POSTED ON SEPTEMBER 12, 2012:
Living in a Fantasy World
No more locker room let down
Those who aren't hardcore football fans may not be familiar with the world fantasy football. To some the name might sound more like a busty chain restaurant's next business venture than the name of a serious game surrounding the sport of football. But the number of people spending sometimes enormous amounts of time on this game is now running into the millions.
One of the fastest growing online preoccupations since its inception in 1962, the game allows anyone to act as the manager of a football team of hand-picked players and pit them against opposing teams in the virtual reality of the internet. Originating in the minds of Wilfred Winkenbach, former partner for the Oakland Raiders, Bill Tunnell, a former public relations manager for the team, and Scotty Stirling, a reporter, the game has grown exponentially since.
There are several different styles of leagues: head to head, total points, dynasty, salary cap, daily fantasy sports, and auction. The primary difference between the leagues arises from the drafting style, player retention, and point systems used in scoring. Head to head leagues contrast with total points leagues in their scoring methods, with the win to loss ratio being the most important factor for teams playing head to head and the total accumulated points determining the team standings in total points leagues.
Diving deeper into the cyber sport, leagues such as dynasty and salary cap allow you to keep the same players from year to year. This calls for a more far-reaching understanding of player's statistics and a more long-term strategy for the win. Salary cap leagues add yet another dynamic by incorporating the salary of a virtual player and providing the gamer with a set amount of money or "salary cap" which he may spend on his players. This style also asks the team's manager to make value judgments based not only on desirable statistics, but risk assessment and long-term strategy.
Auction is similar with all gamers functioning as general managers and communicating for purposes of trading players based on their salary cap. Bringing an element of human interaction into an otherwise lone-wolf playing field is perhaps one reason this high-dynamic style is the fastest growing versions of fantasy football today.
Having grasped the reality of the situation, signed your life -- or at least your spare time -- away, there are a few things that are essential to the strategy of the game. Aside from whatever league style suits well, there is the issue of draft strategies to consider. The first order of business when formulating this strategy is understanding the importance of "peer value."
Fantasy football being an essentially "us vs. them" game set up along statistical lines and playing out in the far recesses of the internet, the only really tangible tools given the team's manager is the stats of the players. This and the salary cap will determine your draft picks, but for the immediate sake of the game how you play it and who you play depends upon not your statistics, but the stats of the opposing team.
Aside from making friends with the nearest person advertising a miraculous love of both sports and possessing supernatural patience and math skills, the best way to organize your stats is to use a cheat sheet. Typing that simple phrase into any search engine will make up for a reasonable lack of left-brained giftedness. You may once again breathe deeply, smile smugly and proceed.
Heavy on technicalities, the first reaction anyone might have to fantasy football is usually excited determination followed swiftly by sweating bullets or breaking out into hives anytime someone walks by humming the Monday Night Football anthem. Take heart and look around, with its standing as one of America's most popular preoccupations you will surely find yourself among friends.
The first thing though before attempting to find those similarly involved is to start the process of building your team. The game is played in an almost entirely virtual setting so there is very little interaction with others besides losing to them, beating them, or talking about that subject over the water cooler at the office. The TAFFL or the Tulsa Area Fantasy Football League is a good starting point. Remington Sports Bar in Tulsa as well as Baker Street Pub and Grill host their own fantasy leagues, and draft parties which are a good opportunity to revel in your virtual pigskinnery while communicating with others in person.
A few tips and you are ready to compete like a pro:
-- Have fun. If need be, take it slow. It is said that 1,000 hours spent doing anything makes you a master, but getting there at a pace you enjoy makes you a genius.
-- Get friends involved-your strengths might be another's weaknesses and vice versa. Whether you choose to do so through a church group or your local bar is up to you, but given the bland world of statistical analysis a human face makes your eventual win a whole lot more exciting and your imminent demise a proverbial blip on the radar.
-- Knowledge is power. Find out as much as you can about the sport both on the green and off. Plug in to discussion forums, and don't be ashamed to look up terms you haven't encountered before.
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