The New York Times “Room for Debate” section is talking about football today. They asked me to give voice to the former fans who can no longer stomach the sport. Here’s a link.
There’s a growing demand for “à la carte” cable pricing — i.e. the ability to pick and choose just the individual channels you want.
After all, why pay for stuff you aren’t using? You don’t want the electric company forcing you to keep your lights on when you’re not home. Paying only for the TV that you plan to consume makes sense. More choice and lower bills? Sign me up! Right?
There’s just one problem with that line of thinking. There isn’t a direct correlation between the bulk of your cable bill and the number of channels your receive. Choice is definitely good, but we could wind up paying more for less. A lot less.
Actually, I should’ve known that. Anyone who plays fantasy football knows that. Fantasy Football analysts are fickle. They’re inconsistent. Their criteria for grading players changes from week-to-week. How many times have you read a column from a FF analyst where they ragged on Player A, only to see them use the same logic a week later to praise Player B? How often do fantasy experts qualify their advice with so many conditional words like “but” and “if” that the advice offers you no help whatsoever? (Side note: My least favorite pundit expression is “I wouldn’t be surprised if…” It’s a complete non-statement that allows the “expert” to basically have it both ways — if it happens, they can say they saw it coming, if it doesn’t, they can say they saw that too.)
The answer to both those questions is “too often to count.”
Anyways, my attempt to actually gauge and compare the quality of advice given from the most reputable analysts (plus Dr. Juan) was a resounding failure. Merely looking at their weekly lineup recommendations and trying to assign point values to how good it was turned out to be quite frustrating, to say the least. Worse yet — I kept losing subjects, either because they couldn’t even keep their jobs or because they just didn’t offer enough consistency in their advice.
Week 4 is well in the books. How did the prognosticators do?
First, let’s look back at how they’ve done the first 3 weeks.
Matthew Berry, ESPN – He’s the heavyweight on the list. A mini-empire of sorts. He’s made 72 recommendations over the last month in his weekly Love/Hate column, with 42 being good ones (or, at least, ones that wouldn’t piss you off if you followed it). That’s 58.3%.
John Halpin, FOX – His “Wide Write” column exists rather fittingly at Foxnews.com, though his bio claims he also contributes to Foxsports.com and the Fox News tv channel. He makes just 9 start/sit recommendations every week. Of his 27 recs so far this season, 17 have been good. That’s 63%. He’s also about to be dropped from this contest (more on that below).
Matt Pitzer, USA TODAY – He’s part of the Fantasy Joe team at usatoday.com, one of the most circulated newspapers in existence, which I’m guessing makes him one of the most read fantasy advice columnists on the web. He makes 15 start/sit recommendations a week, and of his 45 recs so far this season, 19 have been good. That’s 42.2%.
Dr. Juan, thefastertimes.com – He’s the only amateur on the list, a guy who doesn’t have access to the sports department at a major publishing enterprise. He doesn’t get inside info from GMs or coaches. He doesn’t even get inside info from people who get inside info. He reads things like everyone else, then makes up his mind, and in that regard he represents the common fan. He’s made 90 start/sit recomendations so far, with 51 having been good. That’s 56.7%
David Sabino, SI.com – Disqualified. Actually, disqualified isn’t the right word. He lost his weekly starting advice column last week, so maybe “fired” or “demoted” is more appropriate. I dunno. All I know is that he started the season doing a sit/start column at SI.com and now he doesn’t.
For more about this survey of mine, and why I picked these guys, check out the week 1 recap.
So how did they do this past week?
First, I like Bill Simmons. Read all his columns, listen to most of his podcasts, I definitely think he’s got a place in society, and I’m glad he exists. In theory, I even like his latest column on why he’s rooting for Michael Vick’s comeback. I agree that legitimate reasons do exist for why someone could root for Vick. The problem is… Bill’s reasons aren’t any of them.
Sorry for the lateness of this post, but well, a) I’ve been busy and b) no one actually reads this blog.
Anyways, something big actually happened last week. We lost a guru. David Sabino’s “sit ’em, start ’em” column at SI.com was no where to be found, and the only Sports Illustrated column bearing a “sit ’em, start ’em” format was written by a different writer, Eric Mack. I wish I could just have Mr. Mack replace Mr. Sabino, but I can’t. Because Mr. Mack’s column is completely pointless for fantasy purposes. He goes through every NFL game of the week and recommends several players from each team for fantasy purposes. I stopped counting at 50 players mentioned in his week 3 column, and I was only half-way through reading it. That’s just too many players. How are you going to choose between Players A, B, and C if all three players wind up being recommended in the same column? More info isn’t always helpful when it comes to fantasy sports.
What’s weird is that my biggest complaint about Sabino is that he recommended too few players. He only covered seven players each in weeks one and two. Fantasy advice is useless if no one on your roster (or no one you could pick up) is even mentioned, and the same is true for the opposite — if everyone on your roster is mentioned.
So SI.com is no longer being tracked.
Now on with the Week 3 analysis…
In his Love/Hate column last week, Matthew Berry had a message for people who look back on his recommendations to see how many he got right: “Screw you.”
He has a point.
Fantasy analysis is all about “fancy guessing.” There are going to be misses, and if you’re just going to harp on them, you’re just being an asshole. If that’s what I was doing, “screw me” indeed.
But I’m not. I’m looking at five different columnists and measuring them against each other. And my hope isn’t to just point out what they missed, it’s also to celebrate what they got right. As a Fantasy Football player, I know we tend to only remember the bad advice. So at the end of the season, I’m really hoping to see all these guys doing better than 50%, proving they all have value. My goal isn’t to point out who’s the worst — it’s merely to see who’s the best.
That said, all these guys are giving advice knowing full well most people pay to be in leagues. I don’t see anything wrong with injecting a little accountability into things.
Now on with the Week 2 grades…
Fantasy Football has become it’s own thriving industry with every major sports outlet now funding entire departments to feed America’s insatiable thirst for rampant speculation. So out of sheer curiosity I’ve decided to see just how good some of these professional fantasy experts really are. Each week, I’m going to grade fantasy experts on the quality of their advice. The idea is to see who’s making a real effort to give you good advice and who’s just blowing smoke up your tuchus.
The Rules: I’m only going to look at specific writers who do a weekly “start ’em, sit em” column (or something to that effect). Those are easy to keep track of, and much easier to assign a success value to than, say, a waiver-wire pick-up column. For each player they recommend either to sit or start, I’ll assign a number: 1 for a good recommendation (i.e. if you followed the advice, you won’t be pissed) or 0 for a bad recommendation (if you followed the advice, you’d be in tears on Sunday). Then, since every writer makes a different number of recommendations, I’ll generate a “Good Advice Percentage.” The analyst with the highest GAP wins the week.
Here are the writers I’ll be covering:
Matthew Berry, ESPN
John Halpin, FOX
Matt Pitzer, USA TODAY
David Sabino, Sports Illustrated
Dr. Jaun, The Faster Times (The who at the what? I’ll get to that…)
So let’s see how they did with their Week 1 fantasy advice…