Fantasy Football: Skill or luck?

If you’re like me, and about 20 million others, you play Fantasy
Football (FFB). If you haven’t given it a shot yet, I strongly
recommend it. It’s fun, easy to jump into and can be profitable, too.
But before you start eyeing mock drafts and depth charts for the 2010
NFL rosters, understand that to become a FFB champion, you need skill,
a strong understanding of team’s tendencies, but most importantly, you
need a lot of luck.nfl-shield-mark-cl.jpg

If you’ve never been in a league, the idea is simple: you hold a draft
and pick the players that you think will perform at a high level and
sit back and see how things play out. If the roster you assemble lives
up to expectations, you’ll likely have a good season and end up
thinking FFB is the best guilty pleasure created since the boys from
Bristol (ESPN) came on air in 1979. If the players you select
underachieve or get injured, you’ll likely never sniff the playoffs (or
the money awarded to the top teams) but at least you’ll understand the
same helpless feeling that 20 NFL coaches endure every year. It will
also provide you with a slew of excuses for finishing in the basement
of your league and allow you to start your preparation for the
following season immediately following Week 7 when you were officially
eliminated from playoff contention.

While I would put my knowledge of NFL football up against almost
anybody, another misconception of FFB is that knowledge of the game and
its players will translate into FFB success. That theory couldn’t be
farther from the truth. As I said earlier, luck is essential to any
successful FFB campaign and if you don’t believe me, let me provide an example.

In an effort to allow me to watch an ungodly amount of NFL action this
season, I asked my girlfriend and some of her friends if they wanted to
join their first FFB league along with some of our mutual guy friends
who had previous FFB experience. In addition to the quality bonding
time we spent together each and every Sunday, the league afforded us
some extra chances to get together with our friends and do a little
trash talking while sweating out the action. I also figured that
because nearly half of the members of our 10-team league had never
played before and the fact that I’ve been playing almost 20 years, I would
almost be guaranteed a spot in the playoffs and a hunk of the cash. Call it
beginner’s luck, call the newbies quick studies, or call it one of the
world’s greatest unsolved mysteries, but somehow my playoff spot and the prize money I was
planning to use on Xmas presents disappeared like Terrell Owens in
Buffalo.

To help drive home my point that FFB is probably about 80 percent luck,
the first-year player who dominated our league for most of the season
didn’t realize her team was atop the standings until she was informed
of her good fortune by another player in Week 12. This same player
never checked the live scoring on the website, opting to wait until
each Tuesday or Wednesday to see how she fared that week. Meanwhile, I
was monitoring my player’s actions from sun up to sun down. Then, come Sundays, I would check up on my player’s like an
over-bearing parent who just allowed their teenager to attend a co-ed
slumber party.

I mean come on, shouldn’t time, effort and knowledge be rewarded?
Shouldn’t those who work the hardest eventually reap the rewards of
those efforts? Apparently the FFB Gods don’t think so or I’d be winning
all three leagues and as you can likely tell by the tone of this post, that’s
not the case. 

Another playoff-contending team owner selected her players using the same criteria that People
magazine uses to produce its 100 Most Beautiful People issue. Another
playoff team picked players based in her home town of Green Bay because
she wasn’t familiar with Peyton Manning’s work but had seen some
highlights of Packers QB Aaron Rodgers on the local news. She used a
Top-200 players sheet to help her get through the draft and whenever she
was torn between picking players, her final decision was ultimately
made using the “which guy is hotter” formula.

Ultimately, our “Fantasy Virgins” League produced a playoff field that
consisted of one guy owner with FFB experience and three ladies who
used to think Fantasy Football meant winning a Dream Date with Jets QB Mark
Sanchez.

Maybe the dozens of hours I studied player stats and team tendencies
for my drafts was overkill. Maybe the countless Internet searches I did
to fill my nugget with what I thought was vital information wasn’t
necessary. Maybe I haven’t learn one helpful piece of information over
the course of the 16 previous years I played FFB. Maybe the 35 years of
closely following the NFL does me no good when it comes to FFB. Maybe
my whole approach of trying to draft the best players based on skill
and past performance was misguided.

Maybe next year I’ll get photos of all the players and pick my squad
based on who’s easiest on the eyes. Not bloody likely. I will once
again study until my eyes bleed and go into my drafts well-prepared and
informed and hope that justice is served. Until then, I will
begrudgingly say congrats to all of fantasy newcomers across the
country that fluked their way into the playoffs while those of who
actually understand the game are left writing bitter blog posts and
looking forward to the start of next season.

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