Last Week's Question
As I explained
in last week’s
column, my question about whether changes in technology have
increased the role of luck (and decreased the role of skill) in
the game prompted a wide array of responses. Some readers agreed—a
few of them more emphatically than I had hoped or expected. Others
contended that technology is actually minimizing luck to an unprecedented
extent. I’ve tried to organize the responses so as to emphasize
similarities in logic (even if there are glaring disparities when
it comes to the conclusions reached by those who wrote in). Now,
as I promised last week, I’ll try to cover the perspectives
that were unrepresented in my Week 12 column.
I’ll start with Lance’s response because I think
he puts an appropriate stress on the importance of participation
in multiple leagues as a consequence of the evolution of FF technology:
I do believe that chance or luck is starting to
replace skill in many leagues as discussed in your column. I think
that the “explosion” of fantasy football might partially
be explained by the fact that more players are starting to play
in multiple leagues. I still play in 1 league only, but plan on
playing in 2-3 next year. In this way, you have a better “chance”
of doing well in a league and due to technology, etc., there really
is little extra work in playing in multiple leagues. I have no
proof to this theory but I wonder how many people now play in
multiple FF leagues compared to 2-3 years ago.
Like Lance, I have often thought that the stats concerning the number
of fantasy football participants may well be inflated because it
seems clear that many FFers participate in multiple leagues. When
a league-hosting website reports that it hosts 15,000 players, I
have to wonder whether that means there are really 15,000 people
who log in to the site to submit their lineups or perhaps only 11,000
such people—4,000 of whom have second teams in different leagues
on the same website. I’m not trying to suggest that anyone
in the fantasy community is deliberately distorting numbers to make
the hobby seem more popular than it is, but I suspect that such
misrepresentations of fact are bound to happen from time to time.
A further consequence of this phenomenon, as observed by one of
the readers in last week’s column, is that roster moves
have clearly become “infectious” across leagues. If
I belong to 3 or 4 leagues, I don’t really have to keep
my ear to the ground to stay abreast of developments around the
NFL. It’s safe to say that at least a few FFers who were
overwhelmed at work when Samkon Gado was first named a starter
in Green Bay found out about the RB neither by reading their local
sports pages nor by clicking on the news updates provided by many
league-hosting services to their subscribers, but simply by seeing
Gado getting snapped up in other leagues.
Here I think we can point to a definite change in the way fantasy
football is being played. It used to be that belonging to more
than one fantasy football league meant devoting a great deal of
extra time and energy to the hobby. But technology has come such
a long way recently that belonging to multiple leagues can actually
save owners time on research. We can simply watch what on-the-ball
owners do in our less important leagues and imitate them in our
more important leagues. Amoxy appears to be referring to something
akin to this kind of technological change when he writes:
Back [when I started playing fantasy football],
the only box scores that showed [the statistics we needed were
in] USA Today. And since I am on the West Coast, we wouldn't get
the Monday night scores until Wednesday's edition. Can you imagine
FF players waiting that long to see if their team had won?
I received another geographically oriented comment from Mike,
Our league is over 30 years old and is as vibrant
as ever. For us, one of the reasons why may be that we are geographically
different from other parts of the country. Our local Seattle Seahawks,
which happen to be pretty good this year, have never been to a
Super Bowl or cultivated the kind of feverish fan base that we
notice on TV from other areas. Therefore, being involved in a
Fantasy Football League has saved us from pinning all of our hopes
on the 'Hawks for excitement. We can sit and watch any two crappy
teams play on a given Sunday, watching with interest to see if
one our RB's or other players score. When you have a rooting interest
in the players, watching all of the games is far more interesting.
Besides what else are you going to do on Sunday in the Northwest
where it rains all the time? Golf is out, so we watch football,
and Fantasy Football is here to stay!
I like Mike’s response a lot because it is essentially a thumbing
of the nose at the luck/skill distinction. It doesn’t really
matter if being competitive in fantasy football requires no more
skill than winning the lottery because fantasy football gives folks
in the Pacific Northwest something to do on Sunday. Even though
the response is light-hearted, the argument is practically watertight—and
does a great deal to allay any fears I might have had about fantasy
football going the way of the hula hoop.
Of course, I heard from a number of folks who were eager to endorse
my hypothesis that technology is reducing the importance of skill
in the fantasy world. There’s no reason for me to include
all of the responses that I received along these lines, so I’ll
use this representative sample from Scott:
Bingo!! Exactly how I've been feeling the last couple
of seasons. I've been running a league for 10 plus years now,
and I always felt dominant at the fantasy game. I always felt
my instincts set me apart. Well, no more. Instincts are out the
door with all this information. Don't get me wrong; I'm still
very competitive (never missed the playoffs in my league), but
the thrill is fading recently. I've begun to rack my brain to
take the luck out of the game, but how can you really?! Besides,
I'm a dinosaur, and won't really change much. I have always, and
will always, love the draft, but it's getting to the point where
it's the only enjoyment left. I mean really, check this out Mike!
Last year, my league was won by a guy who actually forgot about
the draft!!! After we chased him down frantically, his unprepared
@ss shows up and drafts a team that dominated the league! ‘Nuff
I get emails like this all the time. The Internet makes it so
easy for FFers to get the information that they need to win that
less and less preparation is required of owners each year. It
really seems to have reached the point that the guy with the first
overall pick in a draft can show up without having made up his
mind, consult his blackberry in the two minutes that he is allowed
to make his pick, and nab LaDainain Tomlinson without even knowing
that there’s a professional football franchise in San Diego.
In the time that it takes the other owners to make their picks,
he can learn everything he needs to know about Chad Johnson, Domanick
Davis, and Tiki Barber—and be ready to make an informed
pick in round 2. Please don’t misunderstand me, readers.
I do not mean to suggest that this is necessarily a bad thing.
I’m absolutely a fan of the information age in which we
live, but I don’t see any way to debate that these changes
are real and pervasive—or that they are having a dramatic
impact on the way the game is played.
I’ll finish with the thoughts of Charles, who commented
on the luck-vs.-skill debate on his way to making another observation
about the way fantasy football is changing the community of football
I am very interested in the response to this question.
My main personal concern is that luck is becoming too great a
factor, turning Fantasy Football from a game of strategy into
a game of chance, like the lottery. But I am also worried about
the changing nature of those who play.
For many of us who have been in leagues for years, the
idea was to see how well you could judge and manage talent.
Fantasy leagues, for us, don't overshadow the NFL games; they
augment them. However, many of the "new" breed of
FF owners look only at selected, hyped individual pro players.
As one friend has described it, it's the “Madden effect”—with
fantasy leagues being overrun by individuals who have become
fans of those players they like to use in the Madden NFL game.
The appeal isn’t what these players have actually accomplished
during their careers, but because of the success they bring
in the computer game!
This "Madden effect" seems especially pronounced
in the Los Angeles metro area. With no NFL franchise here, young
people are growing up without a "home" team. Some
still follow the former locals (Rams & Raiders); others
the other "Cali" teams (49ers & Chargers). Some
jump on frontrunner bandwagons (Patriots, Colts), and a few
stick with "Family" allegiances (Bears, Packers, Cowboys,
whatever franchise Dad or Mom follows). But many seem to be
influenced by the "Madden effect." How else can you
explain the growing number of Vikings, Eagles and Falcons followers
except for Culpepper, McNabb and Vick?
Is this "Madden" influence only here in L.A.?
Does it exist in areas that have never had an NFL franchise?
Is it evident in cities with traditionally non-contending NFL
teams (Arizona, Detroit, Houston)?
This Week's Question:
Charles poses an interesting question with regard to what he
terms the “Madden effect”—a question so interesting,
in fact, that I’ll go ahead and invite readers to weigh
in on the topic if they sense that he is on to something (or off
I’ll also remind readers that I am soliciting information
on how and why various leagues handle the matter of double-weeks
(weeks when fantasy teams play more than one opponent).
Trap Game: Houston at Baltimore:
Houston’s offense found a way to move the ball last week
against a very weak St. Louis defense. Baltimore’s defense
is not what it used to be but is probably enough to beat a team
that has had a hard time all season. That said, a spread of eight
and a half points should be covered by the Texans with a lot of
Carr to Johnson. If this game were in Houston, the Texans would
be my lock for the upset of the week
#3: NY Giants over Dallas (8-3 Season):
The Giants have lost some tough games this year on the road and
only had one debacle at home (against the Vikings). Tom Coughlin
has his team focused on the prize at hand, the NFC East Championship
and this game goes a long way towards that goal. If the Giants
lose this one, they will be effectively two games back of the
Cowboys and will have a hard time making the playoffs when only
last week they could have taken a large step towards securing
home field advantage. The Cowboys, on the other hand, have not
been lighting up the scoreboard and were lucky that the Giants
came into Texas Stadium flat earlier this year. In this meeting,
the Cowboys will find it harder to run the ball, and if they are
put into 2nd and 3rd and long, the defense will tee off on Drew
Bledsoe in the swirling winds. Look the Giants to not only win
this, but make a statement.
#2: Buffalo at Miami (7-4 Season):
The Dolphins are favored at home against a team that beat them
last time with the running game of Willis McGahee. While the Bills’
rushing defense is one of the worst in the league, the Dolphins
have not been able to strike a balance between Ronnie Brown and
Ricky Williams. Some experts think that at home the Dolphins will
score at will, but this is a divisional game and all bets are
off. Look for JP Losman to score two touchdowns to Evans and the
Bill defense to stymie the Dolphins quarterbacks.
#1: Jacksonville at Cleveland (9-2 Season):
David Garrard will be leading the Jaguar attack this week, and
there should be no drop off in production. With this team looking
to make the playoffs as a wildcard team, it is this type of game
that they need to take control of on the road. Fred Taylor will
be back in the lineup which will help relieve some of the pressure
that Garrard will be facing, but it is their defense that will
be the difference. Trent Dilfer may start this game, but it is
very likely that he will not finish it. With Charlie Frye in the
mix at quarterback, no amount of running by Reuben Droughns will
be enough to help them win the game. If you are really strapped
for a lock this week, the Jaguars are your pick.
For responses to this week's fantasy question or to share your
LMS picks, please email
me no later than 10 a.m. EST on Wednesdays during the football
Readers who want to have their fantasy questions answered live,
on the air, by Mike Davis are invited to tune into FFEXradio
on Friday afternoons at 5:00 p.m. EST. Archived
programs are also available.