Personal Profile: Nando Di Fino

Who: Nando Di Fino
What: Fantasy writer for The Wall Street Journal

“I kind of just fell backwards into all the fantasy stuff and decided to roll with it.”

That’s how Nando Di Fino describes how he got to be the first writer to cover fantasy sports for The Wall Street Journal. OK, well, maybe that’s oversimplifying just a little bit.

Once upon a time, Di Fino only casually participated in fantasy leagues.

“Like really casually,” he says. “I remember Sandbox once disbanded my team when I went to Italy for a couple months because I didn’t make lineup changes for three weeks.”

Things changed, though, when Di Fino was working on his master’s degree in history at Fordham University and he took a job with SportsTicker, scoring a couple of baseball games a day. Along with paying him a little money, the gig provided him with experience in research and writing, as well as “an insane amount of worthless baseball knowledge.” (That must go beyond the amount built into the average American male’s DNA.) It also got him onboard with Wall Street Journal reporter Sam Walker for his book “Fantasyland.”

The exposure from the book led to Matthew Berry inviting Di Fino onto the team at Talented Mr. Roto, which led to him joining ESPN’s fantasy department when the company bought TMR. How he went from there to The Wall Street Journal, even Di Fino can’t pinpoint.

“I’m not 100% sure, but they had mentioned that they were going to start addressing [fantasy], and I had a burger and beer with the editor of the page, and I think we hit it off,” Di Fino says. “We kicked around some story ideas, he read some of my stuff on the now-defunct ‘Nandovia’ page that Sam forced me to write for the book, and that was that.”

His initial offering for the Journal profiled the industry’s three top injury analysts - Stephania Bell, Will Carroll and Rick Wilton - and he has added an article a week since. Subject matter has comprised such topics as the potential impact of fantasy on professional beach volleyball, the value of playing fantasy sports with your children and the evolution of fantasy baseball statistics. More than a mere fantasy-advice column, it’s a spot that calls attention to various areas of the industry, giving mainstream treatment to a rapidly growing market that was once relegated to the fringes.

Aside from getting used to addressing his subjects formally as “Mr.” and “Ms.” upon second reference, Di Fino says he hasn’t been given too many restrictions by his editors.

“The parameters were pretty vague,” he says. “Obviously the Journal has really high standards, and not from necessarily a haughty, business-like point of view, but from the quality that they expect from the writers. This isn’t something I can sit down and write two nights before.

“I basically look at it like this: I send it to my brother Joe when I’m done, and if he says it’s not funny, or it’s boring, or if he’s even the tiniest bit unenthusiastic about it, I tear it to shreds and rewrite it. The last thing I want is for this column to be stale or boring.”

Career development stuff aside, though, the important thing is that his fantasy play has taken off since its early days. He limits himself to three football leagues, including one with buddies from back home that has been going on for about 15 years.

Baseball, though, the sport that launched him as a fantasy writer, remains king.

“Nothing beats rotisserie baseball for me,” Di Fino says. “Football is fun, but there’s so much luck and racing to the waiver wire involved.”

He’d better like it, as Di Fino says he balances 14 fantasy baseball teams. He’s quick to point out, though, that many are shared with Walker, lest someone mistake him for a fantasy geek.


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2 Responses to “Personal Profile: Nando Di Fino”

  1. Fantasy Sports Business » Blog Archive » FSB Daily 10/26:, Tips for Baseball, Fantasy in School Says:

    [...] site, but the content remainst relevant. Di Fino, an avowed baseball guy who told that he operated 14 fantasy teams in 2008, offers a few general suggestions for how to close the popularity gap between fantasy baseball and [...]

  2. the art of war Says:

    The Art Of War…

    …an interesting post I saw over on…

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