Guest Post: Bruce Shalett

The Reality of Fantasy Football

 Bruce Shalett: Fantasy Football Enthusiast, and Managing Director of BS Freeman Capital, LLC

What started out over twenty years ago as a nerdy pursuit for sports fans too old or too “cool” to continue playing dungeons and dragons has become a big time business. Millions of people now “play” fantasy football, and an entire information/ media ecosystem has been created to support and enhance the experience. A Google Search for fantasy football news will yield nearly 30 million listings. There are now experts and celebrity personalities within the Fantasy Football community. What was once a quirky niche amusement for serious fans now occupies a place in popular culture and at the watercooler conversation in many workplaces.   For those who don’t play, I hope to demystify how it works so everyone can best follow it and stay in the game..

At its most basic level, fantasy football allows fans to form “leagues” and compete against friends and coworkers by “drafting” teams of NFL players. Each team has a specific number of player positions (e.g., running back, quarterback), but those players can be chosen from any real NFL team on which they play those positions. Thus, the typical fantasy team roster consists of players from many different teams, making the average fantasy player interested in keeping track of many games. The competition is based on points earned by the actual players during actual games played, which are then added up for the players who make up the fantasy team roster. Designed to mirror the real NFL schedule, players compete for the entire season — with weekly play, leading to a round of playoffs, and ultimately the crowning of a full season champion.

Successful play of fantasy football requires serious time commitment and engagement. Like real life NFL General Managers and Head Coaches, this can equate to a full time job. Fantasy football team owners not only must spend time preparing for the annual draft to put together a team with great potential; also, on an ongoing basis they must manage the team roster and set the starting lineup for weekly play. This requires paying attention to “real” football, to track which players are playing or not playing (watching the league’s “waiver wire,” which lists which players have been dropped from or added to the lineup, and indicates available players), monitor the offensive and defensive matchups associated with the players in one’s roster, and follow news updates and injury reports. A fantasy team owner must also review proposals from other fantasy team owners in their league to trade players, and consider making such proposals themselves.

Once the Annual draft happens (right around Labor Day, before the first game is played), the typical weekly mindset of a fantasy team owner is as follows:

  • Tuesday – Thursday: Planning the roster – which players to play. This requires analysis of available data to decide which players to play in that week’s lineup. The lineup is due on Thursdays, one hour before the first NFL game is played for the week.
  • Thursday-Monday: “Game Day” (which typically begins with a Thursday night game and lasts through Monday Night Football), during which the players’ real life performance translate to points for the fantasy team.

Game Day is anticlimactic for the fantasy team owner because all the rosters and lineups are set. There’s little more to do besides relax and watch the drama unfold. As NFL games unfold, players accumulate points based on actual performance by “their” players on the field — rushing, receiving, and passing yards, touchdowns, interceptions, field goals, sacks, safeties, fumbles, points allowed – which are all tallied up real time, and pumped through the automated league scoring system to enable team owners to track their team’s total performance. When all of the dust settles on Monday night (usually around midnight eastern time) weekly winners and losers are finally known. Then it all starts again for the next week of play!

Fantasy Football = Fan Engagement + Expansion of Fan Base.

In stark contrast to traditional sports gambling, which has tended to carry with it an unsavory element, the emergence of Fantasy Football as a business has been a boon to the National Football League and broadcasters alike. Regional fans, who generally only had interest in local teams and local players, now rabidly follow the sport on a national basis, as they theoretically want to watch players on every team playing in every game. Casual football fans, who may or may not have tuned in to a weekly game, are now reading Fantasy Football websites and blogs, and listening to and watching topical sports radio and television shows dedicated to Fantasy Football..

Despite this popularity, not everyone is a football fan — and not everyone has the time nor the interest to manage a team or play in a league. But most people do want to be part of the conversation around the watercooler, or the dinner table, or at the local diner. So how do you get knowledgeable enough to enter the conversation without having to watch countless hours of games or pour over pages of player statistics. The surest way would be to ask any 14 year old boy for the lowdown on his team (and then tolerate the eye roll).

Actually though, staying in the loop has never been easier. A quick daily scan of any leading fantasy football news website (examples: Rotoworld, CBS Sports, ESPN, Fantasy Football News), from Tuesday to Friday, will provide the important headlines. Conversations tend to revolve on a weekly basis around players and points scored. Here’s a breakdown of the lingo: Top Performers (who’s been doing the best), Sleepers (those players unexpectedly surpassing expectations), Busts (those players not meeting expectations), and Key Injuries (who’s won’t be able to play). While keeping up in this manner may not turn you into an expert, it will allow you to engage beyond a bewildered fake smile and a nod.

At the end of the day, Fantasy football is a fun way to engage with family, friends, and coworkers – and do so on a level playing field.

Guest Post: Hana Farahat

A couple of reasons to make sure your daughters sit front row at this year’s World Cup games

Hana FarahatAlthough originally from Egypt, Hana Farahat has lived in Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, Germany, Venezuela, the USA and Brazil.  This diverse mix of countries cultivated Hana’s passion for psychology, sports and eccentric cuisines (especially sushi, any day, anytime). While currently interning at ESPN for the summer, Hana is going into her senior year at Yale University where she is studying Economics and Psychology.

 

Having grown up in Brazil, the 7-1 hammering at the hands of the Germans left me sulking in the solitude of my cubicle in Bristol, Connecticut. This year marked the first time I watched the World Cup games away from the cheers and jeers of my father and brother. But, the tradition of watching the games with them has kept me involuntarily yelling and jumping at every game.

This World Cup, don’t forget to offer your daughters a seat as you tune into the exciting games. According to research conducted by the Women’s Sports Foundation, 80% of female executives working in Fortune 500 companies identified themselves as former tomboys and having played some form of sports when they were younger. It seems that knowing the rules of a football game can translate into success on the corporate field.

According to studies conducted by Goldman Sachs and Columbia University, companies that employ more women tend to perform better than those who do not. However breaching the testosterone packed boardrooms of these companies is another matter; women are constantly outnumbered and the odds don’t seem to be changing over the years.

Pressure, Competition and Mistakes are part of the game:

In a 2003 study conducted by David Dunning and Joyce Ehrlinger, both male and female students were invited to participate in a science competition. Only 49% of the women invited signed up for the competition while 71% of men did. This demonstrated a difference in the confidence women had in their skill set. I don’t need to explain how detrimental this would be in the corporate world, as it keeps women from volunteering themselves for new and more challenging positions. Similarly a study conducted at Hewlett Packard revealed that women were only willing to apply for certain positions if they met every one of the qualifications, while men applied if they met 60% of them.

Sports provide a safe space to learn that pressure, stress and mistakes are all part of the game and they occur naturally. Making mistakes, erring and then trying again is the key to a ball and chain we on the field and in the office know as fear of failure. According Barrett and Bliss-Moreau (2009) study, women are judged more harshly upon committing a mistake. Moreover a mistake done by a woman is more likely to be linked to her disposition, while one committed by a male is more likely to be attributed to circumstance. Despite this status quo, it remains of essence to hone women’s willingness to take risks and develop confidence in their skills on the field.

The Hard Work Ethic:

Household names in sports such as Tiger Woods, Serena Williams and LeBron James can all single out hard work as a defining factor in success. Sports are in essence ruled by meritocracy, more so than in corporate environments. A haven where every toss, stroke, lunge and pass can infuse a competitive, ambitious and daring mindset. This is not to say that women are not hard working, quite the contrary. The issue arises from the internal or external attributions women make when they encounter a difficulty. Women make internal attributions, while men make external ones. This means men are more likely to admit a class is difficult and then work hard to succeed. Women  on the other hand will bruise their own confidence and attribute it to lack of competence, thus heightening their chances of capitulation.

Increasing female involvement in sports certainly will not be an easy journey, but it is a necessary one. The corporate world is dotted with companies aware of this social necessity and revel in its profitable upside. Media and sports stalwart ESPN is constantly creating various initiatives through mediums such as ESPNW that seek to make their brand more appealing to women, an exciting demographic. Needless to say beer commercials and Adriana Lima may not be as enticing for Jane as they are for John, but future advertisers would drool at the opportunity of larger audiences.

As a baby boy emerges from his mother’s womb, from Day 1 he is embraced by the cool silkiness of a dry-fit jersey. Welcome to the team. Little do we realize all the added benefits that come from being a part of this club. I am certainly not advocating that all girls become tomboys, rather that sports become a more integral part of female identity. If sports can have 32 different countries speaking the language of soccer, perhaps it can also help create a common language between men and women in the workplace.

 

Guest Post: Lani Seelinger

Why I love the Olympics: An American Perspective in Europe

IMG_6508 - Version 2A hockey fan since the Carolina Hurricanes’ Stanley Cup run in 2002 and a great lover of Milan Kundera’s writing, Lani Seelinger naturally started taking Czech as soon as they offered it in her sophomore year at Northwestern University. That began her deep love affair with the Czech Republic, where she is now living as a graduate student in Political Science and Central European Studies, soon-to-be tour guide, and translator.

Although I don’t specifically remember it, I must have fallen in love with the Olympics sometime around the 1998 Games in Nagano. I would have been ten years old at the time, which makes sense, because my most immediate reaction to seeing the events there was to create similar events for my Beanie Babies with my brother – ski jumping them down the bannister, for example. The Olympics only last for two weeks, but this way we could extend them.

I readily admit that I have a pretty serious obsession with the Olympics. Whatever’s on, I’ll watch it. Any choice between two events automatically becomes heart-wrenching. Arbitrary decisions to support certain countries over others become permanent. Nothing is more frustrating than a spoiler, which is why I abandoned my Twitter account during the 2010 Vancouver Games.

The question of why, though, is still a difficult one. How can you explain love? You can list the pieces, but the whole is still going to be greater than the sum of the parts. Always an amateur athlete myself, the incredible displays of athleticism, the amazing capabilities of the perfectly trained human body of course comprise part of it. But they’re not just doing it for themselves – they’re doing it for their countries, and their countries share in their joy when they succeed and maintain a sense of pride even when they fail.

That connection between country and sport – where else can you find that to such an extent? The history of the Olympics is riddled with moments where political events took place on the field – or court, or rink – instead of in boardrooms or on battlefields. Think Jesse Owens becoming the most successful athlete in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, much to the dismay of Hitler, or Tommie Smith and John Carlos’ Black Power salute during their medal ceremony in 1968. Maybe the Cold War never saw a shot fired, but that doesn’t mean that there weren’t battles – no one can hear the story of the 1980 Miracle Game between the US and the USSR and argue that it was just a hockey game.

We all have our favorite moments, the memories that we too are able to claim because the athletes were doing it for us. We remember the victories, the close defeats, the silvers that should have been golds, the heartbreaking injuries, the camaraderie and teamwork between athletes even of different countries, the celebrations, the ridiculous outfits at the ceremonies. I’ve got specific things in mind for each of those, and I’m sure you’ve got your own. Where else can you get all of that, stuffed into a two-week period when you’re allowed to let it take over your life?

Perhaps the best way to sum it up is the athletes’ parade at the Opening Ceremonies, my favorite part of the whole thing. You’ve got hundreds of athletes from dozens of countries, each of whom has dedicated his life to a sport, knowing that he may or may not win, but that it’s worth it to compete. But during that parade, the events haven’t happened, so the gold belongs to all of them. They made it. And by watching them, in a tiny, tiny way, we made it too.