense, huh? I can tell you from personal experience that it is very time-consuming. Prizes range from ESPN merchandise to Best Buy gift certificates and even live sporting events. And yes, registration is free.
As each fantasy site takes advantage of the ease and benefit of the Internet, there is no telling where fantasy sports will be in five or ten years. Just check out Facebook’s Title Town to catch a glimpse.
A classmate of mine said something yesterday that caught my attention. She said she doesn’t read my blog because, if it’s about sports, she’s not interested.
Fair point. I feel this is a common sentiment among my colleagues. Well, I have a beef to pick.
The problem is that this blog is not about sports. If you want sports, go to Deadspin or ESPN. In fact, this blog is not even really about fantasy sports. If you want fantasy sports, go to Rotoworld or The Talented Mr. Roto. This blog is about business and media, and, in my opinion, fantasy sports plays a major role in the development of the two.
Let’s start with business. According to a study by the FSTA, 27.1 million Americans play fantasy sports, an industry that is estimated at $4.48 billion, which exceeds the expected 2010 revenues of Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and MySpace combined.
And it’s not who you think is playing. Nearly 3 million players are women. 71 percent of fantasy players have a bachelor’s degree or higher. Furthermore, the average household income of a fantasy sports player is $94,000. In other words, it’s not just deadbeats all caught up in this movement. Many businesses have even acknowledged the positive effect fantasy sports has had on their companies.
In addition, the influence of fantasy sports on media is immense. Besides the noticeable adjustments that various sports companies have made for fantasy, advertising and even newspapers have catered to its evolution. ESPN viewers and ESPN Radio listeners will often hear the various ESPN personalities discuss their fantasy teams.
In fact, as a prime example of the overwhelming influence that fantasy sports has had on media, not only has satellite radio created a 24-hour fantasy sports radio station, but the FX Network has a show in its second season, “The League.” Its premise? Five guys and their sometimes unhealthy obsession with fantasy sports.
I don’t write about recent scores or trades. I avoid statistics and rankings.
The purpose of this blog is to gain a better understanding of the history of this evolving business, its motivations and its effects on society. So don’t worry. Take a deep breath. Even if you don’t know who Brett Favre is, my blog is for you.