Back in The Stone Age of Fantasy Sports the playing field was level. Of course, I’m way, waaay too young to have been there myself. But from time to time you’ll hear one of these fantasy (air quote) experts (end air quote) ramble on about the good old days… and yes it’s usually Matthew Berry talking. Now don’t get me wrong, I respect the Talented Mr. Roto and his self-deprecating sense of humor (he always makes the easy jokes after all), but I often find myself scratching my head at his rankings and valuations as I’m sure you do. It seems like the guy just throws out the statistics all together and lets his emotions take over sometimes – but I digress.
Yes, Torrid Tales of The Stone Age, a time when playing fantasy sports was a niche hobby that held about the equivalent Nerdscore of a Dungeons & Dragons Slumber Party. Gramps Berry will sit us on his knee and tell us that back in the days before the Information Super Highway and computer machines you had to hold your fantasy drafts in person – which basically meant a bunch of hammered rednecks in bell-bottoms sitting around a plush 70′s rug with nothing more than 30 coffee-stained pages of scribbled statistics as a sorry excuse for a cheat sheet, a pack of baseball cards, and then maybe the stick of gum that came in the pack of baseball cards. And of course there was the beer… and probably weed (don’t worry, I have nothing against either). Then once the smoke cleared and the regular season began the league commissioner had to manually tabulate everyone’s scores each week using the box scores from the latest issue of USA Today. Sounds pretty shitty. But of course like the first players of Pong or the first drivers of the Ford Model A CombustionEngineMotorCarriage, our Fantasy Forefathers had no idea how easy and awesome it would be for us. We are now a bunch of cranky spoiled fantasy offspring who don’t appreciate what they had to go through for us to get here. What was my point again? Oh yes, The Fantasy Stone Age was a level playing field. Everyone had access to the same information, albeit limited. The pace of information was incredibly slow and with one issue of USA Today our Forefathers had ample time to get caught up on the baseball happenings well in advance of setting their weekly lineups. The quality of information was shitty, but everyone was exposed to the same shittiness, so it was even. Just trust me on this, I’m kind of talking out of my ass now. Like I said, I wasn’t there.
The old dudes did have it right in one respect though: Live drafts are the shit. Getting hammered with your buddies is the only way to go. Especially when someone makes a really stupid drunken pick. “Bobby Fucking Abreu in the THIRD ROUND?” Yes we start drinking early and heavily.
Nowadays the playing field is still level in theory, but it’s a hell of a lot harder to a) keep it that way, and b) rise to the top. One would think that with all the advancements in technology it would be easier than ever to dominate your league. This is a complete falsehood. It is roughly 26 times harder to dominate your league now. Why? Well I’m glad you asked:
1) Everyone has access to many
good sources of fantasy analysis
Whether they are right or not in their predictions, fantasy goombas like Matthew Berry, Eric Karabell, and the other like-minded jokers out there do provide the masses with the otherwise obscure names of players which they can then draft or pick up off of the free agent wire. The experts make compelling arguments (read: semi-coherent gargling sounds in the form of chicken scratch) about particular players and those recommendations alone are usually enough to get at least SOMEONE to add those players. The experts expose even the most casual ESPN/CBS/Yahoo Free Fantasy Baseball/Football fan to the new blood, and so the same fan who would have been dominated 30 years ago when he or she was too stoned to check the USA Today on Sunday is getting lucky picking up uber-hyped guys like Jason Heyward or Stephen Strasburg (too soon?). If the masses are following the analysis of the fantasy experts, then to keep it a level playing field you better be doing that too – not an easy task considering how much energy it takes to get through an entire TMR article.
2) Everyone has access to excellent and free fantasy news services
I love sites like Rotoworld, MLBTradeRumors, and KFFL because they do such a great job of relaying key fantasy news and summarizing the major fantasy concerns with very little nonsense. Unfortunately, everyone else can also access this information if they so choose. I think it is safe to assume that most of the guys/gals in your league are spending a fair amount of time monitoring these sites, so in order for the playing field to be level you have to do it too. I guarantee Gramps wasn’t spending hours each day perusing the sports section of the newspaper 30 years ago. You and I have to put in a hell of a lot more effort to stay competitive now.
3) Everyone has access to live Twitter updates
On my twitter account @fantasynewsman I try to follow all the movers and shakers of the sports world. I follow journalists, beat writers, sports television personalities, coaches, managers, ex-players, fantasy news sites, rumor websites, athletes, douchebag athletes, the douchebag athletes’ agents… hell, I’ll even follow a douchebag athletes’ illigitimate baby momma if I think she might spill some key information (in an angry rant, perhaps?) that could give me an edge over the competition. If you aren’t on Twitter, then you are probably at least 5 to 15 minutes behind breaking news that could have a major impact on your team. This Just In: Johnny Damon sprained his vagina and was placed on the 60 Day DL. You have to assume your league-mates are on Twitter following the same people as I am, and to keep the playing field level you have to do it too.
So there you have it. Everyone has access to news on every player, all the time, as it happens, and you have to invest a lot of your time just to keep up. That’s the bad news. The good news is that despite painting a picture of this worst-case-scenario for you, in truth most people probably aren’t reading all the analysis, aren’t monitoring the fantasy news sites enough, aren’t following the key market movers on Twitter. And most of them probably aren’t reading this blog right now (because it’s brand new). So you are already ahead of the game.
If you continue to read this blog and follow me on Twitter @fantasynewsman I promise to do everything I can to get your team to the promised land. Sometimes my posts will be short and to the point, like a midget kebab. Sometimes my posts will be long winded and spewing hateraid, like when I sort through the latest and greatest ESPN bullshit rankings. I’ll throw in some polls, Q&A sessions, and of course my own rankings and analysis. I’ll try to keep everything honest, and in return I ask only that you join in on the conversation by commenting on the blog entries, or engaging me on twitter. Together we can build you a fantasy team that would make even the most hardened fantasy stone-age veteran proud.