Monday, November 12, 2007

Fantasy Football Frustration

Fantasy football, ideally, is a great way to keep in touch with out of town friends. It provides a social network with a meta game that draws people back at least once per week and it has chat functionality. Ideally there would be scheming and trading and such -- but the reality is that most of us just monitor the waiver wire and micro our rosters that way. Each season we try and brainstorm ways to make it more socially involved, but a variety of factors get in the way.

The biggest problem is most likely systemic. Limited roster size means that trades usually need to be 1 for 1, which means that you can only address needs if you have a perfect doppleganger (someone who has a surplus of what you need and a dearth of what you can offer). Because the talent is so shallow at the key positions, rarely does someone have a surplus of good players. And, if someone does, it is often better to deny others access to these players instead of letting someone else get those points. Players in a position of weakness really have nothing to offer players in a position of strength.

So the "game" then becomes one of speculation (in a perfect world) and one of "whomever gets up earliest on Tuesday morning" (in our current world because there is no formal waiver system). Speculation is fun (if not morbid) because in a sense you are betting on which stars will get injured and picking up their replacements. The "early riser" mechanic is horribly broken and makes things annoying at best (go figure that our friend living in Copenhagen gets first crack) and imbalanced at worst.

Even more broken is my second league with folks from Baltimore. The draft was automated, the rosters are huge, the scoring system is ridiculously complex, and there really is no reason to interact socially as part of weekly game play. So, it's basically just an annoying waste of time instead of a way to keep in better touch with far away friends.

The other problem is simply one of level of commitment and interest. Not everyone is interested in maximizing the utility of their bench and spending the necessary time to do the research, float offers, and respond to counters. I still believe that this could be solved systemically (by having interesting phased wheeling and dealing rounds) but need to let the hamsters run on their exercise wheels a little while longer until the light bulb turns on.

Truth be told, the most robust social interactions I've had re: Fantasy Football have been through Facebook twitterings. One of my friends kept my score updated by status update when I was out hiking (I could check occasionally on my cell phone). Tonight I lamented Mo-Mo's fumble and subsequent failure to redeem himself by gaining 3 more yards before the clock ran out on my Facebook status page.

You'd think that my gaming friends and I could come up with a better way to foster social interaction via our Fantasy Football league.

Edit: Note that the title doesn't make as much sense without adding the explanation that I just lost my weekly match up by one point... It came down to the last few plays of tonight's Monday Night Football game.

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