Monday, October 4, 2010

Why Fantasy Basketball Rocks (and a sales pitch)

If you recognize the following post, you are what we call a Regular Visitor, and for that, we love you. It runs In October of every year, attracts a handful of dismissive comments, and sinks under the waves. But A Commish Has Got To Try, Dammit.

I started playing fantasy basketball in the late 80s, and picked it up again in 2001. It's the exact same amount of time as I've been begging people to play fantasy basketball. Except for the begging to fill my leagues, it's actually my favorite fantasy league, beating out baseball and football. Here's why.

1) No stupid park effects. Look, picking the right players for your starting lineup is difficult enough without worrying about rain or snow in football, or some wind or bandbox killing your pitchers in baseball. Basketball, it's the same everywhere. Just like they say in "Hoosiers."

2) Everybody can do everything. Need a save? You better have the single guy on the pitching staff that's getting them. Didn't get a top QB? You're boned. But the NBA offers a million ways to get your numbers. There are guards that block shots. Centers that shoot three pointers. Power forwards that get assists. It's incredibly liberating, and a lot more fun. When your point guard blocks a shot, you get the same Nerd Thrill as when your RB throws a TD pass. Fantasy sports is all about fun outliers, and basketball gives them to you all the time.

3) It rewards knowledge beyond numbers. In baseball and football, the won-loss record of the team doesn't really matter that much, and you might even be better off if the team is terrible (see Orton, Kyle). Sure, maybe a running back from a bad team gets pinched a little as his team throws a ton in catch-up situations, or a QB from a team that gets a lot of leads might sit out some fourth quarters. But for the most part, you can pretty much draft a guy and not care who wins or loses.

In the NBA, you need to actually know which teams are going to suck, because those are the ones where the star players are much more likely to ease off on the minutes in March and April. You also have to ease off a little bit on the guys from the very best teams, since they wind up losing minutes and/or coasting in April, and minutes drive everything. Lose enough games, and a lineup shuffle will happen. If you don't watch wins and losses, it costs you. As it should.

4) Overtime. In baseball, extra innings means extra at bats from offensive players that never do enough with them. In football, overtime almost never happens, and even when it does, it really doesn't have that much impact.

But in the NBA, overtime -- and even double and triple overtime -- happens just enough to occasionally give you a Big Stiffie of oversized numerical goodness, especially when you've got high-tempo teams that go to double or triple bonus. When your point guard pulls off 20+ assists in a double-overtime barn-burner, you're loving life. A lot.

5) It's niche-y. Let's face it... too many people play fantasy football. Every ticker tells you the stats you need, you can talk about your team with millions, and somewhere in your league, there's somebody who lucked into a Peyton Hillis who is utterly kicking your ass. When clueless announcers talk about their teams, or Barbara from Accounting chats up how she took a defense early, that's shark jumping time. We're sports nerds; we don't like crowds like this.

With pro hoop, it's still kind of underground, and just a lot more fun. The podcasts are harder to find and less enamoured with themselves. The annuals are better written and more hardcore. Trust me on this. Fantasy sports fist pumps are best served in private.

6) It totally saves the winter. January and February is pure misery for fantasy players, and if you get nailed by injuries to your studs, even November and December applies.. (I went hard for Ryan Grant, Pierre Garcon, Owen Daniels and Robert Mecham. I started thinking about hoops two weeks ago, really.)

Unless you do a basketball or hockey league. Even if you are an NBA fan, fantasy is huge, since it keeps you involved during the mid-season grind. If you are the kind of fantasy football player that mopes his way through December onward because you've got no more juice in the games, or struggles to care about the regular season and feels out of step once the playoffs come around, this is so the game for you.

* * * * *

Now, having said all of that, here's the sales pitch.

I'm restarting my auction league, and have three spots open for a draft that's happening in two weeks. It's a Yahoo league, $55 to enter with $50 going to the pot, and $5 to the commish (me) for a big board for the live draft room. Oh hell yes, it's a live draft, aka the most fun way to play, because the first guy to draft can't just say LeBron James and have his Traitorous Doucehebags in the money at the end of the year. Plus, you get three hours of guys in a room busting on each other, poker-esque position raises and gamesmanship, and unrelenting nerdery. It's one of the three best days of my year.

Anyway... there's a dorky trophy involved, a big board to draft in, beer and bbq and all of the pure fun that is a live draft. The draft will be at my place in Central New Jersey (about halfway between New York and Philly, and close to trains). If you aren't local, it's no problem; we'll be doing a conference call and web meeting to keep you involved.

So if you're interested, email me at dmtshooter@gmail.com. If you know anyone who's an NBA fan and can forward this along, I'd also appreciate it. If you can link this post and spread the word about the openings, that's also a big help.

Finally, there's this. I've been doing this for a long time. I do it well. And I want 12 teams, not 9, because it's just better for my people.

Thanks for your time, and I hope to see you in Obey Your Thirst. (Sorry, Kobe -- that never gets old.)

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