Thursday, August 14, 2008

Thinking about quitting fantasy sports

On my way home from Waupaca the other day with Will and Charlie, I was listening to ESPN Radio, where the host was discussing with his guest whether or not people who play fantasy football are dorks. I don't think they are, obviously, but as the fantasy guy was arguing about all the merits of fantasy sports, which I have enjoyed playing for many years, I found myself thinking that it just isn't that fun for me anymore.

I'm thinking about quitting fantasy sports.

Which is hard to say. I've been playing fantasy sports for close to 20 years. Back in the day, my dad, brother and I played a primitive early form of fantasy football - Christian Okoye and Haywood Jeffires were studs on my first teams. Then I played with Burch, where we'd draft in Froehlich's basement and keep score by tabulating points from the box scores in Monday's paper. While in Fremont, with nothing better to do, I got into fantasy baseball, which emerged as my favorite fantasy sport to play. I've also dabbled in fantasy basketball and hockey, but don't play them any more.

Back in the day few things got me as excited as fantasy sports. I loved preparing for the draft, formulating a strategy, trying to find sleepers, etc. The drafts themselves were -- and still are -- so much fun, trash talking with your buddies, trying to beat them from the start. When my leagues started introducing a keeper component, even better -- you got to follow the same core group of guys from year to year, like a real team.

But the thrill isn't there for me anymore.

One obvious reason is that my performance has been mediocre at best. In the past few years I've managed to win a couple leagues, but just as often I've finished near the bottom (where two of my three baseball teams are soon to end up) or, worse yet, middle of the pack. The proliferation of fantasy magazines and websites eliminated what was my main advantage -- voracious reading and knowledge of the players.

Without drafting a superior team at the start of the season, you need to stay ahead of the curve with in-season adjustments, and I have not done particularly well there. I just don't have the drive needed to stay on top of things day after day like the best players do. With two kids, a wife, a more demanding job, and now two or three blogs that I enjoy writing, there's not much time for poring over Roto Times before bed. Other fantasy competitors are in similar situations, and they choose to stay on top of things; these guys finish ahead of me because they're working harder at it. Case in point: when I got back from Comic-Con, I noticed that Fernando Rodney had been picked up in all my leagues, and that one of my closers, Todd Jones, was placed on the DL several days before. Huh, would have been nice to find that out sooner.

Plus, it seems like every time I make a crucial decision, it's the wrong one, and whenever I forget to adjust my lineup I get burned. Case in point: in Schwab's keeper baseball league, an excellent competition, we get to keep eight guys from one year to the next, and after finishing a satisfying second last year I had 12-13 candidates. In several head-to-head decisions, I kept Travis Hafner, Aaron Harang, and Erik Bedard instead of Adrian Gonzalez, Ben Sheets, and Tim Lincecum.

Awful decisions, no? How about this one: Frank offered me Ryan Braun for Harang, and I turned it down. Another guy offered me Geovany Soto for Bedard, and I turned it down. And in Bedard's one good start this year, he was on my bench since he had missed his previous start with a mysterious ailment. Now when guys offer me trades I'm paralyzed, certain whether I accept or decline, the decision will make me look like an ass.

So about a month ago Corbett emailed me to sign up for fantasy football, and it took me a long time to do it because I am so freaking terrible at fantasy sports that I'd rather just buy my friends $50 worth of beer than giving a pro-rated portion of it to whoever ends up winning the league.

Even with all this self-loathing, it's still going to be hard to give up fantasy sports altogether. I love the drafts. Especially living where I do, and my child-imposed limited social life, getting together for drafts, either in-person or online, is a great way to keep friendships going.

So we'll see. Maybe in a few weeks I'll draft a killer football team and run the table. The thought of the year I drafted Peyton Manning in the second round, or when free agent pickup Dontrelle Willis lifted me to a title, remains fresh in my mind. The thrill of the chase and that one or two awesome moves are what keeps me coming back. Whether or not that thrill remains for me in 2009 is up in the air.


guy over 30 said...

I gave up fantasy sports and softball with the last year or so. Haven't looked back.

Corby said...

Is that my warning to start looking for someone? I will wait until you make it official

Scott Tappa said...

No, I'm not quitting this year - I'm in for football. And like I said, maybe I'll have a change of heart.

Scott Tappa said...

Guy - Funny you should mention softball, I last played a couple years ago, on a team with guys who really weren't that much fun, and we were middle of the pack at best. I felt like I had to keep playing because I used to enjoy it so much with my friends; now it was just nerve-racking because I didn't want to screw up and piss off our captain.

Also played volleyball on crappy work teams for 4-5 years after moving here, and our lack of competitiveness killed me, but I kept playing hoping to find the right fit. But it never happened.

Quit both and now just enjoy relatively stress-free summer evenings with my family.

Toohey said...

Bah. I love fantasy sports, and like you said the draft is usually the best part. If not the smack talking. Although there hasn't been much in Corbett's baseball league this year.

Also, I play co-ed volleyball, softball and football and the teams I'm on a fairly competitive, but not overly so. I just look at it as a great excuse to get out of the house and hang with some friends. In the winter we have a men's league for football and that's the same thing. We usually go out afterward and grab a few beers. Granted, I'm not married, but many of the people on the teams are.

Just my .02.

p.s. What, no mention of the Earl Weaver draft in college?

p.p.s. Did you know they have a fantasy league for predicting Box Office revenues for upcoming films? I think you can play fantasy anything.

Jim Polzin said...

Step off the ledge, Taps -- if only so I don't feel so guilty.

I can't help but feel responsible for this in some way, since I talked some serious trash a few months ago after giving you beatdown. In retrospect, I should have made fun of you for something else, like the fact that you have three blogs.

What you said about in-season maintenance of your team is dead on. I'm in three leagues this year: obviously, I'm doing well in Corbett's league, but only because I got lucky and drafted guys like Kinsler and Hamilton and haven't had to touch my team much since.

I had a good draft in another league but my team has slipped because I don't have the time to stay on top of transactions.

And I had a crappy draft in my third league and will finish near the bottom because I'm a terrible in-season GM.

So don't fret. Pretend your a Cubs fan and tell yourself there's always next year.

scott.tappa said...

Actually Jim, I didn't even remember that, your trash talk was lost in a haze of garage ball and foot blisters.

The specific point I started thinking this way was on a Sunday morning after the Bedard start I referenced, where he pitched eight scoreless innings and won for my bench. I looked at Jana and said "Why am I even playing fantasy sports any more? I'm terrible at it!"

Will said...

I think you've just run into some bad fantasy luck, which is frustrating. It tends to happen if you play these leagues long enough, as you have, over the years. You were pretty excited after reading Fantasyland, right? I think the percentages will go in your favor more times than not.

My vote would be to stick it out, if anything, because it allows for a little friendly trash-talking among buddies you can't see too often anymore (although, I agree with Toohey - the boards have been quiet for a bit).

Scott Tappa said...

According to Yahoo, my all-time ranking is something like 59%, which as I suspected is pretty damn average.

As far as trash talking goes, it pretty much ends after the draft. The only stuff that pops up is mean-spirited Brewers-Cubs shrapnel.

You're right about Fantasyland, I was pretty pumped up, even (NERD ALERT) created some spreadsheets to analyze my draft in Frank's league based on past results. Of course, when all the guys you draft grossly underperform or get hurt that sort of gets thrown out the window.

frank said...

Had that malaise happen in football, which has gotten to the point where every "sleeper" has been discussed in the 20 magazines and 600 sites and everyone is basically drafting off the same advice and lists and it's mostly luck.

I got in a couple of different leagues -- IDP leagues, auctions, and that helped get me back into it again. I've always been into baseball, as you know (Braun for Harang ... yikes. Although I was right that my pitching stunk and I needed help).

But anyway, instead of giving it up, I'd try something new -- as much as that sounds like the complete opposite of what you're talking about. And if you've already been in auctions and it wasn't fun, then I probably agree with Will -- the bad luck will pass and you'll enjoy it again when you're in a title race.

Matt said...

Holy crap, Taps! Not to make light of a serious situation, but the tone of these posts make it seem like you've announced that you have cancer.

People have come out of the woodwork to support you through this difficult time in your life.

I have confidence that you will pull through.

Corby said...

Schwalbach (Ballsweat) is right, the comments you received makes it seem as though something is wrong with your health. If you decide to sell some sort of colored bracelet to support "Fantasy Sports 4-Ever", let me know, I will throw $5 your way to keep you in my leagues.

There are certainly days when I wonder what I am doing, but then I think, what else would I be doing?

Jim Austin said...

Someone who doesn't appreciate your athletic prowess and sports mind may ask, "What is the common denominator here? Crappy softball team starring T-Money, crappy volleyball team starring T-Money, crappy fantasy teams managed by T-Money." Just throwing it out there.

It's obvious you're setting the bar too high. You can either continue being a competitive frustrated loser or a middle-of-the-pack donator enjoying the social aspects of fantasy sports. Either way, please get in our fantasy football league.

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