After 31 installments of this series, you probably realize that I am not normal. For instance, when my wife goes out of town, as she did (again) yesterday, I behave like the weird person that I am. I become something of an über-adult, dramatically increasing my productivity in part because the person with whom I have 97 percent of my conversations is out of my immediate vicinity. At the same time, when she’s gone I devolve into the little child that I am inside, almost always watching more television than I should and actively deciding to fall asleep each night with a movie playing in the background. Usually it’s Annie Hall. Sometimes it’s one of the Lord of the Rings movies. And occasionally it’s a film from The Godfather trilogy. I told you that I’m not a normal person.

This is the 32nd 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.

Personalization: The Process of Finding out Who You Are

The word “personalization” has a few meanings or senses:

  • “Customization”: This is how most people think of the word. In this sense, personalization is what happens you get your initials put on towels, stationary, etc. It’s what we offer through our Trends and Models tools — the ability to take our database and put your own stamp on our numbers and make them yours.
  • “Creation”: This one is really for the nerds out there. In the same way that “demonizing” is the “making” of someone into a demon, “personalizing” could be thought of as the making of someone into a person. Instead of humans personalizing objects, they would be the grammatical and logical objects of the personalization. In this sense, personalization would be the transformation of humans into people with personalities, quirks, etc.
  • “Self-Realization”: We’re going deep here. Combining the previous senses, personalization could also be the process through which someone essentially realizes oneself, both becoming a fuller version of oneself and also learning who or what that self is. In this sense, the person is both subject and object: The one who acts and upon whom actions occur.

If you didn’t fall asleep reading that, congratulations. Here’s the point: Life is a process of personalization. At times we mark the things around us, making them ours. At other times, we are marked by others, becoming different people through those experiences. And then other times, we are the agents of self-change, thereby gaining a greater awareness of who we are.

The key to life (I believe) is owning that last sense of personalization. If we never reach the point of actively shaping and understanding ourselves, our chances of living full lives are diminished.

For many people, the self-realized stage of personalization truly begins in college. For me, it started the first time I saw Annie Hall.

Annie Hall

The summer after my freshman year of college, I took an intro to film theory course so that I could knock out my fine arts requirement. Basically, I chose that course because I thought that it would be relatively easy and still afford me lots of free time to spend with my girlfriend. (I was right.) In that five-week course, I watched a lot of movies. They were instructive, and since that class I’ve never been able to watch a film without thinking about the director’s decisions, the camera’s angles, the actors’ interpretations, and all the other things that ruin movies. Those films were really important for my development — but the only one of them that I can truly remember is Annie Hall.

That movie made an immediate impression. It personalized me. It helped me realize some truths about myself. And, ultimately, it helped me become the self I was already in the process of becoming.

Although it ends like a sad romantic drama — Allen’s film is highly indebted to the classic CasablancaAnnie Hall is very much a romantic comedy. Even though Alvy Singer (Woody Allen) and Annie Hall (Diane Keaton) are not together at the end of the movie, the film itself is still happy, not only during the movie but also in its conclusion. To 19-year-old Freedman, what that movie showed was that a relationship’s conclusion wasn’t something to be feared. An ended relationship doesn’t need to be a wasted relationship. That fact was especially brought home when I learned that Allen and Keaton made that movie, after they had broken up.

The Importance of Being OK with Goodbyes

Annie Hall showed me the beauty of being able to say goodbye and the importance of being OK with doing so.

I loved that movie so much that I decided to watch it with my girlfriend. I genuinely thought that she might like it. I’m pretty sure that she didn’t. She pretended to like it — and it was really cool of an 18-year-old girl to make that good-faith gesture when her boyfriend asked/forced her to watch a movie from the 1970s about people who end their relationship — but the movie simply didn’t resonate with her the way that it did with me.

That’s when I knew that she probably wasn’t the one. And that’s also when I realized that whoever would eventually be the one would probably be someone who could be OK with our relationship ending if that ever happened — as weird as that sounds. Like me, she would have to be someone who could see the upside of saying goodbye if we ever chose to break up.

Annie Hall begins with the protagonist telling two jokes, the second of which he says is the key joke of his adult life in terms of his romantic relationships. Originally coming from Sigmund Freud’s Wit and Its Relation to the Unconscious, this joke was made famous by Groucho Marx and goes something like this: “I would never want to belong to any club that would have someone like me for a member.” The logic of that joke changed my life.

Basically, Annie Hall made me realize that I would never want to date (or marry) anyone who couldn’t gracefully handle a breakup. That might sound weird, but that’s what the movie showed me about myself.

And who is the type of person who might be able to handle a breakup well? Maybe the type of person who likes Annie Hall. At least that’s the conclusion I reached when I was in college.

Seriously, around the age of 19, I started using Annie Hall as a screen for potential girlfriends. I personalized myself in that way. I quickly learned that most girls in college in the early 2000s hadn’t even heard of or seen the movie and most of those who had seen it absolutely hated it — a fact that actually made me think that using the movie as a screen was a worthwhile idea — but if I ever learned that a girl liked Annie Hall, she immediately became really intriguing to me.

I fully admit that this is not normal. But we’ve already established that I’m not normal.

Triangulation (Revisited): The Lord of the Rings and The Godfather

About a month ago I wrote about DFS triangulation and the benefits of taking shots at a target from three different positions.

By the time I graduated college, my experiences with more girlfriends had encouraged me to make two additional entries to the “Future Wife of Freedman” filmic screen: The Lord of the Rings and The Godfather. Maybe I picked these two cinematic masterpieces because they collectively highlight important components of my personality: I am a nerd who is fiercely loyal.

I don’t know. Maybe I wanted to date someone who liked The Lord of the Rings because I wanted to be with someone who was cool with the idea of a hot guy with a beard shirking some of his big responsibilities for a large portion of his life so that he could live on the fringe of society and shower maybe once a week. And maybe I wanted to date someone who liked The Godfather because I wanted to be with someone who knew that she shouldn’t ask me about my business. (I’m joking. I think.) Again, I don’t know.

Anyway, I entered graduate school at Boston College with the triangulation of these three movies.

My first day on campus I met my wife. We had the same on-campus job as writing tutors for students taking an intro to world music class. We shared an office. I can still remember the high degree to which those papers sucked. One of my wife’s students actually cited “Mr. Wikipedia” in her paper. Truly, she wrote “Mr. Wikipedia” in her footnotes. At least she took the effort to cite her source.

Within a couple of weeks I knew that there was something special about my officemate. One day we were talking and I casually steered the conversation toward movies. I asked her what her favorite movie was. She said Annie Hall.

No girl had ever told me before that her favorite was Annie Hall.

I just stared at her. I don’t know for how long I stared. But I stared. She started to get nervous. She thought that perhaps she had made some sort of faux pas in saying that a comedy was her favorite movie. We were, after all, supposed to be serious, pretentious grad students in literature.

And so she said, “Well, I don’t know. Maybe The Lord of the Rings or The Godfather.”

If I had been a ring-carrying Andy Bernard, I would’ve gotten down on one knee and proposed right then. I spent literally the rest of the semester trying to get that woman to go out with me.

Discovering the DFS Things That You Care About

Researching and playing DFS is pretty similar to dating people and figuring out what you might want out of an ideal life partner. For one, they both take a lot of time if you want to do them well. Also, for each person the things you value and seek in people in whom you want to make an investment will differ. That’s why you need to put in the work. If you aren’t devoting at least a couple of hours each month in our Trends tool, you’re not putting into your DFS relationship what you should be putting in, and you’re highly unlikely ever to discover the DFS things that you actually care about.

FantasyLabs Co-Founder Jonathan Bales was recently on the FL Podcast with Bryan Mears. On the show, while talking about our 2016 MLB product, Bales listed the statistics that matter for MLB DFS. For hitters, Bales specifically mentions that he values the Vegas lines, ISO and wOBA, our new Advanced Data, and weather. He knows to prioritize these factors because he has spent hours looking at trends, identifying those that score well in the Plus/Minus metric, grinding out a lot of DFS contests, analyzing those contests after they’re over, and finally deciding what the DFS factors are that he values. He has gone through all three processes of personalization and fashioned himself into a DFS savant.

If you want to become the outlier — someone who knows what is important and focuses intently on identifying players who match those personalized criteria of importance — then you absolutely must put in the time. If you aren’t treating DFS like a relationship that will help you learn about yourself and what you care about in other people (in this case, professional athletes), then you probably aren’t getting out of DFS (or your FL subscription) all that you could be getting.

When You Find the One, You Commit

When you find the DFS factors that work for you and you’ve created a strategy that leverages those factors, you need to commit to that strategy. I was committed to finding someone I liked, who in turn liked Annie Hall, The Lord of the Rings, and The Godfather. It took a while, but the payoff has been huge. When you find a DFS strategy that you simply know to be one that resonates with what you value, that strategy is the one.

In DFS, it’s very easy to get tilted and discouraged when you focus on the short term. That is especially true for a sport like MLB, since 80 to 89 percent of your lineups consist of players whose potential is linked to an event that happens far less than even 50 percent of the time. Under circumstances like that, one can easily lose perspective. The key is to keep the faith. Trust your previous experiences and your research. Trust the conclusions to which your experiences and research have led you.

I’m not saying that you need to commit yourself to one DFS strategy for the rest of your life. As I’ve already indicated, you should never want to date a strategy with which you would be afraid to break up. But if you’re going to be a functional, “self-personalized” human — and I think that it’s hard to be a good DFS player if you aren’t — then eventually you will need to have the strength to commit to a reasonable, well-informed, and customized strategy and to stick to it when you are in a losing streak and people are telling you that you are crazy for valuing the things that you value.

Staying true to your educated convictions and following a methodical plan will allow you not only to ride out a losing streak and benefit over the long term. It will also enable you quite naturally to be contrarian and to position yourself to benefit from a Black Swan. Finally, being true to yourself is its own virtue.

Be the King of Gondor that you were born to be. Find and commit to your DFS Arwen.

By the way, last night it was Godfather: Part III. I was in a weird mood.

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The Labyrinthian: 2016, 32

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.