Thursday, January 07, 2010

Fantasy 2009 in Review

Photo: Jayel Aheram, Flickr Creative Commons

I promise that this is the last sports post for a very long time.

I'm not a perfect person. I never claimed to be. Now, if you talk to me about college football, it may come across like I think I'm perfectly prescient, but the truth is that I'm completely aware that even though watch an awful lot of college football, I'm still basing at least half of every opinion I have about the sport on guesses and faith. My confidence has been reinforced in the past with my ability to pick every game involving ranked teams during the college football season with about 60 percent accuracy, and that's against the spread, not who wins or loses.

That being said, I apparently didn't have a freaking clue what was going on this year. I only got about 52 percent of my picks right. That's only 3 percent better than if I had just always picked the underdog. It's only 1 percent better than if I had just always picked the favorite. Here's the rub: It only got worse when it came time to pick the bowls. During bowl season we don't even pick against the spread. We just pick winners. This sounds easy, but during the bowls, anything can go. Coaches abandon their teams. Coaches get fired. Important players get academic probation before the game. All but one of the games are meaningless, so you can't even tell if the better team will take it seriously enough. Teams get up to a month to just prepare for one team. All of the sudden the usually predictable sport of college football turns into an anything goes melee.

That's probably just my coping mechanism because I basically could have done just as well tossing a coin this season and even with the increased craziness with the bowls, I should be able to beat a quarter at predicting outcomes. At this point I've only had about 48.5 percent accuracy on my picks. If Alabama wins tonight, I'll hit the magic number of 50 percent. If they lose, I end the season with only 47 percent accuracy. That's pathetic. I blame an odd season. It didn't seem like there was as clear of a hierarchy this year. The past few years have seemed to feature a growing group of small schools suddenly able to compete with the big boys, but this year it seemed that after a small group of truly great teams, the rest of the teams were pretty much the same. The truth is that I'm probably just full of shit and the last four seasons of high percentages were just a fluke.

I fared better in Fantasy Football, however. I'm usually pretty good with this as well, although I'm normally a little better picking college games than I am building a fantasy team. I played four leagues this year, a pretty typical number for me and I won one league, came in second and third in two others and failed to even make the playoffs in the fourth league. That last league was the only one I really needed to win. The top three players in that league get beer from the league losers. The past two seasons I finished in the beer. This year I'm having to buy beer for someone else. The only other frustration with my fantasy football season was that third-place league. I finished the regular season with the highest total points, second in win-loss record. In the playoffs I scored the most points as well. I lost the first round of playoffs by 2 points (Adrian Peterson lost a fumble or I would have won) and then completely destroyed my opponent in the third place match up the next week.

That team was an amazing collection of talent. I somehow ended up with Adrian Peterson and Chris Johnson. Part of this was that Chris Johnson's statistically historic season was unpredicted. Peterson's dominance is part of a well-established trend. My third-best player was Clinton Portis until he got hurt. I replaced him with Quinton Ganther the week that guy exploded and somehow thought to bench Ganther for the following weeks just in time to have Cadillac Williams explode in his place. This was a weird league with two starting quarterbacks and I had Brett Favre and Matt Schaub. They were the third and fifth top-scoring players in that league. I drafted Larry Fitzgerald, one of the best wide recievers in the game despite an off year by his standards, and managed to score Miles Austin when it turned out he was going to have a break-out year and become the fourth-best fantasy wide receiver despite not even starting the entire season. Heck, even my tight end was the top fantasy producer for that position.

Of course all of this involves very large amounts of luck so I can't even really take as much pride as I'd like from it. A couple of different bounces and I would have gone from disappointing college picks to winning my league for the third time in four years. If Johnson had only done what was expected and Schaub had continued with his injury-prone ways, I wouldn't have even placed in that league. Hell, I was furious that I missed one of my picks in the draft and ended up with Favre. First, I hate Favre. Second, I just knew that Favre would fly high the first eight games of the season before falling apart under the pressure of cold weather and his aged joints just like last year. I was wrong. No one would take the guy off my hands when I offered him up for a trade at the beginning of the season and I ended up getting stuck with one of the best three players in the fantasy game this year. I bet those guys who turned down my trade requests before week one feel like dumbasses now. I'd feel like a dumbass for underestimating Professional Football Jesus* too, except that I kicked ass in that league.

That won't stop me from gloating for a while and talking a little smack when it comes time for next year's fantasy drafts, though.

*Football Jesus refers to Florida's Tim Tebow. It comes partly from his highly public religious beliefs and the fawning adulation he received for four years in the sports media. Despite not wearing bible verses on his eye black and not ending every comment with "God Bless", Favre has received at least as much fawning from the sports media as a professional player. Unfortunately, whereas Tebow is highly respected and seems to be genuinely liked by his teammates, Favre has frequently been a cancer in the locker room and actively disliked by past teammates. He's a prima donna. On the other hand, despite being an uber-Christian, Tebow manages to get along with and be a leader on a team filled with kids who'd probably take it personally if they felt like Tebow looked down on them from his holier-than-thou perch. I've got to respect the kid for that. I have no problem with devout religious beliefs. I only take umbrage with those who combine arrogance with their religion. I'm looking at you, Brit Hume.


Julie said...

For a Communications major, you sure are obsessed with numbers.

P.S. - I know we're getting up there in age now, but is it really fair to call a college senior a kid?

Jacob said...

I like statistics. They're just more precise facts and I'm a fact magnet.

I don't know if it's fair, but it just started coming out that way the past year. It's not intentional. I think part of it was the realization that my students and tennis players, who I most definitely think of as kids are only a couple years younger than most of the guys playing football.

Regardless, I think adulthood has more to do with independence than it does with age. In college, most people aren't having to make their own ends meet. College football players on scholarship more or less aren't even allowed to make their own ends meet because of NCAA regulations that make it difficult for them to even get a job, even ignoring the fact the sport would prevent them from working much.

Plus, I think it's good to realize that most of these college football players are still teenagers, or at least can't even drink legally yet. Thinking of them as adults leads to problems.

Jacob said...

I probably wouldn't refer to the guys on BYU kids, though. Half of the team is only a couple of years younger than I am, and the majority are married, many with their own children.