Quiz #82. Promise Made, Promise Broken

Why am I playing fantasy football in 2020 after all--and how did I come up with a workable plan for fantasy in what may be a chaotic NFL season? Steve's Stay-at-Home Coronavirus Quiz for August 31st.

I’d like to think that I am a man of my word, but sadly I must confess that I am not.

Back on June 28th, in Quiz #62. Football Fantasy, I boldly proclaimed that I would not be playing fantasy football in 2020.

Me in my football uniform, circa 1969

I didn't see then--and still don't see now--how the NFL will make it through the season with the virus still active and spreading.

I didn't want to waste time this Summer studying for fantasy football--only to have the season cancelled after a few weeks.

In 2019, I played in seven different fantasy football leagues.  I ran five of those leagues.  I didn't see then how you could set up and run a league with rules that would work and be fair in a season sure to be marked by chaos and uncertainty.

And yet, thanks to “Big John,” a fantasy football friend I "met" on the internet in 2019, I have discovered (and copied) the format for a fantasy football plan that looks easy and workable.

The plan comes, in part, from MyFantasyLeague.com which is a web-site that, for a small fee, runs fantasy football leagues with rules that can be customized under a variety of broad formats.

One of the new formats they’ve come up with for 2020 is called a “DFS Style League” and it’s described as “pandemic proof.”

There’s no draft so there’s no pressure to gather owners together at a designated time to pick their players for their teams.

There’s also no need to study in the off-season to try to figure out which players will break out with a good season--and which will not.  Instead, just as in so-called DFS Games (Daily Fantasy Sports),  each “owner” gets to pick his team each week. In this way, it’s also flexible in case “your” players get injured or test positive for COVID.

“Big John,” from Texas, added two wrinkles which are, for me, game-changers for this crazy time of 2020.

First, most DFS leagues work with what’s called a salary cap.  The organization that runs the league establishes a salary for every player each week and when you build your team of nine players from the pool of NFL players, you have to construct your roster so it stays within that salary cap.

In the league that “Big John” will be running, there is no salary cap.  Instead, if you pick a player to be on your team in any given week, then you cannot pick him again.  In this way, it’s not so important to figure out IF a player will have a good season.  It’s just a matter of picking WHEN each player will have their best games.  Miss out on a rising player before the draft—it doesn’t matter—and that means there’s no need to study extensively beforehand only to have the season cancelled come October.

This is very different from most fantasy leagues where the idea is to hold a draft with your friends and other owners, trying to prove that you are smarter at picking good players than the others.  That means trying to be the first person to identify and pick those players who will  break out.  If you’re right and you pick an unheralded rookie at your draft, he’s on your team—you’re the only one who gets to have him if he breaks out.

Second, “Big John” came up with a plan where the fantasy league gets cancelled if the NFL does not make it beyond Week 8.  If COVID cancels the season before Week 8, all bets are off.  

Not only did I agree to join the league that “Big John” is running, but I copied the format into an open league that I will be running through MyFantasyLeague.com.  The name of my league is “Promises, Promises.” I’ve invited all the people from fantasy leagues I have run in the past. With no draft, it’s an open league--with room for 100 people.  If you’re interested in joining, here are the rules for “Promises, Promises.”  All are welcome.  Share with your friends as you see fit. One entry per person.

While it may surprise some that I have gone back on my word about not playing fantasy football in 2020, I’d like to offer a few more words in my own defense.  As someone who ran five leagues in 2019, the so-called commissioner, I wanted my people to know early on that they should not count on me to run things again in 2020.  

Moreover, I’d become friends with “Big John” and had agreed in January to join a league he’d been running for nearly 20 years.  That league has so-called “keepers,” players you get to keep on your team from one year to the next.  I agreed to take over a team in his league from  someone who’d lost interest.  So, as part of making my “no fantasy football” proclamation in June, I let John know that I would not be filling that vacancy.  (“Big John” and his league-mates have decided to put their keeper league on hold for 2020.  All players are frozen with normal play to resume in 2021 when I hope to join them.)

Fantasy football is so popular that it’s spawned an entire industry of people running leagues and services designed to scout players--complete with lists for drafts and tips on picking the best players.  Many of these are subscription services and I am happy to support those services in a season where business is sure to be off from previous years.  My favorite service is Establish the Run run by fantasy guru, Evan Silva (@evansilva on Twitter). For 2020, I have renewed my ETR subscription and will use it to help guide me in when to pick up each player in the modified DFS Style league I will be running.

I am also a follower of another leader in fantasy football, Scott Fish (@ScottFish24 on Twitter).  He urges leagues to set aside prize money for charity.  “Promises, Promises” is set up to do that with 10 per cent of each entry fee going toward a local food bank.

It should not surprise anyone that this week I built a table, charting the schedule for every NFL team, trying to identify those games in which teams will be playing against teams with bad defenses.  In this way, I have a grid of the 144 players I will be picking, 9 at a time for each of the 16 weeks of the NFL season.  (Week 17 gets thrown out.) I’m not locked into those players--you get to make your picks each week--but I like having a plan. 

I didn’t copy over the names, but this is the grid I’ve built for the top 144 players in football, listed by sortable opponent in each of the 16 weeks. The green highlights those teams expected to have the 6 worst defenses in the NFL.

I also have another sports footnote to add.  As described in Quiz #75. I’m Sorry, I sent $40 to the Phillies’ charity fund to have a cardboard cutout of me installed in a seat at Citizens Bank Park.

Sara took this photo which I sent to the Phillies back in July.

This week, the Phillies sent out an email to fans who’d bought the cutouts.  The email told you which section “you” were sitting in and included a link to the Phillies Fan Cam with an HD image that you can use to zoom in on every face in the crowd.  

I’m in Section 111, down the right field line.  By looking at the HD image, I figured out I am in Row 4, Seat 4.  There’s a baby and a dog behind me and I’m sitting next to Santa.  I’m being good.  I’m wearing a mask.


What did not happen? 

A. I emailed the Phanatic and he told me that he’d look for me in the stands;

B. “Big John” is a doctor;

C. Sara has signed up for a team in the open, DFS-style fantasy football league;

D. One of the first people to sign up for the league was John, a former colleague from Staten Island, who will be playing with his father, Cliff;

E. Another former colleague, Lisa, will be playing with her son, Andrew.

Want the answer?

Answer #82. Promise Made, Promise Broken.

If you’re a subscriber, the answer will be sent to you as a separate email when the question is published.

Want more?

Here’s the previous quiz in the series: Quiz #81. Tremor.

Here’s the first quiz in the series: Quiz #1. Stella and Social Distancing, March 13, 2020

Here is an archive of all the quizzes.

The quiz is explained here: Steve’s Stay-at-Home Coronavirus Quiz.

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Comments, corrections and confessions welcome.

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