Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A Matter of Perspective?

(Note: This column has been delayed by a few weeks due to computer problems that persisted throughout December and the Mark McGwire news that required more immediate analysis. I can’t believe it’s been two months since my last post. Oi.)

Here we are in the midst of January 2010. The past month has inundated us with various “of the Decade” lists. Best this, worst that, most memorable etc. I will not bore you dear reader with any long reminiscence of the last ten years. In part because I don’t have a coherent perspective on it all and thus would ramble on even more than usual and in part because the last thing we all need is another damn list. I will say that on new year’s eve 1999/2000 was the first time I kissed the woman I would someday marry and on new year’s eve 2009/2010 I found myself kissing my beautiful wife who is in fact a completely different person than the one in the previous sentence. And that pretty much sums up the ‘00s. Besides, we all know that we’ve all changed in the last ten years. We’ve all had struggles and triumphs. You don’t need me to rehash it here.

Instead I want to focus on something that has been either an unqualified success or a semi-dismal failure depending on how you look at it. I am turning to you oh readers to help me decide which it is. I want us to examine my career in fantasy football. If you don’t know what fantasy football is click here for the full explanation or just know that it is a drawn out form of sports gambling that is tied to individual player performances collected into disparate groupings involving several “owners” trying to win money in a league type format. If you want to see what a league looks like you can click here to view our league from this year. The bottom line is fantasy football, like most forms of sports betting exists to enhance the fun of watching sports. It is not supposed to a viable means to earn money.

The intangible aspects of playing are numerous and rewarding. Tracking “your” players lets you feel involved and excited while watching games that might otherwise be boring due to lack of a rooting interest in the teams involved. For example, as a 49er fan I would be pretty bored watching the woeful Chiefs play the horrific Raiders except that I need the Chiefs’ wideout to score at least one touchdown so I can win my fantasy game this week. Fantasy football also provides camaraderie and fellowship by connecting friends both near and far to get together or make an extra phone call to talk smack to other owners in your league.

My two favorite fantasy football memories both involve games that I lost. The first was a game between me and my wife (the current one) that came down to players we each had on Monday night. The game went back and forth all night both in real life and in our little fantasy game. The missus and I had been running smack all night and in the end it came down to a 50 yard field goal with :01 left on the clock. The field goal was good and I lost, but man it was a fun night. Anything that can get your significant other invested in watching Monday Night Football is a good thing. The second memory also involved my wife. It was the last week of the regular season and it was down to me and her for our division crown and a playoff spot. (The playoffs are where you win money in fantasy football.) Five of our league’s 12 owners got together (including two who drove to DC from New Jersey) and it was on. My wife ran so much good smack while kicking my team’s ass she instantly became a legend among our friends and family.

While the intangible benefits of fantasy football are wide-ranging and immeasurable, the tangible benefits are narrow and ultimately quantifiable. It starts with your buy in. In our league the buy in is $25.00 in a twelve team league for a starting pot of $300.00. Over the course of the season most owners spend between $35.00 and $55.00 additional dollars on transactions like adding players and making trades. In the end the prize pot is usually around $700.00 which is divided among teams that make the playoffs with the champion getting the lion’s share. If you win games you win money. If you win money you get a tangible benefit along with all the fun of playing.

Of course as with all gambling how much you win is offset by how much you spend. So while bored at “work” I decided to see what my tangible return on investment has been. Below is my year-by-year result: money spent -> money won and [initial analysis ROI].

2009 1st: $110.00 -> $400.00 [3.61]
2008 8th: $85.00 -> $50.00 [0.59]*
2007 3rd: $80.00 -> $89.00 [1.11]
2006 6th: $95.00 -> $47.00 [0.50]
200513th: $59.00 -> $0.00 [0.00]*
2004 1st: $65.00 -> $300.00 [4.62]
Total: $494.00 -> $886.00 [1.79]

(* represents non-playoff years)

On the surface it looks pretty good. I spent $494.00 on fantasy football (an average of $82.33/year) and won $886.00 (an average of $147.67/year). Not bad. If I’m reading that right I’ve made 179% more than I’ve spent. You tell me another investment that’s going to return 179%. Go ahead I dare ya!

So I was feeling pretty good about myself until a thought dawned on me. In a way I didn’t really win the money I had invested. It may be a more realistic and grounded analysis to factor out my original investment. It is more instructive to see not how I did when I gambled, but how I did compared to holding my money not having played at all. So lets check that out:

2009 1st: $110.00 -> $290.00 [2.64]
2008 8th: $85.00 -> -$35.00 [-0.41]*
2007 3rd: $80.00 -> $9.00 [0.11]
2006 6th: $95.00 -> -$48.00 [-0.51]
2005 13th: $59.00 -> -$59.00 [-1.00]*
2004 1st: $65.00 -> $235.00 [3.62]
Total: $494.00 -> $392.00 [0.79]

These numbers feel more real to me. Dismal, depressing, but real. It makes sense, if you factor out the money I put in that I would never have lost in the years I lost money I haven’t really made all that much. I paid $494.00 to play fantasy football over the last six years and got only $392.00 back. Which means I only got .79¢ for every dollar which is a negative return right?

“Plus your original investment.”

Huh? Who’s that?

“It’s Other Berto. Dude, you did get your original money back. So all your worry is just worry. No matter how you slice it you’re still up .79¢ on the dollar. Sure the profit margin is slim compared to the gross margin but it’s really the same number. You brought in more than you spent. Period. Get over it.”

Um, OK, I think I believe you Other Berto but I’m still not sure.

“Then let the readers weigh in.”

OK readers help me out. Has fantasy football been a good tangible investment or not?

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