5 Real Lessons of Fantasy Football
NEW YORK ( MainStreet) Though the NFL grinds on, fantasy football has wound down for the season. I played for the first time this year, and improbably came out on top. My league was admittedly not the most competitivewe didn't even stake any money on the outcome, sadlybut the level of emotional involvement was high. Pride was on the line, and as my team emerged as a title contender I found my mental life almost taken over by the fortunes of my players. And I couldn't help but come out of this 16-week ordeal feeling like I'd learned something, even though the grander claims for the game's real-life relevance seem dubious.
The parallels with stock picking in particular are obvious, and the case has been made that one can teach us important lessons about the otherthat fantasy football is really an investing game.
I'm not so sure: while corporate scandals or economic headwinds can come out of nowhere to suddenly devalue a company, Wall Street can't match the NFL for unpredictability: a top-notch player can suddenly be wrenched from the season, while a backup quarterback throws seven touchdown passes in a game. So without suggesting any particular applications for these lessons, I offer what I've learned on any given Thursday, Sunday and Monday these past four months.
What's past is prologue, nothing more.
It felt great when I landed, as my opening draft pick, last year's second best fantasy player, Houston RB Arian Foster. Anyone who follows the NFL knows how this ended: Foster made more headlines on the operating table than on the football field, undergoing season-ending back surgery after scoring just two TDs in seven weeks. He even made his exit during the first quarter of a game, leaving owners in the lurch with 1.10 points on the board from their RB1.
That Foster of all NFL stars should have such a disappointing 2013 is of interest to Wall Street watchers: just three days before Foster's season went bust, startup company Fantex Holdings announced plans to take him public by offering stock tied to his future earnings. It must have seemed like a brilliant choice for a first athlete IPO, given Foster's prior production and sphinx-like charm (just what advertisers seem to like these days). But there's perhaps a good reason why football players' careers have not yet been securitized by our relentlessly assimilative financial sector: the injury machine of the NFL spares no one. (Emphasizing consistency and reliability, Jim Cramer likened Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers to $SBUX right before the season began. And Rodgers put up pretty good numbers until week nine, when he got sacked so hard his collarbone broke, ending his fantasy season.)
Football is a tumult of rising and falling; more important than preparing for the draft is tracking performances during the season, because you are going to need replacements, for bye weeks certainly and probably for injuries. After losing Arian Foster, I picked up Le'Veon Bell, a rookie Pittsburgh Steeler who proved his mettle on Thanksgiving against the Baltimore Ravens, putting up nearly 20 fantasy points despite being robbed of a TD when a spear tackle dislodged his helmet as he entered the end zone. And it's obviously more fun to feel like you've discovered someone than to jump on a bandwagon.