This year I am playing in a thirty-team league divided into three
conferences (each with a separate draft). There are all kinds of
players in this league--most of them lurking in one cubicle or another
around my office. Some think fantasy football is little more than
a lottery. Some are genuine experts. Some fool themselves into thinking
they know more than they do. Most fool everyone else into thinking
they know more than they do. As in most leagues, an owner needs
only to speak with confidence in order to take on the air of an
expert. And the easiest way to speak confidently is to proclaim
(with as much gravity as possible) that this or that generalization
is the "most important thing to bear in mind" when deciding upon
The favorite generalization--the one bandied about most frequently
on email and during lunchbreaks--is that fantasy owners should always
start their studs. I guess this little nugget of wisdom wouldn't
bother me so much if I knew exactly what it meant. But more often
than not, as far as I can tell, it seems to mean nothing more than
that the person sharing it intends to say "I told you so" on Monday
"Which two should I start," asked the rookie fantasy player in my
office on Tuesday, "out of Fred Taylor, Ricky Watters, James Stewart,
and Emmitt Smith?"
"Always start your studs," came the chorus of replies. And once
the chorus was over, a couple of other voices chimed in, "They're
right! You have to play the percentages."
The rookie should have let it go there. But he really needed advice.
So he continued: "But which ones are my studs? Stewart is playing
Tampa Bay. Emmitt faces Arizona. Watters is . . ."
"The opponent doesn't matter," roared last year's commissioner.
"A stud is a stud no matter who he's up against."
The rookie, eager to absorb some information, waited for the ex-commissioner
to finish. He waited in the hope of learning which two running backs
were his studs. He was sure that he had a stud or two on his team
because he had done exactly what the guidebook told him to do. But
the ex-commissioner had nothing further to say. The rookie had learned
that studs can be defined as players who are reliable even in the
face of superior opposition. But he still didn't know which players
were his studs.
Fred Taylor, according to everyone in the league, used to be a stud.
For that matter, so did Emmitt Smith. And historically speaking,
Ricky Watters has always been on the verge of clicking with an offense
and becoming a stud. James Stewart, everyone whispers, MIGHT be
a stud. But no one seems to know for sure.
It's a shame that Edgerrin James, Marshall Faulk, Stephen Davis,
and Eddie George were taken before the rookie was able to draft
a running back. And it's a shame that the guys who took Jeff Garcia
and Rich Gannon and Elvis Grbac seem to be doing as well as he is
doing with Peyton Manning. And it's a shame--or maybe it isn't,
since he always starts Manning anyway--that he traded Daunte Culpepper
for Emmit Smith and James Stewart because he believed the people
who said that Culpepper wouldn't succeed outside of the Metrodome.
But all of that is in the distant past. What he needed on Tuesday
was information pertaining to Week 8 of the 2000 season.
And the information shouldn't have been very difficult to come by.
Since everyone is always talking about studs, it stands to reason
that they all know what studs are. And yet, the rookie was not even
sure that everyone would agree with the ex-commissioner about a
stud being someone whose status does not change based on the opposition.
The guy in the rookie's conference who owns Stephen Davis was proud
of himself for starting Davis against the Ravens because Davis had
more success than other runningbacks against the Ravens' Defense.
But another Davis owner (in a different conference) was proud of
himself for benching him since he was held to less than a hundred
yards and a single touchdown. According to the second owner, Curtis
Martin looked more "studly" going up against his former teammates.
Like most of us, the rookie probably wishes he had to choose between
the likes of Davis and Martin. But since his RB foursome didn't
provide him the luxury of facing such a dilemma, he sounded some
other people out about what constituted "studliness."
The woman in the cubicle behind him (who decided not to play this
year, and clearly regrets it) said that the most important quality
of a stud is that his status does not change on the basis of one
or two poor performances. "Even if a stud gets shut down one or
two weeks in a row, he's still a stud." A few people in the office
overheard their conversation and grunted their approval, including
one gentleman who traded Eddie George after week two because of
his "disappointing numbers for a first round pick."
By the time the rookie made his way over to my desk, I had my answer
prepared for him. "Don't worry about what a 'stud' is," I said.
"Playing your studs is just code for using your best players on
any given week. People use the term to mask their own sloppy thinking
and the fact that they're too lazy to do research. If you're motivated
enough to check your numbers, you'll know who your studs are. I
don't know which two you should start. All I know is that you have
to bench Stewart for the week. He got thirteen yards vs. Tampa in
the Silverdome. I don't see any reason he should do better against
the Buccs on their own turf."
I'm staying home from work today because I don't want to run into
the rookie. So the next time you're tempted to steer clear of a
vague generalization, remember that the risk you run when you attempt
to provide a specific, meaningful prediction is that you just might
not be able to say, "I told you so."
:: comments to mike
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