“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.”
— Matthew Freedman, “A Word (or 1,140 Words) on Contrarianism”
In case you forgot, I sometimes quote myself. Anyway, the keystone quotation comes from an article I wrote last year. As its title suggests, it’s about contrarianism. Also, if you don’t know the difference between its and it’s, consult my previous sentence.
Here’s another 1,140 words or so on contrarianism and daily fantasy sports.
An Article-Length Interlude
As is my wont, I’m not going to talk about DFS right away. Side note: I don’t know what a “wont” is, but I’m convinced I have one, and right now it’s telling me to talk about some non-DFS stuff.
Actually, what I’m about to say has to do with DFS, so ignore that last paragraph.
In DFS, “contrarianism” has become something of a catch-all catchphrase associated with anything that deviates from the expected chalk and/or reality. I’m writing this sentence on the evening of March 16, 2017, with a pre-Saint Patrick’s Day pint on my desk — only amateurs start celebrating 3/17 on 3/17 — and NBA lineups for the main slate have just locked. If I go to our DFS Ownership Dashboard, I can look at the ownership percentages for players across various guaranteed prize pools, compare those percentages to my overall exposure, and thereby see the extent to which I’m leveraged.
Now, if I want to think of myself as a contrarian — and why wouldn’t I want to do that? — it will be easy for me to do so on the basis of my exposure:
- Did I have more exposure than the field? I was overleveraged in order to be contrarian!
- Did I have less exposure than the field? I was underleveraged in order to be contrarian!
What I’ve just said is evidently ridiculous, but lots of DFS players delude themselves in this manner every slate. They excuse their poor choices — perhaps among history’s worst decisions — by hiding behind the shield of contrarianism, totally ignoring that they’re stabbing themselves with the sword of bullsh*t. They half-mindedly believe themselves to be iconoclasts not because they have shattered the idols of constricted thought but because they worship a pagan deity who happens not to be the sun god.
In a world of randomness, sometimes the most contrarian course of action is to ignore others by simply being oneself.
The Interlude Prolonged
One of my New Year’s resolutions was to read more, and — true to form — so far I’ve read a lot of useless information. Ever heard of JonathanBales.com? I’ve read everything on that site like three times.
Over the last couple of weeks I’ve come across some intriguing instances of real-life contrarianism during my casual studies. I’m going to share those with you now because . . .
- It’s a Friday.
- These exemplars of contrarianism are mildly inspiring.
- Lists normally look better when they have three items instead of two.
“Le Pétomane” — which literally means “fartomaniac” in French — was the stage name of Joseph Pujol, a professional farter. On the one hand, it’s random that anyone should actually be a professional farter. On the other hand, it’s cosmically appropriate that the most famous farter of all time should be a guy whose last name is pronounced “Poo Hole.” The gods are cruel, but they are also poetic.
I first learned about Pujol in a book called The History of Farting. I swear to the sun god that it’s a real book. I mean, it’s not a ‘real book’ because it’s literally about the history of farting — my wife bought it for me because “I still don’t understand what you do for your job, but I know that you write about a lot of random stuff: Maybe you can use this?” — but, still, it’s a real book because it technically exists.
In all fairness, to call Pujol a mere farter is to undermine his sphinctorial genius. He was known in his day as a remarkable flatulist — a true farteur: A fartiste.
Born in 1857, Pujol as a young man learned that he could suck water into his anus and then pour it out. We can’t all choose the gifts we have. Years later he disclosed this secret to his fellow brothers in arms while serving in the army, and they immediately wanted to see his rectal talent — which he exhibited for them by spraying water several yards from his anus as if he were a human water hose.
Eventually he learned to suck air instead of water into his body — and then he learned how to control the release of that air with his abdominal and sphincter muscles — and then he started entertaining people with the sound effects of his hilariously musical orifice — and then at the age of 30 he started ‘performing’ professionally on the stage in Mareilles — and then at the age of 35 he moved to Paris and performed at Moulin f*cking Rouge — and I can’t believe what I just typed or that I’m still typing this sentence.
Seriously, rulers of nations and monied women in ballgowns — and even Sigmund Freud! — saw this guy perform. Really, he did so much more than fart. For instance, he would play an ocarina . . . with his anus . . . through a rubber hose. He could literally blow out a candle with his butthole from a distance of several yards: His rectal blast was that potent and precise.
Why am I telling you this?
- How could I not share this?
- Pujol was a brilliant contrarian.
- His contrarianism was rooted in an unapologetic willingness to be himself.
What would’ve been ignominious for anyone else was Le Pétomane’s means to eternal glory. This guy was lit . . .
. . . literally. Well, figuratively.
anals annals of contrarianism, few people compare to Le Pétomane, so we’ll cover these next examples quickly.
Alexander the Great
In The Little Book of Answers (mentioned in my piece on the gambler’s fallacy), I came across this tidbit on Alexander the Great:
When did men start shaving every morning?
In many cultures shaving is forbidden. The reason we in the West lather up every morning can be traced directly back to Alexander the Great. Before he seized power, all European men grew beards. But because young Alexander wasn’t able to muster much facial hair, he scraped off his peach fuzz every day with a dagger. Not wanting to offend the great warrior, those close to him did likewise, and soon shaving became the custom.
Instead of shaving, Alexander could’ve dyed his meager facial hair in order to make it appear more substantial. He could’ve consumed various herbs or eaten assorted meats or done any number of ridiculous acts in an attempt to make his facial hair grow thicker. But he didn’t. Rather, he basically said, “F*ck the beards of men,” and then embraced what many would’ve considered to be a masculine weakness.
Samuel A. Maverick
Here’s another example of contrarianism from The Little Book of Answers:
Why do we call someone who does things differently a “Maverick”?
In the nineteenth century, Samuel A. Maverick was a stubborn Texas rancher who, because he said it was cruel, refused to brand his cattle even though it was the only way to identify who owned free-range livestock. Instead, he would round up all the unbranded cattle he could find, even those not from his own herd. At first any stray unbranded cow was called a “maverick,” but the word has grown to mean anyone who doesn’t play by the rules.
A ‘natural’ contrarian, Maverick’s unconventionality manifested itself through simplicity. He was like the non-loser-y George Costanza of his day: “Everybody’s doing something. We’ll do nothing.” By doing literally nothing with his cattle, he was able to make the claim that any unbranded cow in the universe belonged to him.
A couple of years ago I was browsing through Half Price Books and found a collection entitled The Essays of Warren Buffett: Lessons for Corporate America. It was assembled in the 1990s, so it might be horribly outdated — I don’t know; I haven’t actually read it yet — but I’ve recently leafed through it, and it never hurts to remind ourselves that Buffett is the contrarian’s contrarian.
Although Buffett is conventional in that he writes covered calls and is a value investor, he’s arguably contrarian with his 5/25 rule and five fundamentals of investing. Ultimately, what makes Buffett a contrarian is that he’s unconcerned with whether he’s contrarian. Sometimes he’s with the market. Sometimes he’s not. Always he’s focused on finding the next investment with a positive expected value. That’s it. He doesn’t focus on anything else.
Buffett is a reminder that people can be contrarian simply by being disciplined versions of themselves.
Being Your DFS Self
It’s not complicated to be your DFS self, but it’s also not easy. A lot of DFS players suffer from an anxiety of influence. They lose the signal of themselves among the noise of all the touty articles, videos, and podcasts they consume each day.
Here’s a three-step process to ensure that you give yourself a chance to be contrarian by being yourself:
- Customize our Player Models to suit your style of play.
- Do your own research with our Trends tool.
- Use your specialized model and individual research to inform the criteria and metrics you value when making rosters via our Lineup Builder.
This process won’t guarantee that you will be contrarian in every slate, but . . .
- It will give you a strong chance to have lineups that are uniquely yours.
- Only losers worry about whether they are contrarian all the time.
What does it mean to be a DFS contrarian? Sometimes it means that you distinguish yourself from the herd by ignoring it altogether.
The Labyrinthian: 2017.26, 121
This is the 121st 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.