“Quotation, n: The act of repeating erroneously the words of another.”
— Ambrose Bierce,
I don’t know why I feel the need to start every Labyrinthian with a quotation, but I do. Some day, and that day may never come, I’ll write a piece that doesn’t use a keystone quotation — but it is not this day: This day, we write.
Yeah, I just ripped off The Godfather and The Lord of the Rings movies in one sentence.
In this piece, I want to build on an article I recently published at RotoViz on the best (non-DFS) seasonal format of all time. Specifically, I want to explore the concept of seasonal leagues in daily fantasy sports.
Head-to-Head Best Ball
I’m like a lot of people who play DFS: I got my fantasy start years ago in a regular seasonal league with some friends. (They’re imaginary friends, but that’s not really relevant.) I still have fondness for that format. By the way, that original league still exists. (I always win.)
I think that the non-DFS seasonal leagues of the future will combine the typical head-to-head (H2H) format we all know and the best ball (BB) format that appeals to degenerates who don’t want in-season management for hundreds of teams.
The old-school H2H format is great, as it’s adversarial and allows for rivalries to form. (The same dynamic exists in cash games.) And the BB format is also nice, especially since it often is accompanied by all-field play, which heavily rewards skill. (In some ways, BB leagues resemble guaranteed prize pools.) Merging these two formats into one seasonal league type seems like a no-brainer.
That’s basically what I said in my RotoViz article (with more details), and some people responded on Twitter and via email with ideas and stories of other league formats. (Thanks to everyone who contacted me.) Some of these formats were grounded in DFS, and they inspired me to think about the relatively new ‘leagues’ available on DraftKings and FanDuel.
The Lack of DFS Seasonal Leagues
No matter how good I am at football, I will never cover Julio Jones man on man in an NFL game. Regardless of the hours I practice shooting free throws, I will never shoot a jump shot from the top of the key over LeBron James in an NBA contest. Despite the fact that I used to live near a golf course, I will never not suck enough at putting to beat Jordan Spieth in a two-man PGA tournament playoff.
And even though I have a driver’s license, I will never pass Dale Earnhardt, Jr., on the final lap to win the checkered flag at Daytona 500.
But in DFS if I want to play in cash games or GPPs with some of the best players in the industry, I absolutely can. The accessibility to the superstars of this sport is almost unparalleled.
At the same time, part of what has historically made fantasy sports fun is the ability to play in leagues with friends each week. With apologies to DK and FD, they’re yet to bring the enjoyment of seasonal leagues to DFS.
Shortly before the NFL season, DK and FD debuted a league feature that enables users to play in contests with their friends.
On the one hand, this feature is a step in the right direction. Recently the FantasyLabs crew went on a company trip, as you might be aware . . .
— Jonathan Bales (@BalesFootball) February 19, 2017
. . . and we definitely enjoyed some PGA action in the Labs league while in Orlando. (Jumping in the pool fully clothed was the
punishment prize for a bottom-five finish.) Insofar as the league feature easily enables people to create contests with their friends, it has helped make DFS more of a social experience.
On the other hand, these ‘leagues’ aren’t actual leagues. Rather, they’re private lobbies through which users can participate in a smorgasbord of non-connected games with people invited into the lobby. That’s league-like — but that’s not a league. Just because a bunch of people are all playing on the same private golf course at the same time doesn’t mean that they’re all competing against each other in a tournament, know what I’m sayin’?
Just because DK and FD have enabled users to play against their friends more easily doesn’t mean that the platforms now host actual leagues. They don’t — but they should.
The Future of DFS Seasonal Leagues
Right now, if 12 friends wanted to play against each other in a H2H DFS league that had both a regular season and a playoff tournament, that would require a sh*tload of organization and effort on the part of the league. It might be worth it. Many people who contacted me after the RV piece said that they absolutely love their H2H DFS leagues even with the accompanying logistical headaches.
But fantasy sports should be about having fun — not about overcoming barriers to have fun.
To appeal to seasonal or casual fantasy players yet to plunge into the DFS waters, DK and FD should create honest-to-goodness basic eight- to 14-person H2H seasonal leagues for people who want to play fantasy sports with their friends and also want to play DFS without being eaten by sharks.
This league format would appeal to so many people, even those who already play a ton of DFS. It would combine everything that’s good about seasonal leagues — the continuity and familiarity — with everything that’s good about DFS: The roster flexibility and salaries.
DFS seasonal leagues would combine the fun of old-school fantasy sports with the skill of the new wave games.
H2H & GPP-esque Leagues
For the people who wanted a more advanced format, they could create leagues with H2H and all-field GPP-esque contests running concurrently. Playoff seeding and eligibility could be determined by total monies won during the season. Such a format would enable players to employ (or at least entertain) a multitude of exciting and viable strategies — all while still getting the satisfaction of destroying their closest friends and family members — because that’s what really matters in life: Domination of loved ones.
For the people absolutely obsessed with sports, some leagues could have a multi-sport format, with contests running throughout the year for NFL, NBA, PGA, MLB, NASCAR, and even MMA and eSports. Imagine how much fun a league like that would be . . .
. . . especially if it culminated with a multi-slate GPP-esque playoff contest offering a massive prize that had been accumulated over the course of the year.
Various ‘seats’ to this season-ending tournament could be won throughout the year by winning various slates, contests, etc.
The possibilities are almost endless.
This — the ability to create unique leagues — is the future of DFS.
Some More Words — This Time of Nihilism
DFS is popular now — but it really isn’t. It belongs to degenerates, sort of like Nirvana did in 1990. You know why Nirvana got big in 1991? Because they left Sub Pop, signed with a major label, and hooked up with a mixer who repackaged their sound so it could appeal to the masses.
Despite the fact that DK and FD have spent an ungodly amount of money on advertising to date and are backed by some major investors, DFS is not yet in the mainstream because it’s not packaged in a way that appeals to the people who listen to traditional hard rock — and I mean that metaphorically although it might also be true literally.
DK and FD haven’t made it easy for people to play DFS with their friends in the manner to which they’re already accustomed. Once DFS platforms offer seasonal leagues, the industry will explode with volume, and it’s very possible that traditional leagues will seem antiquated — just as the TD-only fantasy football leagues of the ’80s and ’90s do now.
Of course, it’s possible that DFS platforms will never offer seasonal leagues, in which case . . . you probably don’t need me to finish that sentence.
The Future of FantasyLabs
When/if DFS seasonal leagues are offered, I’m going to be excited personally — and also professionally.
Imagine a world in which you could use our Tools to dominate your seasonal leagues. Labs Co-founder Jonathan Bales recently introduced our newest tool: The DFS Ownership Dashboard. Imagine being able to use a tool like that to analyze the ownership of players across various contests in your DFS leagues.
I’m definitely not saying that we have plans to adjust the DFS Ownership Dashboard in any way — but I’m saying that as existing DFS leagues become more personalized and customizable it’s possible that Labs will too, since our subscribers can already personalize their Player Models and customize the Trends tool in an almost limitless fashion. We’re a site that’s basically built on the concepts of personalization and customization.
In other words, how soon is now?
And, yes, I just plagiarized The Smiths — but I didn’t want to end a piece by saying something stupid like “the future is here.”
The Labyrinthian: 2017.16, 111
This is the 111th 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. Previous installments of The Labyrinthian can be accessed via my author page.