Fantasy Football: Luck or Skill?

Jason Sarney Correspondent IFebruary 19, 2008

Is there a possibility that Fantasy Football is a “skill?”

Or is it the way of the more conventional thinker to call it luck?

I prefer to look at this ever growing phenomenon as a new sports art form, combining knowledge, strategy and persistence with just a pinch of good fortune.

Why do some people care so much about something they have absolutely no control over? Well, the think is…You do have control.

Many argue that Fantasy Football is a crap shoot, a gamble….pure luck. It is not luck! Luck is involved of course, just as any NFL team who stays healthy enough throughout the course of the season, is lucky to have done so. Preseason contenders for the Super Bowl have to endure injuries week by week.

It is the strength and depth of the overall team that dictates the chances of that “unlucky” injury becoming a bump in the road, or a major road block. For the fantasy aspect of this reasoning, the same holds true.

The savvy foresight of an NFL executive in charge of player personnel requires scouting players who can help his team succeed. If a star quarterback goes down, is the sixth round pick out of a no name college ready to step in, step up and lead his team? Many times, this scenario can spell disaster for an NFL team, and a season can be lost. Yet, if that backup proves worthy for five weeks and hands the reigns back to the incumbent after going 3-2, or better, two people have to be commended. The back up QB and the GM, or whoever it was who drafted that player.

As in the NFL, fantasy league championships are won during preparation, and solidified by the desire to go out and do whatever it is in your power to be the best. Like anything in life, the more you put into a situation, the more you are likely to get out of it.

For the addicts, weeks can be made with a 60 yard touchdown run by LaDainian Tomlinson (12 points) on Monday Night to clinch a hard fought match-up. That week can be a bit more pleasant after such a sweet victory.

Conversely, there are those people whose lives are not affected in the least by a win, loss or mere thought that others are actually wasting their time on this. Personally, I do not have a care in the world for who wins Survivor, The Bachelor, or whether or not Angelina Jolie is pregnant.

In a large number of leagues across the country, there is that one guy, and everyone knows this guy-- who never makes a transaction, leaves his bye week players in the starting line up, rarely gets himself involved in the post board banter, and the ultimate fantasy football faux pas, never approves, declines or counters trade offers.

My hope is that in most leagues, this guy is non-existent.

There are fantasy players out there who take extreme pride in beating their friend’s, their father-in-law, their sibling, or even their boss. Generally speaking, the fantasy players with the highest level of pride in this game have the greatest skill.

This is a skill, although not an exact science. The players, who know the ins and outs of fantasy draft day, waiver wire and trade front success, are the players most likely to win. These players won’t be pinned up against a potential wall in Week 8, when their first two picks are running backs, both of who are both on bye weeks.

Success in fantasy football is a matter of doing your homework, if you care to do so. Look at schedules late in the year for the players you target. Guys who can win you week after week early on can see stifling defenses weeks 14-16 in the fantasy playoffs. It is not the end of the world if you do this. Just trade and strengthen your team for the playoff push. Trust me, not all owners will take weeks 14-16 into consideration, unless you are in a league amongst experts. In this case, let the best player win.

The first incentive, and most popular, is the size of the reward. Some leagues are free, and just for fun, which is all well and good. I was in a baseball fantasy league where the winner got a jersey of his favorite player. Nice idea, but not my style.

Many leagues have moderate entry fees that range from 10-50 bucks to well over 100 bucks a team. For the ultra saver, and in many cases, one team can have two owners. Of course all across such leagues, these “dues” or “fees” are pre-determined by the participants, the leagues commissioner, or both.

The second incentive, sometimes more important than any monetary reward, is the ultimate motivator - pride. To win a fantasy league does not necessarily mean you belong on dictating to the fantasy world who to draft in the fifth round, when to take the best defense off the board or who the ultimate sleeper candidate will be.

Fantasy football is what you make of it. The possibility of beating a bunch of friends, getting some holiday spending money, or holding your head a bit higher when your favorite real life team is heading for a disastrous year, is a great source of sports-banter pride. Unless you won your league, but your real team finished 1-15 and you are arguing with a fan whose team just won the Super Bowl.

I love my real football team inordinately more than the any of my fantasy football teams Yet, for the last few seasons, my effort, pride and good fortune in fantasy football has put a temporary bandage over the anguish of the undying fact… I am a Miami Dolphins fan!

To all the fantasy sport loyalists’, young and old, male or female, good luck in your fantasy endeavors and in 2008. Although I am quite upset that the fantasy football season is long gone, at least there is some solace knowing that pitchers and catchers report soon!