Somewhere Tony Bennett is rolling his eyes.
Here’s the deal. Last week I attended the Fantasy Sports Trade Association (FSTA) conference in San Francisco. While the talks and presentations are always top-notch, it’s more of a social event for me. I don’t get out much so these trips are as much pleasure as they are business.
However, I did have some business-related agenda and that was to assuage some fears I have about the booming daily arena. Of course I have been playing and writing about DFS for a couple of years but I still consider myself on the upward slope of the learning curve as well as being on the fringe with respect to knowing some of the intricacies of the actual business side of the daily industry.
I may as well be candid. My concerns were not only business but personal as well. But as can be inferred from the corny title of his column, as I was flying home, pontificating about the daily space and my place in it, I was feeling better about things than when I left.
LEGALITY OF DFS
When I decided to transition my hobby into my vocation and become a full-time fantasy writer/analyst/editor, I decided that any revenue derived from writing about daily would be a bonus. That is, if I woke up to discover DFS has been outlawed, I wouldn’t have to go crawling back to my sister and brother-in-laws place and beg to move back into their basement. I mean, I miss Skippy, my doggie-in-law and since I left they have him trying on baby’s bonnets. I miss the convenience of having a laundry room twenty feet from my bed but I also really like being able to use the bathroom facility whenever I want especially since an editing gig keeps me up well past 2 AM (sorry, no picture for this).
While I don’t feel daily fantasy is completely out of the woods, after talking to some people I'm confident those involved are on top of the situation and are doing everything they can to keep DFS on the skill side of the thin line that allows the game to be played legally – at least in most of the 50 States. The sites themselves are cognizant of the types of games allowed and the needs for rules to be crystal clear and conform to all regulations and laws.
The most heartening news is the FSTA is going to play a major role in the internal monitoring of DFS. It’s obvious the FSTA recognizes the importance of daily fantasy and is intent on perpetuating its success. This doesn’t mean I go to sleep knowing DFS will be around when I awake, but every day it’s still here we’re one day closer to that reality.
BALANCE BETWEEN CASUAL PLAYER AND GRINDER
I know I’m not the only person with Fantasy Alarm harboring this concern. I won’t mention any names but it sounds sort of like Meff Jans and he has ranted about this on more than one occasion on his SiriusXM radio show.
I’m not naive. I know the game operators need the volume players to survive. Well, that is if they continue to press the envelope and play “can you top this” with prize money.
On the other hand, I’m pretty practical and have the foresight to realize if the casual player is discouraged, the churn rate may eventually dry up the casual entries necessary for survival.
It’s a slippery slope for the game operators as they are both friend and foe. Obviously, they are competitors and want to maximize their place in the market but they also realize they need to work together to make sure the daily space subsists. I was heartened to learn the major sites are indeed aware of this need and are addressing it. Furthermore, I was extremely encouraged to hear the FSTA will be again taking an active role in this endeavor, working with the game operators to creatively regulate volume game participation. The icing on the cake was if the sites fail to conform to FSTA policy, their good standing within the FSTA would be in serious jeopardy. This may not seem like a big deal, but when you consider all that is necessary in terms of support to run a daily site as well as platforms to advertise, if FSTA business in good standings are discouraged from doing business with those in poor standing, their ability to conduct business will be seriously hindered. Not to mention, it would certainly help to be in good stead with the FSTA if the aforementioned legal issues ever came to fruition.
MONEY CHANGES EVERYTHING
Now we’re getting into some of my personal concerns as there is a major difference between DFS and all other facets of fantasy, including high stakes contests. If success and perhaps credibility are measured by money, it’s so much easier to keep score in DFS. In addition, DFS, at least currently, caters to a much younger demographic. And metaphorically, as the saying goes, I remember my first beer.
I have some feelings on the whole definition of an expert discussion and maybe one day I’ll pontificate on that but that’s only part of my concern. Prior to traveling to San Francisco, I heard mumblings that some of the more successful DFS players were a bit disrespectful to the old guard. Then at the conference, I was told a couple more stories that corroborated that notion.
So I put my fedora on and channeled my best Dick Tracy.
I’m thrilled to report the extent of any disrespect was greatly exaggerated. This doesn’t mean there isn’t something there, but big-picture wise, the future of fantasy is in fine hands. I see the same camaraderie among those both running and playing games that has perpetuated throughout the industry since I first got involved over seventeen years ago. It’s this special bond among colleagues that eased my decision to do this for a living. The symbiotic synergy is indescribable. I haven’t seen anything like it anywhere.
The stories of brashness were nothing different than I witnessed (and admittedly displayed) when I was younger. Just like we all (well, most of us) matured back then, so will the current younger crowd. Just like we had when the industry as a whole was still in the fledgling stage, there’s a solid contingent that will lead by example and keep everyone in line.
THE FUTURE OF FANTASY
I’ve been asked if I’m concerned DFS will take over the landscape, pushing traditional fantasy over the cliff. Part of my answer is rather morbid – if and when it happens I won’t be around to care. Trust me, those currently playing traditional fantasy will be able to continue for as long as they want. Heck, people still listen to music on vinyl and 8-track tapes. There will always be a means. And if as time progresses, daily indeed takes over – so what? If it does, it’s because those playing derive more enjoyment from it and that’s what’s most important.
In closing, I apologize for being lax on the writing front for a week. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been busy working behind the scene. A few weeks back I presented some studies using the daily projection engine that has since been tweaked. Before I present the new and improved results, I wanted to make absolutely certain it was optimal. I’m now satisfied and will re-embark on the DFS Strategy features, as well as Category Impact this weekend.
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Affectionately known as Lord Zola, Todd was the 2013 Fantasy Sports Writers Association recipient of the Fantasy Baseball Article of the Year, Web. He's been with Mastersball since its inception in 1997 and presently Todd writes for the ESPN Insider and Baseball HQ. Todd is a frequent guest on SiriusXM and is a regular on HQ Radio. He's a veteran of Tout Wars and LABR as well as a multi-time NFBC champion. Follow Todd on Twitter @ToddZola
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@SirNope working on that now. Could be meeting a local friend or could be hanging with the group -- I'll let you know.