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Mike Davis | Archive | Email |
Staff Writer

How Do You Keep Yourself from Checking Out?

Last Week's Question: How deep does your fandom go?

My column for Week 12 featured a question from Jim, who wanted me to ask readers how deep their fandom goes. I wasn’t sure what “fandom” meant. Does it mean being such a huge fan of the NFL that you dress up like Fireman Ed for Jets games? Does it mean being such a huge fan of fantasy football that you willingly get a tattoo or a piercing as the toilet bowl prize for finishing last in your league? Does it mean being such a huge fan of a particular NFL team (say, the Cowboys) that you keep starting a player from that team (say, Dak Prescott) ahead of a more productive player at the same position (say, Case Keenum)?

I left the question open in the hope that readers might find it irresistible—but that didn’t work.

My apologies, Jim. I may have better luck with your question at some point in the future, but it didn’t drum up much of a response over the Thanksgiving holiday.

That’s not unusual.

I often see a major drop-off in interest in this column right around Thanksgiving, which just happens to be when most fantasy players can tell whether they have a shot at the playoffs in their league or not.

Once owners are eliminated from post-season contention, it’s typical for them to check out. They may continue to watch games on Sunday, but their eagerness to devour stat lines from around the league diminishes. If they are good sports, they will continue to adjust their lineups in response to injuries and match-ups, but they’re only going through the motions of playing fantasy at the end of the season. They’re barely paying attention, which brings me to this week’s question:

This Week's Question: How do you keep yourself from checking out?

To be clear, I am not asking what commissioners can do to keep owners interested in their leagues even after elimination from the postseason picture. We’ve had that discussion before. Some commissioners keep owners from checking out by awarding small cash prizes to the highest scoring team each week. Others have consolation tournaments so that no one is ever truly out of contention until the playoffs are underway. These strategies are often effective enough to keep owners engaged, but rarely at the top of their game.

Fantasy experts take a different tack than commissioners. Instead of depending on cash and consolation prizes as incentives, they like to focus on how far ahead they will be next year if they continue to pay attention this year.

The problem with this chestnut of an argument is its similarity to Nancy Reagan’s “Just say no” anti-drug campaign. Reminding people that they can say no to drugs doesn’t magically make drug addiction go away; and reminding fantasy owners that they’ll be better off in 2018 if they keep paying attention in 2017 doesn’t diminish the sense of futility in watching the waiver wire once your season is beyond salvaging.

This year, I can relate to that sense of futility more intensely than ever before. I’m in multiple leagues. I’ve already clinched a playoff spot in the one that matters most to me. I write about fantasy football. And even with all these reasons to remain hyper-focused on the NFL, I’m suffering from the sense of futility that owners of Ezekiel Elliott share. I made the playoffs in large part because of his productivity early in the season, but my team without him simply isn’t strong enough to win a championship. It doesn’t help that Michael Crabtree’s ejection probably cost me a victory in Week 12 . . . or that his suspension is likely to cost me another one in Week 13. The point is that even though I’m playoff-bound, the wheels are coming off my team.

This league does have a cash prize for the weekly high score (which I won three times this season—when Zeke was active). It also has a consolation tournament. The commissioner has done everything possible to keep me paying attention. Moreover, I know that I need to pay attention at the end of 2017 to be ready for 2018. But if I didn’t have other fantasy leagues to keep up with and fantasy columns to write, the temptation to check out would be huge because it’s no fun watching this team run out of steam as it approaches the finish line. It’s become a drain on my morale to submit my lineup each week because it’s such a foregone conclusion that my team will get trounced in the first or second round of the playoffs. When I log into the website for that league, I feel like I’m wasting my time (because I am).

And this is why I think it’s counterproductive for experts to tell people that they owe it to themselves to pay attention even after they’re out of contention. It’s no fun paying attention to a broken toy—and a fantasy team that doesn’t make the playoffs (or limps in only to be eliminated right away) is a broken toy. After all, fantasy football is supposed to be fun, and fun involves playing with toys that work.

So if you feel like checking out even though you know you shouldn’t, what can you do?
Although I agree that owners should continue to pay attention to the NFL even after their hopes for a fantasy championship have been dashed, I don’t think people should force themselves to focus on a failing fantasy team—even if they built it with the best of intentions.

I think there are lots of better ways to remain engaged—ways that keep people excited about and interested in the NFL.

I’ll share my favorite tactic next week, but I want to give any readers who haven’t checked out a chance to explain what they do to keep themselves interested in fantasy football once they have given up all hope of a fantasy championship. Please email your favorite strategies to me or post them in the comments below.

Survivor Pool Picks - Week 13 (Courtesy of Matthew Schiff)

First off, if you made it to Week 13 of your survival pool, my hat’s off to you. It’s been a rough road so far, but this week you have three really sweet matchups to choose from. You can’t go wrong with any of the choices below, so pick the game that you feel will win it all, knowing that things will get a lot trickier in Week 14.

#3: Titans over Texans (7-5, BUF, TB, CLE, NE, NYG, ATL, PHI, MN, SEA, PIT, KC, NO, BAL)

The Titans are atop of the AFC South with Jacksonville breathing down their necks. With the Jaguars squaring off against the Colts, Tennessee can hardly afford to allow the hapless Texans to steal this matchup, especially if they want a leg up in the New Year’s Eve showdown with the Jaguars (which could well decide which team will wear the crown for the AFC South). In the meantime, a Texans team lacking both J.J. Watt and Deshaun Watson will try to muster up more offense than they have in the 4 games since losing Watson. Except for the aberration of 31 points, thanks to defensive scores, against the Cardinals two weeks ago, Houston has barely registered a pulse on the scoreboard. Combine that with the fact that the Texans have given up the 4th most points per game (25.9), and this is a formula for an easy win by Marcus Mariota and company.

#2: Raiders over Giants (8-4, NE, SEA, PIT, ATL, PHI, HOU, TN, CIN, JAC, LAR, KC, WAS)

The theme this week is to take any team that is playing against bad teams, bad players, or bad coaches. And since it’s unclear whether the worst team in the league is the Giants or the Browns, my top two picks could easily be reversed. Ben McAdoo has lost control of the Giants, but he seems to think that no one will notice as long as he says sufficiently outrageous things, as when he claims that Geno Smith gives the Giants the BEST chance for a win this week against the Raiders (instead of two-time Super Bowl winner Eli Manning, who has started the last 13 years – 210 games). I don’t necessarily want to hang out with McAdoo, but I would like some of whatever he’s smoking . . . because anyone who has watched Geno Smith and Eli Manning knows that there is no comparison. McAdoo even went on to say that at “some point” this season, Davis Webb will play. But when will that happen? Not this week. It’s true that the Raiders are hurting at receiver this week (with Michael Crabtree suspended and Amari Cooper recovering from a concussion), but the Raider defenders will make up for it by picking off the passes of a backup QB playing behind a patchwork offensive line. Look for the Raiders to vanquish the GMEN as the Mara family continues to evaluate whose heads will roll at the end of the season.

#1: Chargers over Browns (9-3 ATL, OAK, NE, SEA, PIT, DEN, DAL, PHI, HOU*, DET, JAC, CIN)

It has been some time since the Chargers have been almost a two-touchdown FAVORITE to win at home. This week, it’s because they are playing against the Cleveland Browns. Josh Gordon will make his debut after three years of suspension, and based upon the enthusiasm of his coaches, he may be targeted quite often. But more important than who DeShone Kizer will be throwing to is whether Philip Rivers can repeat his 434-yard, 3-TD effort against a Dallas secondary that is similar in talent to this week’s opponent. With the Chargers being right in the middle of the AFC West playoff hunt so late in the season, and Cleveland playing again for the number one draft pick, it’s no wonder Vegas is worried that favorites against the spread on games that are even 13 points or more are still being covered by the favorite more than 75% of the time in the last 4 weeks. May the trend continue . . .

Mike Davis has been writing about fantasy football since 1999--and playing video games even longer than that. His latest novel (concerning a gamer who gets trapped inside Nethack after eating too many shrooms) can be found here.