Kicking Rocks: Money Talks Too Much
Howard Bender uses Kicking Rocks this week as his soapbox to weigh in on this recent battle between fantasy baseball analysts and high-stakes league players.
Typically, the Kicking Rocks column is meant for fun. It’s a space where fantasy players can sit and vent their frustrations about all things, baseball or football. Is Super-Two free agency killing your late-round draft picks? Did your Zero-RB strategy blow up in your face? Are the trade offers you are receiving complete dog crap? That’s what this column was all about. But sometimes, something happens and I feel the need to use it as my soapbox. I don’t often do it, but as someone who has dedicated the last 20 years of his life to the fantasy sports industry, I am embarrassed by what I am seeing from some of my colleagues these days and feel the need to do a little venting of my own regarding this battle between high stakes fantasy players and fantasy analysts, both amateur and established.
So, let’s start here. Both sides are wrong. Sure, there are merits to some of the arguments, but in the overall grand scheme of things, you’re all wrong and you need to simmer down.
To the high-stakes NFBC players who, year after year, insist on popping off that fantasy analysts who don’t play in the high-stakes NFBC contests are, for lack of a better word, frauds, need to shut up. Plain and simple. The phrase “put your money where your mouth is,” only plays so much and, for me, it doesn’t play at all. Having a large disposable income that allows you to play in these high-stakes leagues does not make you a better player, nor does it qualify you to criticize others who spend their time creating content and offering advice on game strategies and player analysis.
I don’t play in the NFBC. Does that mean I am no good at my job? Does that mean my 2018 LABR title where I went wire-to-wire in first place is garbage? What about all the other fantasy championships under my belt? Or, better yet, what about the money I’ve made in my home leagues over the years? Does that not count? I’ve been playing in two home leagues for years, each with a $400 entrance fee, and prefer them to the NFBC for a number of reasons – like the ability to trade, for one. But my discretionary income does not allow me to do more and, sorry, but if I had to choose one over the other, leagues of 15-plus years with my friends will win out every time.
But let’s take the money off the table for a moment, because, let’s be honest, no one is getting into the content side of fantasy sports because they think they’re going to make millions of dollars doing so. If you do, then you have zero idea of the finances within the industry or understand what a market super-saturated with wannabe analysts pays. I do it because I have fun doing it. I love my job and, frankly, I think I’m pretty darn good at it. I play in a number of different leagues – roto, head-to-head, categories, points, etc. -- in order to have first-hand knowledge of moves, strategies and players I recommend and, as a result, I can speak to a wider audience. I’m not sure how many different styles of leagues NFBC high stakes players play each year, but I’d be surprised to see a whole lot of variety.
Now for every fantasy analyst who just jumped out of their seat for that last part, sit back down, because now it’s your turn.
As someone who understands the grind and what it takes to be successful in this industry, allow me to say thank you for your efforts. This is not an easy industry to break into and, in many ways, can be one of the most thankless jobs out there. When you’re right, people shower you with praise for about 15 minutes and when you’re wrong, it can feel like a death sentence as the masses crap on you like you just drove your car over and killed their grandmother. But with all this work you do, many of you lose sight of the actual competition that is a fantasy league.
Accepting an invitation to join a fantasy league -- ANY fantasy league. Doesn’t matter if it’s for money, a trophy or even just bragging rights -- means you are 100-percent committed to the league. That means from Draft Day to the final bell, you are an active participant of the league. You set a proper lineup every week or even every day, depending on your style of league. You don’t forget and you most certainly do not bail. I’ve witnessed it first-hand and, early on in my career, was guilty of it myself.
As an up-and-comer in this industry, I joined every industry league that invited me. Just like the writing assignments, it felt wrong to say no. But at some point, you have to understand your limits and if you find yourself only caring about leagues in which your team is competitive, you’re doing it wrong and setting a horrible example for those who follow your work and heed your advice.
Take this whole recent dust-up surrounding The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational. One analyst was criticized for perpetual last-place finishes and abandoning the team. Rather than admit to being overwhelmed with the number of leagues and the lack of available time to dedicate, this analyst said something to the effect of “well if it was one of my money leagues, it would be different.” Big mistake. Big. Huge.
If you need money to motivate you to play in a league from start to finish, then don’t play in the league. The whole purpose of TGFBI is to have fantasy analysts competing against each other for charity. If you are dismissing it because it’s not a money league, then get out. Don’t play. Justin Mason isn’t putting a gun to your head telling you to compete or die, is he?
I get it, everyone is playing and tweeting out their draft picks and comparing/complaining about how slow the draft is going and you, as an aspiring (or even established) analyst want to be a part of it. It’s exciting and the exposure can be a lot of fun. But if you’re just going to crap on the league later on down the road, then you shouldn’t be allowed to take part in the fun stuff early on. Not to mention, you are damaging the reputation of the league and basically pissing on something awesome Justin created. This guy busts his ass year after year to make all of this happen and your shitty attitude ruins it.
And that’s where we are today. We’ve got high-stakes players who think having extra money makes them elite fantasy players and we’ve got people who purport themselves as fantasy experts quitting on leagues. It’s all garbage and it’s a huge embarrassment to the industry as a whole. Clean it up, people, or this sandbox we’re all supposed to be playing together nicely in is going to remain a litterbox no one wants to be a part of anymore.