Wednesday, September 23, 2009


I’m not one of those writers who invest a lot of time in media criticism, especially television. First of all, for as much as I have learned about the business, there’s infinitely more to understand. There are plenty of decisions by network executives, producers and personalities that make you question their intelligence, but their make difficult decisions to make the most out of a limited canvas. Being that there are only 24 hours in a day, the few programs that make our television screens walk a thin line between survival and success.

Yet, after reading Dan Levy’s Press Coverage post on The Sporting Blog, I can’t help but to wonder about the usefulness of the fantasy football analysts. Well, maybe those are the wrong words, but for all of the über-analysis that the NFL receives throughout the week (even from weekly newspaper scribes as myself), they seem to be superfluous when it’s all said and done.

As said, seem to be.

There are plenty of sports fans who deride the fantasy world to begin with; something akin to being Benedict Arnold for the appearance of having more of an interest in the stat lines of even the fiercest rival’s wide receiver than having loyalty to home team colors. Fantasy sports, if anything, are using elaborate trading cards in the context of Madden NFL’s Franchise mode.

There’s no doubt that some people take it way too seriously to the point that they have dreams of which players to pick up from the waiver wire. Yet, what makes the fantasy world tick is that beyond rooting for personal favorite teams, it’s arguably the greatest incentive in history for fans to learn about players and teams throughout the real-life leagues.

Which leads to my point: we learn even more about these games – especially the NFL – because there is so much dedicated programming on television. Even cable channels that do not broadcast live contests have some sort of studio show related to the sport (just take a gander at your local/regional sports network on a Friday afternoon). Beyond the idiot box, there are hundreds of dedicated beat writers from the press – newspapers, blogs and websites - who share the most intimate knowledge of teams with the masses, only augmenting TV, if not directly feeding it.

For a long time, even as this post had been written, I wondered the true value of these talking heads. Every league I have played in, not one player has ever relied on fantasy advice. These are fans who study the most granular details of the sports the love – the blocking schemes of an offensive line or the importance of a new defensive coordinator – so, they don’t rely on ESPN’s “Start ‘em or Sit ‘em” at all.

On the flip side, what I have come to understand is that the fantasy guru is not preaching to the converted. (S)He is actually talking to the fans who only know about their teams and the fierce rivals. Those fans still see fantasy as a way to foster camaraderie, a reason to flaunt their sports IQ and a reason to gamble, if money is involved. Yet, since they have such parochial interests, they wouldn’t invest too much time in studying rosters and personnel changes around real-life leagues. The fantasy expert – especially one on TV – gives these players small doses of info to digest; enough to participate and nothing more.

What makes the NFL fantasy gurus stick out more is that they are dealing with a short and intense game where there are hours upon hours of NFL-dedicated programming before the games are played. They come in at timely segments during long pre-game shows that tend to revolve around topics fans have been beaten over the head with all week (segments around media darling QBs, addressing controversies, etc.). The fantasy reports they provide are like getting “Local (weather)on the 8s”; they get what they need to go about their day before that week’s roster is locked at the start of the early games.

So it turns out that maybe they aren’t so superfluous after all. Even if they may not tell me something new, they are speaking to someone else who may not privy themselves to as much data. This certainly isn’t an insult or a knock at all, though it may read that way. Fans invest themselves into sports in different ways and what these television executives try to do is add personalities that will cater to that diversity the best way possible. It’s hard to knock that.


Aaron said...

"Every league I have played in, not one player has ever relied on fantasy advice."

That's not true. I occasionally use the statistical analysis and predictions at Football Outsiders. They also have fantasy advice that I sometimes read.

Jason Clinkscales said...

You got me.

Whenever I asked in a couple of past leagues, no one said a word.