Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Fantasy Football: The Comeback

By Artistry

I reached my fantasy sports peak about a decade after I reached my physical peak.  It was a natural progression, as I started spending less time playing hockey and more time sitting in front of a computer pretending to work.  I knew and liked everybody in my office league.  Most people were active owners during the season, and if they weren't, I could poke my head into their office and get in their faces.  I won back-to-back fantasy football championships and a fantasy baseball title in between.  During this heady stretch, Mrs. Artistry even won her inaugural office fantasy football league.

I was something to behold back then.  I could take one look at another team's roster and make a perfect trade pitch.  Men deferred to me during the draft.  I dominated, had a glass of scotch, then dominated some more.  I was the Don Draper of fantasy sports.

Then, about two years ago, everything changed.  I moved to a new office in a new city, but I clung to my old fantasy leagues.  I had to do every draft over the phone.  I emailed people trade offers, and they didn't write me back.  There were new people in these leagues who I didn't know, and would never know, because I would never meet them.  Mrs. Artistry had a baby, Little Artistry, who is the best little person in the world.  He said the word "touchdown" at a very early age, then never said it again.  For the first time in memory, I finished completely out of the money.  Last spring, I joined Finesse as a co-owner of a fantasy baseball team and lost interest after like three days.  I had lost my way.  Suddenly, I was the Nacho Libre of fantasy sports.

There were two ways this could go.  One, I could accept that I'm not even a little bit young anymore, I have responsibilities, and I don't have time for one of these leagues let alone three.  Or two, I could fight to recapture my lost fantasy status, start a blog, and take an enormous pay cut to work a more interesting job with better hours.  Well GTOG Nation, I leave it to others to judge what kind of man Artistry's Mom raised, but I know she didn't raise him to choose the first option.  So I put myself on a program to recapture my fantasy football mojo.  It's going to work for me - I can feel it - and it can work for you, too.  Let's go through the 10 steps together after the jump...

Here are your can't-miss steps for returning to the fantasy football mountain-top.  If you've never been there, I'm not sure I can help you.  You may just be bad at fantasy sports, and I can't relate to you.  Sorry.  OK, let's get into it.  Here's what you need to do.

1. Quit fantasy baseball.  I used to really like baseball.  It was my entree into fantasy sports.  I remember getting together with my friends in the mid-1980's, a notepad, some baseball magazines, and a calculator in hand, and drafting rotisserie league teams.  We would actually sit and watch entire Pirate games on television, which seems inconceivable now.  And, let me remind you, it wasn't because they were any good.  I'm talking about a time when Johnny Ray was the team's best player, and Rick Reuschel was their best pitcher.  Rick Reuschel looked like the captain of a Monroeville recreational bowling league. 

It didn't matter.  We loved the Pirates, and we loved fantasy baseball.  The Bill James Baseball Abstract was our bible.  Now the love is gone.  One obvious reason for the change is I really don't have the time.  Summer used to be wide open, but now I have work, family stuff, travel, and writing to do.  I'd like to watch "The Wire" on Netflix.  The Season One DVD has been sitting by the TV for months now, but I haven't touched it.  No time.  Come fall, I am going to be playing fantasy football, watching every Penguin game, every Steeler game, and (I'm doing this for you, ladies) every episode of The Bachelor.  You think I'm going to squeeze in Game Three of Yankees-Braves?  No chance.  And there is another reason I'm done with fantasy baseball:  baseball sucks.  The Pirates have 18 consecutive losing seasons.  I am probably not entirely conscious of how much their record of futility -- unmatched by any other major professional sports franchise -- impacts my analysis, but it can't help.  The other reasons baseball sucks are equally well documented:  there is no parity; the lack of even a salary floor (let alone a salary cap) ensures the Pirates will continue to be terrible as long the Nuttings run the show; statistics we used to care about have been rendered relatively meaningless by both rampant steroid use and the advent of formulas like OPS, UZR, and VORP; and it's boring.  Cutting it out of my life just makes fantasy football season more special.  I'm more excited for it.  Goodbye fantasy baseball.  I quit.  So should you.

2. Quit your job.  If you have no passion for your work, you will eventually lose your passion for playing fantasy sports during working hours.  This may seem paradoxical, but think it through.  If you are bored, your brain starts to shut down a little.  Everything is a pain.  Everything is a struggle. 

You need to feed the fire.  Trust me, if you're engaged at work, you'll make much more out of the 15 minutes you spend adjusting your football roster or texting trade offers.  Go ahead, give your two weeks notice.  (Note: you will want to find a new job first.)

3. Gamble as much as possible to try to compensate for lost wages.  I'm going in on like four huge suicide pools.  The winners make a fortune.  I have to win one of these, right?  Right??

4. Keep it local.  As discussed, nothing kills your fantasy morale like being completely cut off from other owners.  Email doesn't cut it.  At least some of these people need to be in your life.  Are you going to call up some guy you've never met who's a partner at a Manhattan law firm to try to convince him he should trade you Chris Johnson for Michael Sims-Walker and Thomas Jones?  Maybe he would appreciate the distraction, but that would just be awkward. 

5. Do an auction draft.  Live, if possible.  I have never done an auction, but I'm doing one this year.  I am already more excited than I've been about any league in years.  This team will be my team in a way that teams I drafted could never be.  It won't be dictated by random draft position.
Plump Legs
If I want Maurice Jones-Drew and his plump little legs badly enough, I can have Maurice Jones-Drew and his plump little legs.  I just have to pay for him.  (Note:  I do not want Maurice Jones-Drew and his plump little legs.)

6. Dedicate your fantasy football season to some higher purpose.  Winning is certainly it's own reward, but it really isn't enough when it comes to fantasy sports.  No one is throwing you a party when you win your league title.  Your place in history will not be guaranteed by your work in this area.  And you are not doing this for the money.  If you are in a big-money league where you can win thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars, you are not doing this for the money, because clearly you have too much money to begin with.  My auction league is a $30 buy-in, with something like a $160 payout for winning either the regular season or the playoffs.  Given the amount of time I am going to devote to this, the best-case scenario has me collecting about $3 for every hour spent building my championship team. That may be overly optimistic.  There has to be something more than prestige or money at stake. 

I don't think it was happenstance that my championship run partially coincided with my desire for something bigger than any fantasy title:  revenge.  Shortly after I won my first football championship, the league commissioner, a guy who we will call Sekou (his real name), quit his job, took my winnings, and ran.  I emailed him and left him a few voicemails, my tone becoming increasingly less civil, and ultimately never heard from the guy again.  I didn't care so much about the money, but I was, literally, robbed.  And I was angry.  Every team name I had for the next several seasons had something to do with Sekou (Get Sekou, Gone Sekou Gone, #$*% Sekou, etc.).  No matter who my opponent was in a given week, I saw Sekou's face.  I was driven, and it made me better. 

I'm over Sekou now.  Sekou, I forgive you, even though you are going to hell.  So what now, you ask?  What's my higher purpose?  Why, GTOG, of course.  Every team I own is going to be called "GTOG," and a win in fantasy is a win for this blog.  That'll keep me focused when otherwise I might go cut my toenails or something.  Higher purpose.

7. Draft upside, not potential.  You need to know the difference.  Ryan Matthews has upside (to realistically outperform his draft position).  Rashard Mendenhall has potential (to do anything from finishing as a top 5 back to averaging 3.3 ypc behind an O-line with a missing Colon.  Just keeping it real here).

No Colon
8. Live by the waiver wire.  Put in the time on the wire folks. You have to do it.  Every year champions are made by picking up a Jamaal Charles or a Justin Forsett.  The last two spots on your bench should be like musical chairs.  You will not draft a perfect team.  Be willing to experiment early and often with guys who aren't playing for you.  If you don't take chances, you probably are not complying with Step 3 of this program, and you've already lost.

9. Don't draft players who don't inspire you.  This isn't always a good idea, technically.  For example, last year I had the opportunity to take Cedric Benson in the 5th round.  I needed a second running back, and he was the only legitimate starter left on the board.  A guy who was born in Cincinnati had the next pick, and he would surely take the ex-Bear and current Bengal if I didn't.  It was a no-brainer.  But I couldn't pull the trigger.

Benson: Undraftable
 Instead, I said into my speaker-phone, my voice dripping with contempt, "Mark, I guess you want Cedric Benson.  You can have him."  And I took Eddie Royal.  Oops.  The thing is, I don't really regret it.  You have to go with guys who make you happy.  I'm not talking about picking all Pittsburgh Steelers; I'm talking about picking guys you can get excited about.  Guys you want to watch.  It'll make you more invested.  With this step in mind, I will not be drafting any of these players this year:  Derrick Mason, Thomas Jones, Clinton Portis, David Garrard, Carson Palmer, Joseph Addai, Laurence Maroney, or Nate Burleson. 

10. Encourage your significant other to join a fantasy football league of her own.  This is self-explanatory.  Huge if you can pull this off.  She will not need your assistance, because she is more expert than you in all things. 

Good luck with your new beginning.  Let's get started.  GTOG.


  1. Nice Draper reference. Nice writing, too.

  2. I was so inspired by your piece on fantasy football, that I have decided to draft a team for the first time. However, is it true that it's only going to take me 15 minutes a day? Because someone has to make a living for the family.

  3. Anonymous: That's what wives are for (making a living for the family), unless you somehow convince them to have their own team. Then you better hope your kid is some Doogie Howser like genius who will be working as an MD by the time he's 14.

  4. I have a feeling we'd have been seeing a lot more of this type of banter if Artistry was on Facebook.

  5. But I DID raise you for option #1.
    Your Mother