October, 2009

‘The League’ Proves It Doesn’t Really Care About Fantasy

Friday, October 30th, 2009

When the announcement came that FX would be giving us a show that featured fantasy football prominently in its theme, there was plenty of room for excitement and skepticism.

Based on the first episode, skepticism is the clear winner on the fantasy side.

Because fantasy sports are what we do here, I’ll set aside the locker-room humor for now and dig into the utter lack of effort to get real with the football angle that was put forth as the hook for this new comedy.

“The League” centers on a group of buddies who - we’re supposed to believe - care a lot about their fantasy football league. Aside from the tokin’ stoner who has no recollection of his title and the token idiot of the group (who no one actually appears to like, everyone makes fun of and yet somehow remains a close friend years after college), the characters purport to take their fantasy teams very seriously.

One lawyer knocks five years off the sentence of a liquor-store burglar in exchange for a swap of first-round picks. Another lawyer kidnaps the 9-year-old “oracle” in search of tips. The league commissioner has fashioned what looks like about a 4-foot trophy to commemorate his three titles in four years.

And that’s everyone we meet.

That’s the first issue. These guys are supposedly hopelessly devoted to a seven-team league in which only five are available to draft? Really? I mean, this might seem nitpicky, but if you’re going to make fantasy football so central to your plot, at least give us 10 participants. Put some voices on conference call instead of letting one leaguemate inform us that the two “out-of-town” guys are on autodraft. This is not the setup of a serious fantasy league. It’s a Yahoo! public league that has six dead teams by mid-season.

Of course, the number of participants was far from the only problem with the on-screen draft.

The show creators went to the trouble of gathering those few guys for a draft with an official board and everything. The least they could have done would have been to copy a mock draft out of a fantasy magazine. (The preview issue from FantasyGuru.com that appeared in an earlier scene, for instance, would have sufficed.)

Obviously, though, they didn’t count on any fantasy folks with DVR to be checking out the show. Plenty of picks could be looked at as screwy, but here are the egregious errors …

- With consecutive picks in rounds 5, 6 and 7, the owner so determined to win that he halved the aforementioned prison term selected Derrick Williams, Sinorice Moss and Jerry Porter as his first three receivers.

- San Diego fullback Jacob Hester went in the middle of Round 6.

Any issues with the draft were only made worse by a line from the “oracle” about Jay Cutler throwing four interceptions in his first game with the Bears, which proves that the taping happened after the start of the regular season.

The fact that the online version of the draft seems to sneak in an eighth team (rounds start with pick 0) and includes a completely different rundown shows that either someone pointed out the shortcomings of the on-screen edition or the show is somewhat lazily put together. I’m going with laziness, considering Ruxin hurriedly asks the “oracle” whether he should draft Jeremy Shockey or Antonio Gates four rounds after we’ve seen Gates’ name on the board.

All of these football details probably won’t matter to the casual viewer, but if you make the point of announcing your fantasy football theme and then show us a draftboard to prove you’re serious, can we at least get a modicum of work on the football front?

Beyond those gripes, “The League” certainly won’t do anything to help the public image of the fantasy player. Sure, you can find plenty of the show’s crude male humor on various message boards and at real fantasy drafts, but the sophomoric meathead is just a piece of the growing fantasy pie.

The debut tried to install Kevin’s wife as the football brains behind the team, but we didn’t see her mention a single player by name, and it was her husband’s team that drafted the Williams-Moss-Porter trifecta above. (If you don’t know yet what makes that group so bad, the third guy still has yet to even sign with a team this season.)

The show had some funny parts - provided you can laugh at a grown man breaking into sexually explicit song at a 5-year-old’s birthday party and enjoy a faux child molestation setup. Any fan of “The League” will be a person who really likes the often-inappropriate jokes and can identify with (or at least find entertainment in) the way the men interact with each other. It’s a crude buddy comedy with un-clever writing in which we can’t yet tell how much most of the buddies actually like each other.

The schtick wore thin for me, however, before the first half-hour ended, and “The League” has a long way to go before anyone will believe it’s serious about its fantasy football.


FSB Daily 10/28: ‘The League’

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

With FX set to debut its comedy based on a group of buddies tied together by a fantasy football league, we picked out a couple of early reviews. Check back with FSB.com early Friday to see our review of the premiere of “The League,” which will air at 10:30 p.m. Thursday.

- Barry Garron of Reuters seems to find the show sophomoric, implying that it tries to push the boundaries of acceptable basic-cable crudeness more than anything else.

- Tim Goodman of the San Francisco Chronicle, on the other hand, seems to like the humor put forth in “The League.” Then again, maybe the show is just more up the alley of a guy with a blog called The Bastard Machine.

Send all of your news, job postings, stories and profile ideas to [email protected]. Follow us on Twitter (FSBcom).


How Do You Monetize Fantasy Traffic Today?

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

The whole free-pay quandary is a central issue for anyone trying to make money on the Web, and that couldn’t be more true in any industry than it is in ours.

Fantasy sports live online and have thrived since making their way to this frontier. Still, the seemingly cyclical debate of whether to go free with your content or games or to make users pay presents a challenge. At one time, Yahoo! was the purveyor of free fantasy wares, and pretty much everyone else charged.

Now, however, a bevy of free online options exist for fantasy players. At the same time, many other sites subsist because of pay games or subscriber content.

Recent times have showed us that most Web outlets need to figure out better ways to generate revenue than simply relying on advertisers and sponsorships. Scott Philp of Quick Hit says that not enough decision makers are thinking about this monetization issue from the start.

“Fantasy needs to adapt and take a page from the micro-transaction models that many online gaming companies are using,” Philp writes in an article for MediaPost. “Looking solely at ad sales and sponsorships is a mistake. Fantasy sports operators should be capitalizing on their users’ familiarity with the micro-transaction model and take advantage of it by implementing opportunities to spend throughout the games they play.”

Philp goes into greater detail and presents a nice opening to the discussion of how to monetize fantasy sites. His post has already generated some worthwhile comments as well from folks you might recognize within the fantasy industry (including our own Jeff Thomas).

It’s worth checking out, and we here at FSB.com would love to hear your personal stories on how and why your site chose its particular path at the free-pay fork and how it’s working out. Of course, any other thoughts on the subject (and others) are always welcome as well.


FSTA Awaits Award Nominations

Monday, October 26th, 2009

Back in January, an intrepid little news site defied the expert picks and took home the 2008 FSTA award for best new website.

Oh yeah, and a few other folks won in some other categories.

The Fantasy Sports Trade Association has opened the nomination process for its annual awards, with ballots accepted through Nov. 20.

In addition to the categories carrying over from last year, this year’s slate will include Best Video Podcast and Best Fantasy Sports Broadcast Presentation. Awards will also be given in the following categories …

  • Commissioner Product
  • Online Draft Room or Mock Draft Room
  • Online Draft-Style Contest
  • Online Salary-Cap Contest
  • High-Stakes Contest
  • Live Fantasy Event/Contest
  • Unique Contest
  • Innovation
  • Draft Kit
  • Draft and Game-Assistance Tool
  • Print or Online Ad
  • Magazine
  • New Website or Site Update
  • Specialty Products or Services
  • Online Content Service
  • Podcast

Nominees must be FSTA members to be eligible. Awards will be given at the winter conference Jan. 26-27 in Las Vegas.