Earlier today, Brandon Hopper published his weekly On The Contrary, in which he recommends non-elite pitchers who have the potential for tournament-winning Upside. In his piece, Brandon first encourages readers to pivot away from Chris Sale and toward Jon Gray. And then he encourages readers to stack the Astros against Sale, ending his piece with this final thought: “If you’re going be a contrarian, then actually be contrarian.” The rest of the piece is going to explore what it actually means to be contrarian.

This is the 52nd installment of The Labyrinthian, a series dedicated to exploring random fields of knowledge in order to give you unordinary theoretical, philosophical, strategic, and/or often rambling guidance on daily fantasy sports. Consult the introductory piece to the series for further explanation.

Some Aphorisms That Might Mean Nothing

Here are some ideas off the top of my head in no particular order:

  • You can’t do something stupid — something that has no logic to it — and then claim that you were just being contrarian. In actuality, you were just being a moron.
  • No man is an island — except a contrarian. And, even then, it depends on the tide.
  • When fighting, a contrarian doesn’t punch other men. He makes them punch themselves.
  • A contrarian knows that not all men are men.
  • In money-making ventures, the contrarian is wrong 90 percent of the time. He’s also wealthier than 99 percent of the population.
  • The contrarian is fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful and steals quotations from Warren Buffett when he has the chance.
  • The contrarian asks immensely uncomfortable questions, such as “Besides the possible negative genetic repercussions, why is everyone so down on incest?”
  • In a world of ice machines, the contrarian is an ice pick.
  • The contrarian eats White Swans, hunts Gray Swans, and tames Black Swans.
  • The domain between risk and uncertainty is the contrarian’s playground.
  • The contrarian doesn’t give a d*mn about who the most interesting man in the world is.
  • The contrarian bought stock in American Airlines in the second half of September, 2001.
  • Language is the contrarian’s lubricant.
  • The contrarian reads things that have nothing to do with anything.
  • Contrarianism isn’t a state of mind. It’s a state.
  • “Antidisestablishmentarianism” is not the longest word in the English language. It’s “antidisestablishment(contr)arianism.”

The contrarian knows when to move to the next section.

Contrarian Coherence

The reason I like Brandon’s admonition to stack the Astros against Sale is because it has what I am calling “contrarian coherence,” which is what I was trying to get at when I wrote about improbable probabilities several months ago right after I joined FantasyLabs.

Pivoting away from Sale and toward Gray is smart. For that strategy to work out, one doesn’t necessarily need for Sale to suck. All one needs is for Gray to be good and for Sale not to be utterly dominant. That general scenario could happen.

But if one is already pivoting away from Sale, why wouldn’t one pivot as far away from him as possible? Why wouldn’t one entertain the possibility that Sale actually could suck? Why wouldn’t one seek to leverage that possibility as much as possible? — especially when so many other people are expecting that potential outcome not to occur?

In MLB DFS, when you pivot away from the slate’s best pitcher, you’re renting the farm. But when you pivot away from him and then stack against him in the same lineup, you’ve bought the farm. That land is yours and yours alone.

Very few agriculturalists who rent land are rich. Trust me. I live in an area where basically the only rich people are farmers whose families have owned land here for centuries.

If you want to strike it rich in a big guaranteed prize pool, regardless of the particular DFS sport, you need to own your contrarianism. You need to construct your lineups with contrarian coherence.

More Miscellaneous Unstructured Thoughts

Too many people half-ass their attempts at contrarianism. That they’re even attempting to be contrarian in the first place highlights the extent to which they aren’t.

Contrarians don’t try to be contrarians. That would be like water trying to be water. Contrarians do what they do because they are who they are.

If you want to act contrarian, the last thing you should think about changing is the way you act. The first thing you should change is yourself.


In the 12th chapter of the Book of Judges in the Hebrew Bible, there’s a story about the Ephraimites and the Gileadites. The two tribes were at war.

If anyone ever wanted to cross the river Jordan and enter Gilead, he was stopped at the border and asked to say one word: “Shibboleth.”

If he could say the word, he was allowed to entered Gilead. If he couldn’t say it — if instead he said, “Sibboleth,” without the Sh phoneme — then he was known to be an Ephraimite because of his pronunciation, and he was killed.

Contrarians have a shibboleth: They don’t obsess about whether they’re being contrarian. They just do what they think needs to be done and trust that over a sufficient sample the benefits of contrarianism will manifest themselves.

You Should Expect Us to Be Incorrect A Lot

It wouldn’t be a Labyrinthian if I didn’t quote myself:

In money-making ventures, the contrarian is wrong 90 percent of the time. He’s also wealthier than 99 percent of the population.

Look familiar? You read it about 700 words ago.

We’re contrarians, and when we make contrarian recommendations we’re going to be wrong a lot. That’s normal. When we’re advocating high-volatility, low-probability ideas, you should expect most of the ideas, in retrospect, to look like sh*t. Wonderfully enough, that would be a sign that we were doing something right.

The contrarian knows that failure is just the front door to the mansion of success.

What makes our contrarian guidance valuable isn’t that it’s always right. (If it were always right, then it wouldn’t be contrarian.) What makes our contrarianism valuable is that, taken as a whole, it’s profitable. FL Cofounder Jonathan Bales agrees with me.

Contrarianism Isn’t The Prize

Any given contrarian act is highly likely to have negative consequences.

The contrarian is less focused on the outcome of one act and more focused on the positive results that a thorough and consistent program of contrarianism eventually yields.

We’re not contrarian for the mere sake of being contrarian. That would be stupid.

A contrarian knows that contrarianism isn’t its own prize.

Contrarianism is the means, not the end.


The Labyrinthian: 2016, 52

Previous installments of The Labyrinthian can be accessed via my author page. If you have suggestions on material I should know about or even write about in a future Labyrinthian, please contact me via email, [email protected], or Twitter @MattFtheOracle.