Last Week’s Question
In last week’s column,
I asked about the kinds of side bets that happen in fantasy leagues.
My question was prompted by a reader named Zach, who plays in a
league that actually awards owners bonus points for correctly predicting
the biggest head-to-head blowout and the most tightly contested
matchup each week.
Zach wanted to know whether any other leagues use bonus systems
such as the one he describes. I did not hear from anyone who plays
in such a league, though Dalton wrote in to explain that his league
once tried something similar:
It sounds like Zach’s league focuses on games
between two owners. We never did that, but we tried something
fairly close for one season three or four years ago. Each week,
owners had to predict who would get the high score for the week
and who would get the low score. It was sort of pointless because
most of us picked ourselves for the high score every week, and
we kept singling out the same two or three weak owners for the
low score. There were no bonus points, but there was a $25 payout
to the person with the most correct predictions at the end of
the season. I don’t remember who won the money. Maybe it
was me, but it’s hard to remember because none of us took
it very seriously by the end of the year. It was just too random.
Really weak teams usually finish the season with a poor record,
but they can still score big every so often. And strong teams
that look like everything should work out for them in a certain
week can end up with the lowest score in the league.
My experience is that good teams really do make the playoffs more
often than not—and that bad teams really do miss the playoffs
more often than not. But how they perform from one week to the
next turned out not to be a very reliable indicator of the owner’s
talents, so we scrapped that extra purse. I don’t miss it.
I don’t think anyone else does either.
I did not expect to learn that the bonus system described by
Zach was very common, so I invited readers to share any information
concerning side bets in fantasy that might be interesting. Donovan
responded with two anecdotes:
Our FF league has been around for 20 years, but
it's not a huge money league. Old friends, lots of pride, and
smaller entry fees create the perfect situation for side betting.
One of the other owners and I go on a canoe/fishing trip down
the Rum River in Central Minnesota every Memorial Weekend. We
play each other this weekend, and our side bet is the loser will
have to jump off a bridge into the river on next year's fishing
trip. It's not dangerous, but depending on the weather, might
be unbelievably cold. If I lose, I'm hoping to use the bottle
of Dr. McGuillicuddy that I won from him during our matchup earlier
this season to keep me warm.
Another owner and I have been friends since 6th grade. With wives,
kids, house projects, and that sort of thing, it gets harder to
find time to get together, so each year when our teams face each
other, we play for a dinner for four at a really nice restaurant
chosen by the winner. No matter who wins, it's a great excuse
to hang out, while our wives are happy as hell that we're actually
taking them out at a nice place.
Donovan’s stories perfectly capture the kinds of “sub-dynamics”
that make long-lived fantasy leagues fun. In anonymous online
leagues, it’s easy to lump all of your opponents together.
But in leagues that bring in friends, relatives, friends of relatives,
and relatives of friends, side bets are a great way of forging
distinctive and memorable relationships with fellow owners who
you might not otherwise get to know.
In 2003, I was in a league with my brother and a number of his
friends (most of whom I barely knew). I had enough time in those
days to post mean-spirited messages on the league’s bulletin
boards about why my opponents didn’t stand a chance, and
I went after my brother’s buddies with the special kind
of heartlessness that is only possible for virtual strangers.
In Week 5, I had a 40-point lead over my opponent (Todd, known
affectionately as Toddles) going into the Monday night game. My
players had all played on Sunday, and he only had one receiver
active in the game—Keenan McCardell. That Monday morning,
a victory seemed like a foregone conclusion, and I posted all
sorts of things about Todd’s ineptitude as a fantasy owner.
I was so confident of a win that I vowed not to trash talk Todd
any more if McCardell could pull his team to within 10 points
of my score.
True fantasy buffs will remember that Monday night game between
Indianapolis and Tampa Bay because there was some controversy
as to whether the TD that McCardell scored on a fumble recovery
should count as an offensive or defensive play (no need to get
into that here).
Thanks to a career night for McCardell, Todd did more than pull
within 10. He actually beat me. I haven’t trash talked him
since, and even though I don’t know him any better than
my brother’s other high school buddies, I have a special
rivalry with Todd—all thanks to a side bet I made with myself
(and with Keenan McCardell apparently!).
David wrote in with a story of a quasi-side bet that enriched
his fantasy experience:
I'm in a 12 team keeper league where your
draft position for the next year is based on your regular season
year-end performance this year. The best team picks 12th, and
the worst team picks 1st. For 10 years, my buddy and I would trade
each other our first round draft picks at the start of the year!
Basically, putting my draft pick where my mouth is and betting
him I will finish in front of him at the end of the season. If
I finish in front of him THIS year, I get a better draft position
NEXT year. My buddy quit the league a couple of years ago and
I haven't been able to get anyone else in the league to agree
to the trade. Hopefully, next year!
It was a lot of fun and put an added twist on the season to BEAT
Homer Simpson has it right. Gambling is like ice cream in that
it makes everything better. Gambling on football makes football
more fun; and gambling on the way you gamble on football makes
gambling more fun. It’s magic.
I will therefore remind readers about the “Acting the Fool”
contest devised by one of my commissioners. This is an elimination
contest that lasts for the first 12 weeks of the season. Each
week, the owner with the lowest score is eliminated from contention.
It’s very simple, but it can get to be more interesting
(for participants and spectators alike) than the race concerning
playoff seeding in Weeks 8-12. Whether you like any of the ideas
outlined above or not, best of luck with getting some side bet
action going in your league.
This Week’s Question
What percent of the fantasy football population is female, and
how are the female players doing?
Consider the opening words of Marc Mondry’s LMS section
Guys (and perhaps gals?) . . .
We know that women watch football, bet on football, and participate
(to some extent at least) in fantasy football. I’ve included
a fair number of remarks from female FFers in this column over
the years, but it’s obvious that females are underrepresented
in the world of fantasy.
If you play in more than 3 leagues and haven’t encountered
a single woman in any of them, I would like to hear from you.
But I’m more interested in hearing from female FFers or
from males in leagues with at least one female owner. I think
there is a general assumption that females who are willing to
delve into the male world of FF generally only do so because they
really really know their stuff. If that’s true, then women
should be disproportionately represented in post-season tournaments.
Please feel free to share
any stories related to this question that you like, but I
don’t need long messages from anyone. If you are in a 12-person
league with just one female owner and she has made the playoffs
3 out of the past 5 years, I’ll be grateful for just that
piece of information. A man can stay in a fantasy league without
making the playoffs for 5 years in a row—without anyone
making a comment. But I suspect a woman who had that severe a
drought would be ridiculed mercilessly. Am I right?
(Courtesy of Marc
Guys (and perhaps gals?), I’m sorry to say this week’s
column is going to be brief. Law school exams have begun for me,
so I do not have time to be as thorough as usual, but as always,
I will be available all week for those of you that have questions
or want to discuss your options further. Feel free to email
me; I love hearing from you!
Last Week’s Bust: Denver
over New York, 34-17
This one was just ugly. The Broncos showed up to play, and the
Jets did not. It’s as simple as that. In a clear let-down
game, the Jets failed to put up much of a fight—even on
the ground. Peyton Hillis (the former fullback and 5th option
at RB earlier this season) looked very good against a supposedly
strong NYJ front seven. The Jets also ran the ball well, but abandoned
the run (earlier than I think was necessary) because they fell
In the end, there were two inconsistent teams playing in this
game, and the Broncos brought their A game, while New York didn’t.
I knew the Jets have been inconsistent this season; I also knew
that Denver could be dangerous; I took my chances and got burned.
Trap Game: Detroit over Minnesota
The great thing about picking Detroit to win is that if they win,
I am a genius, but if they lose, it’s exactly what was supposed
to happen. J
But more seriously, if you have been following the column, you
know that I have been impressed by Detroit lately, although they
looked awful against Tennessee on Turkey Day. On Sunday, the Lions
host Minnesota, who squeaked out a win at home against them earlier
this year, 12-10. This time, Culpepper will be leading Detroit
against his former squad, which will be without both Kevin and
Pat Williams, leaving large (very large?) holes for Kevin Smith
to run through. If Detroit can keep it close and not allow the
Viking defense to get aggressive, they have a decent shot at pulling
out their first win of the season.
Pick 3: Indianapolis over Cincinnati
(SEATTLE, JACKSONVILLE, NEW YORK GIANTS,
MINNESOTA, PITTSBURGH, BALTIMORE, PHILADELPHIA, MIAMI, CAROLINA,
The Colts have not played like the powerhouse we are accustomed
to, but the bottom line is that they are doing just enough to
win. They are a team on a late-season winning streak with their
eye on one of the two coveted wild card spots, and I find it hard
to imagine that a leader like Peyton Manning, though no longer
a prodigy, would allow his team to play down to the level that
Cincinnati is playing at. Indy cannot afford to blow games if
they want to make the playoffs, and this is basically a must-win
game for them.
Pick 2: New England over Seattle
(TENNESSEE, dallas, CHICAGO, new york
giants, TAMPA BAY, san francisco, Jacksonville, CAROLINA, philadelphia,
WASHINGTON, new york jets)
How the mighty have fallen! If I told you 6 months ago that I
would not recommend Indianapolis or New England once until week
14 of the season, you would have never read this column. Well,
perhaps once—but just for laughs.
Back to business – New England is in very much the same
position as Indianapolis, as they have a must-win game against
a subpar team. They do have to travel all the way to Seattle,
but they should be well motivated after the beating they took
at the hands of the Steelers this past week. Matt Cassel has been
torching bad defenses; he and the offense must be looking forward
to their trip out West to face the Seahawks (just like Dallas
was last week – I am sure you saw part of that game). The
one silver lining from the contest against the Steelers is that
the running game actually looked pretty effective—quite
an accomplishment against the stout Pittsburgh defense. This week
look for the Pats to run up the score against the Seahawks.
Pick 1: San Diego over Oakland
(BUFFALO, denver, CAROLINA, washington,
TENNESSEE, NEW YORK JETS, CHICAGO, ARIZONA, NEW YORK GIANTS, PITTSBURGH,
San Diego has been an awful disappointment this year, both on
the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. Luckily, this week
they host the even more pitiful Raiders on Thursday night. The
Chargers are more talented at just about every position on the
field, and they match up well against Oakland, as their rushing
game (on both sides of the ball) is their strength, which should
give Oakland trouble, both defending against LT, and especially
trying to run on the often tough San Diego rush defense. Forcing
JaMarcus Russell to throw the ball is the recipe for keeping Oakland
off the scoreboard, and that’s exactly what the Chargers
are going to be able to do. The Chargers should win this one handily.
On another, totally unrelated note: Why are two AFC West teams
(one 4-8 and the other 3-9) playing in a nationally televised
Thursday night game? Can anyone explain that to me? Even if the
schedule was set before the season, Oakland was not looking to
be a contender this year – why would anyone think this regional
matchup was going to be worthy of national attention? In a week
that features some excellent matchups (DAL vs. PIT, PHI vs. NYG)
not being nationally televised, why do we get the distinct displeasure
of watching the Raiders? Ugh – I hope I did not ruin anyone’s
Thursday night with that mini-rant. Good luck this week everyone.
For responses to this week's fantasy question please email
me no later than 10 a.m. EST on Wednesdays during the football