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Something I Learned
Five weeks ago, I made some disastrous last-minute lineup choices that might have cost my high-stakes Primetime team a chance to contend. I say *might have* because while the team has picked it up of late, it might still have fallen short even had I not tinkered like an absolute imbecile with no respect for my past self that made the initial decisions. (H/T to commenter Sean for reminding me of that framing.)
So it might turn out to be an expensive lesson to *re*-learn, but I believe the value of the lesson has already exceeded its cost. Ever since that debacle, I’ve consulted no one about my lineup decisions. Not FantasyMidwits, Erickson’s Value Meter, not a podcast, Twitter or anyone else. I’ve made the call myself, and when I’m not sure, I actually bother to do my own further research.
That might not sound especially radical, but I realized something else: when making a tough decision, it’s just as wrong to do it on the basis of a metric or a fact as it is someone’s opinion. The problem wasn’t that I was consulting *other people* to tiebreak my tough calls, it was that I was using *anything* other than my own judgment to make the decison for me. That is a radical position, and one I’ve only come to embrace fully this last month.
Let’s say I’m torn between two quarterbacks for this week. I can look up the ranking of the defense each is facing, but if I hang my hat on that stat, I’ve blown it. Why? Because the decision is a difficult one, and I need to make it according to the totality of my knowledge and experience which is considerable. If I sell that short based on one defense being 10th in fantasy points allowed to QBs and another 22nd, I’m doing the same thing as making it because FantasyMidwits has one guy ranked eighth and the other guy 13th. I’m outsourcing my judgment to feel better about it rather than trusting myself to make the best decision I can.
But wait, if I’m not basing my judgment on facts, then what am I basing it on? For example, if in the course of my research, I discovered one of the QBs lost his leg in a car accident, surely that fact would trump whatever instinctual sense I initially had about his prospects for the coming week. Obviously, but once something is a tough call, there definitionally isn’t any objectively dispositive information available. If there were, it wouldn’t be a tough call.
These are situations where you don’t know, and no one else does either. Any metric you discover might make a small difference, but it should not be the reason for your decision. You might want it to be in order to assuage your doubts and make yourself feel better, but it’s too heavy a lift. The best you can do is incorporate it into the totality of your understanding as you make the call according to your instincts.
This is not always easy or clear. I pay attention to how I feel in my gut when I sub one guy out for the other. I ask myself who I prefer and let it sit, rather than coming up with an immediate answer. My goal is solely to know who I prefer and make the decision, without a specific reason. If pressed, I could always give a reason, as people do on podcasts or in articles, but in the end, it’s just because my instincts say Player A over Player B this week, and if I get in touch with them I know two things: (1) I’m giving myself the best chance to be right; and (2) if I’m wrong, it’s my mistake, and one with which I can live 1000 times better than had I outsourced my decision to a consenus or some catchy metric.
I pay attention to the NFL. I’ve watched it for 45 years and made fantasy football a big part of my life’s work. The biggest regret I have about my life in fantasy sports is I became a worse fantasy player/bettor over the last 12 years than I was in the first 12, in my opinion, largely because I often let the oversimplified probabilistic models of midwits supercede my time-tested, experienced-based understanding and natural judgment. I fell for the pitch, I’m not proud to admit, even if only partially, and even if I often railed against it in my writing and on the radio.
Some of it might have been having a kid, traveling and not having/devoting sufficient time to research as deeply as I once did, making the temptation to outsource stronger. But whatever the reason, I’m firmly convinced it was a mistake.