The Results + What We Learned 11/4/13

Alright, folks. I got creamed—plain and simple, fair and square. My opponent (the Phoenix $10 Beers by Sarver) swept me in all eight categories in what, to most, would appear to be a disastrous introduction to fantasy sports. I came into Sunday with a chance to finish even at 4-4, but alas, it wasn’t meant to be.

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But, please, don’t cry for me, Argentina. The truth is, I had it coming. I was cruising for this very bruising.

I came into this exercise with no expectations—certainly not ones to win—because I didn’t plan to give any effort. My goal was to tempt the fates, to shake a fist and flip a bird at the karmic cycle of Fantasy Sports, which dictates that success in their realm requires commitment and clever wits, simply because I could.

And lo, was I knocked on my ass because of it. The inner competitor in me was awakened. “You should make some trades,” I thought to myself. “You should at least check the waiver wire! How are you gonna play with a lineup full of DNP casualties (i.e. Kris Humphries, Alex Len, Nene) and even hope to have a prayer?!”

I’ll admit: I strongly considered engaging my instincts for earnestness. I nearly caved, hovering my pointer ever so precariously over the “Add Players” button.

Then, I remembered why I began this little endeavor. The goal here is to be completely absurd about fantasy sports, to be the “***hole,” the pointless heel who treats participation in a fantasy league like some silly game…

I mean, really, people. If I have the time and desire to keep up a barebones blog about nothing in particular like this one, then, surely, I could spend the requisite time tending to my fantasy basketball garden.

I could take note of the fact that I still have Devin Harris on my roster, even though he has yet to play this season (due to injury) and will be no better than the Dallas Mavericks‘ third guard. I could take to heart the fact that Goran Dragic was never going to keep his job as the Phoenix Suns‘ primary guard once Eric Bledsoe got to town, and that he certainly isn’t going to now that he’s hobbling around on a sprained ankle—one that he originally sprained two weeks ago (per Paul Coro of azcentral.com).

Heck, playing this week against a team that featured (and likely rode to a sweeping victory) Bledsoe, who tore it up for the Suns.

You know, the same tankerrific Suns who are 2-1, but could’ve been 3-0 after going toe-to-toe with the healthy Oklahoma City Thunder, Russell Westbrook included.

I could’ve wondered about the wisdom of having Tony Allen—TONY FRICKIN’ ALLEN—as the starting shooting guard.

But I made commitment in my first post, and I’m sticking to it.

And not out of stubbornness or a misplaced sense of superiority, either (though, clearly, those two factors have left their own indelible imprint on this endeavor).  I’m not keeping a log, one complete with a pointless “No-Transactions” calendar and streak counter, simply out of spite—for my league mates as well as myself.

No, I’m following through with my plan because, believe it or not, I see hope. I see a chance for me to spring an upset one of these days. I see the future of a team constructed with no intention, built not to lose but because the “auto-draft” function exists, and it’s not so bleak.

I take heart because I look up and down the scoreboard, and I see teams that got whooped almost as badly as I did. Teams whose owners may well have poured their heart and soul into this enterprise. Teams who, any other week or with any other luck, might’ve seen their fortunes flipped.

Not because of innate fantasy sports skills, intense study or careful effort, but because of pure randomness. Well, maybe not pure randomness, but because, really, how is anyone supposed to predict how some massive millionaire is going to fare from night to night?

And yes, I realize that guys have established tendencies, that scouting services and advanced statistics give us a seemingly (and surprisingly) accurate window into the soul and “value” of a basketball player.

Or so we think. I believe in the power of analytics, of applying the principles of economics to the construction of a sports franchise. I believe that knowledge is power, that data rules, that, as in poker, if you know what the odds are and how to play them properly, you’ll probably come out ahead.

But the NBA is and isn’t like poker. Sure, for the most part, you know who the better players and teams are going to be in the long run. You know that LeBron James is going to be good for, say, 24-7-8 with some steals and blocks mixed in. You also know that he’s probably going to shoot upwards of 50 percent from the field, 35-40 percent from three, and better than 70 percent from the free throw line.

But this kind of dependability belies just how random any sport is—even basketball, wherein a single player can dictate the entire direction of a team, if not a league.

Sometimes, even LeBron has a bad game. Sometimes, there’s a man

Many times, virtual unknowns come up big. You can say that much for rookies (Michael Carter-Williams), role players (Boris Diaw, on my team) and former cast-offs (Xavier Henry).

And, from time to time, injuries strike even the sturdiest of superstars. Just ask Westbrook, whose absence this past April might’ve cost OKC the title and who’s now back, far sooner than anyone expected.

Those injuries cost some big time while giving others opportunities to shine. That’s part of what makes fantasy sports interesting: that it turns EVERYTHING (injuries included) into a zero-sum conundrum. It makes a competition out of something that’s already a competition. IT’S METTAAAAA…errr, I mean…META!!!

(Metta’s the gift that keeps on giving. Geez, I miss having him on the Los Angeles Lakers. Can’t you tell?)
Cosmic justice is all well and good, but ultimately, in my book, the world is a random place. S*** happens. That’s life. You take what comes and you deal with it. You try to make something for yourself, and something else might go wrong or not go how you planned, but you deal with it.
If you’re smart and resourceful, you make lemons out of that lemonade. You seize every turning point (positive or negative) as a lesson, as a chance to grow.
That’s been the point of this blog from the get-go, and it remains so. Maybe I’m not trying to mock the system. Maybe I’m just trying to express, in my own small way, that you can, indeed, make the most out of circumstances that aren’t ideal.
Not by necessarily winning (or even trying to win) my fantasy basketball league, but by creating something else out of it.
You’re right: the blog wouldn’t be here without fantasy basketball, without the Derrick Rosie O’Donnells. Perhaps I owe my team and my league the courtesy of giving an honest effort to the game at hand. Don’t be the wrench in the machine, the “schedule game” that makes all the others look kind of silly. Do everyone a solid and, you know, try.
But that would kind of kill the whole idea, wouldn’t it? What fun would it be for me to talk about my fantasy team, as a means of personal expression, if I’m going about things in a conventional way?
I’m not trying to be Matthew Berry or Eric Karabell here, folks. If you’re looking for fantasy advice, this isn’t where you’ll find it.
Let’s be real: I’m here to talk about myself, to pretend like an activity as mundane as fantasy sports is interesting just because I’m partaking. “Who’s this jerk who thinks his experience is worth sharing?”
And, really, I’d agree. What’s the point, anyway? Aren’t I just wasting my time while making myself look like a tool?
Maybe. But, on the off-chance that even one person gained something from reading what I wrote, isn’t it worth it?
No, no. Forget about that. Isn’t it worth it if I enjoy it? Even if nobody else reads or gives a damn, isn’t the idea here to have some fun, just as all of my colleagues hope to do by playing fantasy basketball in the first place? Is it okay that my enjoyment of the same thing is merely accompanied by a ludicrous activity like keeping a blog about why I’m not really trying to win?
What’s the point of anything if you’re not trying to be the best, right? Aren’t we all supposed to live by that credo?
Sure, winning is great, but doesn’t the real victory come from the journey? Isn’t the truest satisfaction of the experience derived from every step, every struggle, every obstacle overcome and every nihilistic turn taken?
Screw the final results! What are YOU putting into the activity itself? What are you learning from the study materials, regardless of how you fare on the graded test that comes afterward?
In this case, I’m putting everything and nothing into it, and getting those very same things out. I put next to nothing into my fantasy team and, on the scoreboard, got next to nothing out of it.
But, in doing “nothing,” I gained everything. As Jalen Rose might say, in the game of life, I did just fine this week. I wrote for fun in addition to writing for a living. I found a way to turn my professional skills into an outlet for passion, and hopefully more closely connect the two as time goes on. I found something that keeps me up late, but in the best way. 
I might’ve looked silly for leaning so heavily on Serge Ibaka (25 percent from the field) and Joakim Noah (31.8 percent) for big numbers. I might’ve slightly undermined my credibility as someone who’s supposed to know a thing or two about hoops by putting Alonzo Gee out there.
But Jameer Nelson (13.3 points, 6.7 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1.3 steals) was pleasantly productive in Week 1. Paul Pierce (18 points, 4.5 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 55.6 percent from the floor) looked like he hadn’t skipped a beat since moving from the Boston Celtics to the Brooklyn Nets. Omer Asik (11.7 boards) is a rebounding freak, and Noah and Ibaka will be in due course.
And because nobody really knows what’s going to happen, there’s the chance that, one day or one week, I catch lightning in a bottle. There’s the possibility that my opponent has a run of rough luck, albeit a smaller one than me getting rolled like a flimsy pair of dice under the wheel of a passing truck.
But that day won’t validate the existence of this blog. I admit, it’ll be a fun (and funny) bonus. It’ll give me something to chuckle about and, perhaps, to revel in if I so choose.
Still, The Lazy Man’s Guide to Fantasy Sports isn’t a thing because I want to remember (and want everyone to see) that I won or lost. Rather, it’s a thing because I want to see how the game is played and find my own ridiculous way of playing it.
Even if it means playing an entirely different game on the side, one for which I’ve settled on a new set of rules.
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