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Week 1

Last Month's Question

The question I most recently posed to the fantasy community concerned the so-called “loss in productivity” that efficiency experts attribute to the phenomenon of fantasy football in the workplace. I wanted to know whether managers in corporate America really perceive FF as more of a bane or a boon in the workplace. Since the question was posed on a website dedicated to fantasy football, I expected to get a number of “boon” responses. As was inevitable, I also received a few responses from people who seemed to think that if they claimed to be their own bosses, they could use my column as a forum in which to give themselves permission to surf the Internet for fantasy information all day at work. My advice to those who want to pretend to be high-muckety-mucks in corporate America is two-fold. In the first place, please don’t ever claim to be an executive if you do not understand that the word ‘executive’ is spelled with a ‘c.’ Also, please reflect on the possibility that it is difficult to rise to an executive position in a company without using verbs in your sentences.

However, once we set aside the responses that were transparent attempts to impersonate corporate authority, we are left with a number of intelligent replies from a wide variety of readers. I’ll start with this cogent response from Tamra:

I fit the profile you are looking for perfectly. I work as a people manager in corporate America. I’m relatively new to fantasy football and will be entering my third season this year. Not only do I play, but this year I asked one of my employees and my administrative assistant to join the league. Both guys love football and are very excited. I have another employee on the waiting list in case someone in the league from last year decides not to renew.

Extending this offer not only strengthened these existing relationships, but it truly has helped to build my network. People will overhear our conversations and join in. I’ve met new people, made new business contacts and made new friends because of my decision to play this great game.

Efficiency experts tend to forget about the most important aspect of any business, its people. We are all excited about draft day and getting the season started. Excitement is contagious, regardless of its source.
A reader named Andrew had this to say about his decision to spend time at work on FF:
I’m sending this from my company email on company time after having read your article about 5 minutes ago. I am a mid-level manager who has no direct reports but manages a variety of ‘virtual teams’. Personally I’m not too fond of socializing with my colleagues, so I haven’t got a clue if anyone else is ‘wasting time’ on ff when they should be working. What I do know is that I spend about 50 hours a week working, so if I want to check the pool at 9:30 AM instead of 6 pm I’m going to do it. Basically I’m secure in the knowledge that I am valuable to the company and can’t imagine a scenario where I would be disciplined for something that doesn’t affect my (elite) performance on the job.

As for my team members, as long as their deliverables are not affected, I couldn’t care less what they do on a minute-to-minute basis. Frankly, I can’t even fathom a scenario where I would care, as long as they are answering their phone and doing their job. Perhaps in some businesses (such as a call centre or a factory) the firm depends on line workers for productivity right down to how many minutes they are in the washroom. However, most businesses (especially at a management level) are focused on people making sound business decisions based on good strategic planning. I find people are much more likely to make the right choice if they have the incentive to work either through financial benefits or through other perks like Internet access or the ability to telework.

One industry that really seems to ‘get’ this is advertising where creative employees pretty much do whatever they want so long as the ads they make are winning awards and keeping clients happy. My office is not quite so lenient, but I can tell you we are nowhere close to peering over people’s shoulders or counting the seconds they spend on the internet……except in our call centres….HA!
Then too, there was this nifty little anecdote from Scott:

I wanted to share an experience with fantasy football networking that paid benefits for my company and clients this past Friday.

I am an I.T. datacenter manager for a couple of hospitals in Nashville. We were out of an unusual type of magnetic tape, and I was trying to borrow some from another company around town. (Kinda like borrowing a cup of sugar.) My first calls were to a couple of friends that I had worked with years ago and a couple of vendors. After an hour of trying, I had no luck. I then remembered that I play in a league with a half dozen IT folks. I started on my fantasy email list. Within the next hour I had located the tapes. With those contacts I touched nearly every IT concern in the music business, state government, another hospital, a bank, and few other businesses. I was blown away.

I believe that because it was an email from a fantasy mate, my emails received immediate attention—and the recipients all enjoyed the thrill of the hunt. One of my contacts in the music business used his contact in yet another league to check the bank. This fantasy thing has legs!

As I indicated already I am a manager, but I am unaware of any of my folks playing fantasy sports. My workplace blocks any sites that mention "games" and some other keywords that make it tough to do much fantasy research. That’s fine with me. However, I do see quite a share of research on recipes, shopping, real estate, mathematics, etc with the folks that report to me. These sites are not blocked...yet.

Of course, I did hear from a few people who think that FF in the workplace is getting out of hand. The most succinct response along these lines came from Terry, who wrote, “I just read your article on FF and cyberslacking. Notably, I spent 10 minutes at work reading it. ‘Nough said.”

This Week's Question: Your Fantasy Poster Boy Invites Leagues to Go on the Record

According to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, the average fantasy player is a 37-year-old white male in a white collar job with a bachelor’s degree and an average household income of $76,689. Once I read that “average” profile, I realized how unsurprising it is that I do a lot of writing for the fantasy football audience. In fact, it turns out that I am the fantasy football audience.

I will turn 37 during the upcoming football season; I am white; I am male; I have a bachelor’s degree (and then some—as my mother would say); I work in a white collar job (though I happen to be wearing an orange collar as I write this column); my household income isn’t exactly $76,689—but that figure strikes a little too close to home for my comfort. Do these FSTA folks have my social security number too?

Since I’m a little weirded out at the moment by how close I come to the “average” FFer, I want to use my next column to inform readers about the variations within the fantasy football community. The guys who got this fantasy ball rolling back in the Reagan era must be in their 50s or 60s by now. I want to hear from some of them. And even if most FFers are male, I know plenty of women who play, too. If you belong to an all-female league, I want to hear about it.

If you play for freakishly high or low stakes, belong to a league with an insanely high or low number of owners, impose more bizarre penalties on losers than a “toilet bowl” prize, refer all league disputes to the Dalai Lama, or hold your drafts while ice fishing in February, I want to know.

I’ve already heard from numerous readers who all believe that their leagues are the oldest in the country. Some claim that their league is the oldest “in continuous operation”; others that theirs is the oldest “under the same commissioner”; still others claim to be the oldest simply because the folks who are participating have never heard of any leagues that are older. I’m not really looking to start a pissing contest here, but if you think your league is one of the most long-lived in FFL history, please let me know when it was founded, how many charter members there were, how many of those members are still playing, and what evidence you have to support the claim that you really were playing fantasy football before the merger of the AFL and NFL.

I’m primarily looking for the kinds of quirky information that questionnaires are unlikely to generate, but here are some questions that you might want to answer in response to this column:

  1. Your Name
  2. Your League’s Name
  3. Number of Owners in the League
  4. Year the League was Founded
  5. Year You Joined the League
  6. Notable Members of Your League (Hint: If your name is Troy Aikman and the notable owners’ names that you can think of are Jerry Jones and Al Davis, that wasn’t fantasy football; it was the NFL. You shouldn’t be answering these questions, Troy, but you have our sympathy. We know those concussions linger.)
  7. Entry Fee
  8. Championship Prize
  9. League Format (Dynasty, Keeper, Redrafter)
  10. Player Acquisition Format (Serpentine Draft, NFL-Style Draft, Auction)
  11. Scoring Format (Head-to-Head, Points, Hybrid)
  12. Points Earned Format (Scoring-only, Performance)
  13. What sets your league apart from other FFLs?

Last Man Standing (Courtesy of Matt)

These picks come courtesy of Matthew Schiff, a reader who once said to himself, “Hey, I bet I can make better LMS picks than that hack Davis!”—and went on to do just that. In 2003, he finished 43-8; in 2004 he finished 32-17. Most readers will be particularly interested in Matt’s trap games, as he does an excellent job of choosing the one game each week that is most likely to lead LMS participants into error.

Trap Game: Cincinnati at Cleveland

Many experts have picked Cincinnati as a team on the verge of the playoffs. While Carson Palmer should step up and lead this team into the post-season this year, Cleveland is expected to be in total disarray. The Browns have three unpromising running backs and an offense that has been overshadowed by the stupidity of tight end Kellen Winslow.

With all that said, the Browns are a tough team to beat in the "dawg pound", especially early in the season when there are a lot of unknowns. While the Bengals will probably finish 9-7 or 10-6 this year, the Browns just might shock them with a game-winning field goal in the last two minutes.

#3 (0-0 in 2005)
Carolina over New Orleans

Normally I would pick this as a trap game. These divisional rivals know each other very well, and their games are usually decided by a play or two (usually trick plays). Unfortunately for the Saints I think that they will still be focused on the aftermath of Katrina, and it’s no good wondering about where you are going to be playing when you are running up against a team that looks a lot like the squad that represented the NFC in the Super Bowl two years ago. Make no mistake; the Carolina offense is not to be mistaken for the St. Louis Rams of the Kurt Warner era. However, this team is stronger defensively than probably 30 teams in the NFL. Look for the Panthers to win by at least
A touchdown on opening day as the NFL remembers both the World Trade Center victims as well as Hurricane Katrina's victims.

#2 (0-0 in 2005)
Pittsburgh over Tennessee

The Steelers were one game away from going to the Super Bowl and the only team in their way was the reigning Super Bowl Champs, the New England Patriots. While Ben Roethlisberger was learning the ropes about playoff football, he had a system that protected him from having to do anything extravagant to win the game. This same system will help him against a team that is in a period of transition. Chris Brown is expected to be the starting running back, but Travis Henry will be pushing hard all season to take his job. At the same time, Steve McNair seriously thought about retiring over the offseason and is coming back for what might be his last hurrah. Even with McNair in the lineup the Titans are one or two players short of beating the Steelers at home—and this game, while not being a blowout, might be decided before the beginning of the second half.

#1 (0-0 in 2005)
St. Louis over San Francisco

If St. Louis plays anywhere close to the level that they achieved vs. the Detroit Lions in their pre-season game, this game may be decided by the end of the first quarter. However, Tim Rattay might have enough poise in the pocket to keep this close until the end of the third quarter, at which point the running of Stephen Jackson should more than overpower the defense of the 49ers. While the pick of the week last year usually was the team playing the 49ers or the Miami Dolphins, don't assume that this will be the case every week this season. Only this week, the Rams, who should be the favorites to win the NFC West, should take advantage of a team that is rebuilding even though they are at home, and this is a divisional game where anything can happen.

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 season.