Fantasy Football

Fantasy football is an $8 billion a year industry played by all types of fans.

Back in August, my 11-year-old son was asked to join a fantasy football league and he said he needed my help.

It was the first time he'd be venturing into this $8 billion a year industry, so I agreed to be his consultant. I'd help him draft his squad and manage it during the season.

No problem. I used to play in multiple fantasy leagues for 20-some years before I realized I didn't need to root for certain players on Sunday to enjoy football. I've been out of the fantasy game since about 2010 and I haven't missed it at all. 

Times have changed in the fantasy football world. There are so many so-called fantasy experts now. I remember when Paul Charchian was considered the guru of fantasy sports. The former Eden Prairie High School graduate was the local expert.

I never liked Charchian, but over the years I realized that I was just jealous of the fantasy sports empire he created. I remember thinking, "I know just as much about fantasy football as this guy." I still feel that way.

But Charchian has made a living a doing it. Not many people can say that. He started with a small publication, created multiple websites for player information and to run leagues, had a radio show on KFAN and a television show, and now is the president of Fantasy Sports & Gaming Association.

You have to give him his props.

Now as I've helped my kid navigate through his first fantasy football season, I've come to realize the word "fantasy expert" is being thrown out a little too loosely, if there is such a thing.

Nobody is really an expert. These so-called experts are just guessing like the average fantasy football enthusiast. The only difference is somehow, someway, they have found a platform to do it on, whether that's television, on a national website or by creating a low-budget operation via social media.

When I played fantasy football, you actually had to dig for information. You had to do your homework. Back in the 1990s, I worked for a daily newspaper up on the Iron Range and I had access to the Associated Press' wire services.

That gave me an advantage in fantasy football. I could read stories about teams and players and get inside information. And then the internet arrived and that information was available to everyone.

Finding hidden gems ("sleepers," in fantasy football terms) has changed. Everyone knows the sleepers now. All the information is available all over the web.

So as I've helped my kid manage his team, I've learned that fantasy football has turned into a statistic-driven industry. You no longer rely on your gut. You don't need to use your instincts to decide what players to start and which ones to bench.

You go online or turn on the NFL Network or ESPN and have so-called experts tell you what to do. They just throw out meaningless stats. There's no creativity, no real thought process. No gut feelings. Just stats.

And these people get paid. How?

Here's an example. Let's just say you are deciding on what receiver to start. You need to pick two of three to put in your lineup.

The so-called experts say stuff like, "I like this receiver because he's going against a defense that's given up the sixth-most fantasy points to receivers this season. This receiver is going against a defense that's allowed the second fewest."

That's 90% of what all these mediums give you. My son had me watch one of these shows and I couldn't believe how repetitive their information was. It's all mindless numbers, probably because you have to fill a 30-minute show and the so-called experts have to sound like they know what they are talking about.

It reminded me of when baseball lost its mind and created all these new statistic categories like WAR (wins above replacement). Please, just give me the player's batting average, RBIs and how many homers he's hit. I don't need a stat that sounds military-like.

That's fantasy football now. I hadn't paid attention for 10 years and when I get back in — as a consultant — everything changed and not for the better.

My advice to my kid is not to listen to these so-called experts. Don't seek advice. Make your own decisions, so you can pat your back when you do well and blame yourself when you don't.

The so-called experts are guessing just like we all did back in the day before the internet, and they guess with stupid stats.

Anyone who watches football on Sunday could do their jobs, so be your own expert.

Tom Schardin covers sports for Savage and Prior Lake. He is dependable, sarcastic and always joking around. Tom enjoys running and swimming and is often busy coaching his two kids' sports teams.