Thursday, March 25, 2010

Fantasyland: The Movie

So I watched Fantasyland this morning before class/work (with thanks to my girlfriend, Caitlin, for always waking me up much earlier than needed) and found it entertaining. The book Fantasyland is actually the first book that got me into sabermetrics. This was just after I finished up my Psych degree in undergrad, which quickly proved to be a useless piece of paper. I've always had an affinity for statistics (and in fact developed my own scoring system to rank the best players ever when I was 15...wish I could find the Excel file to see how accurate it was). But Fantasyland opened up my eyes to a world of fantasy sports that I didn't even know existed, and taught me much about my spending $38 on Brad Lidge in a 20-team league in 2006. Since then, I have tried to immerse myself in not only fantasy, but sabermetrically slanted statistics, econometrics, economics, management, and statistics in general. Anyway, here's what I thought, simply by bullet points (most of which have zero true analytical bent):

-Lawr Michaels reminds me of Lazlo from the classic 80's movie Real Genius. It seems like he's the nicest guy in the league though, and I'm sure would be interesting to have a conversation with.

-Ron Shandler is a bit sure of himself, despite not performing all that well at fantasy anymore. Perhaps it's time for retirement. With that said, I would also be annoyed as hell if I had to deal with Jed Latkin for more than a couple days, and would likely act like an asshole, too. I think it was pretty obvious early on that Shandler had no interest in letting a 'laymen' into his elite league.

-The main character, Jed, is a massive tool.

-It's hilarious to watch people gush over having a player on their fantasy team...to the player. It's even more hilarious to watch the player give them a weird look and not give two shits about it. I love fantasy sports. I write about it. I spend more time than I should playing it. But I don't understand how anyone can come to the conclusion that players actually give a crap how much you paid for them in your fantasy draft. It's delusional, and no one cares.

-It's interesting to see the difficulties Jed had with trading in the league. In public leagues, we see little trading because there's very little communication and participation. In leagues with your friends, it's all about the trading and talking. Usually there's a sucker in these leagues, and trades happen left and right. However, when everyone knows what they're talking about and are fully involved, trading again becomes more difficult. It's much more difficult to make a trade that benefits both owners in fantasy than it is in real baseball for a couple reasons. First, there's no future value (beyond this year), so prospects are out of the question. Secondly, there aren't salary concerns once the season starts. Reducing salary midseason does nothing for your bottom line, since your bottom line is the total stats put up by your players. Getting a discount after the auction isn't all that useful.

-There are interesting incentives for the guys in Tout Wars. Much of their expert reputation is laid on the line, especially when they're competing against someone who's not considered an expert. I'm sure the fact that Latkin's team finished ahead of Shandler's is embarrassing, despite the enormous amounts of luck involved in one season of fantasy.

-There were trades being made using non-fantasy assets. This is collusion. Making deals like trading apartments and paying to go to AFL conventions is total BS. If this happens in your league, quickly kick that person out.

-Vernon Wells calling Latkin a racist was a pretty awkward moment.

-Latkin makes a mistake by trying to explain to Shandler how old and worthless Joe Borowski is, despite asking for him in a trade. This is so transparent I don't think I need to explain it. People talk about how crappy a player is all the time when they're trying to get him from me in a trade a lot in some of my leagues. If he's so terrible, why do you want him!?!

-The Jeff Kent beanball incident is something I never heard before. Hilarious, but these things are a definite concern for MLB. Fantasy is technically gambling in the sense that it creates incentives on the field that don't necessarily align with the team. What if Derek Jeter has Dustin Pedroia on his fantasy team with significant stakes?

-Murray Chass is an assclown. As are the other writers they interview. They're correct in that fantasy has changed the landscape of fanhood. But who cares!?! It gets fans more involved in the game than ever before. As someone who researches sport and demand for sport, I find it absolutely fascinating. I'd love to research how fantasy sports influence spending and fandom for professional teams. There's got to be ways in which to capture this change. In addition, Fantasy is no different from the history of sports gambling in general. These writers complain that you don't care if you're home team wins because your player did well. What about the Vegas style sports gamblers (a huge industry for a long time) that bet on the spread or the other team? This is NOT a new phenomenon brought on by fantasy, it's just more focused on players rather than teams.

-Why do the Latkins have a Simpson's Pinball Machine in the baby room?

-If Jed annoys you as much as he does me, fast forward to about the 1 hour and 8 minute mark. Despite bringing a glove to the Wrigley bleachers and looking directly at the field waving his arms for a ball, Latkin gets smoked IN THE FACE by a line drive home run in BP.

-I'm almost 99% sure they had him ask questions to Rusty Kuntz just so they could put his name up on the screen.

-They kicked him out of the league, apparently because he made too many trade offers. That's a bit of an asshole move, given his 6th place finish (though, I'd be pissed if he showed up to my house with no announcement, too).

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