July, 2010

Personal Profile: Tony Cincotta

Saturday, July 31st, 2010

Name: Tony Cincotta
Job title(s): VP of marketing, talk show host (FantasyPros911.com)
Full-time in fantasy? No, also a project manager for Fiserv
Age: 41
Education: UMass-Boston
Family status: Married with 3 children — Tatum 9, Cole 7, Brady 4 (Named after a QB)
Favorite fantasy sport to play: Baseball
Favorite sport to watch: Football
Favorite team (any sport): Boston Red Sox
All-time favorite athlete: Earl Campbell
Years playing fantasy: 25 years

I got my start in the fantasy industry when: I enjoyed playing fantasy sports at early age and continued to play into my “adult” life. So I would look for any edge necessary to decimate my opponents and take home the cash. That is when I discovered the world of podcasts. I thought the podcasts contained great information, but they could help you with your lack of sleep as well. There was no entertainment value at all, no passion, and I wanted to put character into the world of podcasts. Most of the podcast hosts at that time thought they were Walter Cronkite. In the early days, I started recording the podcasts and placing them on iTunes. I was immediately amazed at the amount of people that started to tune in.

The e-mails were incredible, and I was providing great information and saying some of the craziest things ever heard on a podcast. That’s when the light went off and I said, “why not try to make a living and enjoy your work.” Then, through calling in and meeting the folks at MLB.com, we launched www.FantasyBaseballMafia.com. It was a small startup site with no money and the dream to bring competive Fantasy Baseball Keeper Leagues to the fantasy baseball industry. That mission was accomplished, and then I ran into the great Lenny Melnick.

Three questions

1. How did you get started doing fantasy sports podcasts and talking fantasy sports on the radio? How has the audience changed in the time you’ve been doing it?

I started in the podcast industry because of my love of talk radio growing up in Boston. I would listen to sports radio and shows like Howard Stern as opposed to music. In my mind, I thought the podcast industry would take off and I could put together a great product for the listener. In the early days I was lucky to have great guests such as Mike Siano, Cory Schwartz, Pete McCarthy, Lawr Michaels and Lenny Melnick to name a few. Those guys gave me instant credibility, and the shows became very popular. The shows have evolved to where the listeners wanted fewer guests and more of our opinions. That was pretty humbling that people actually cared what you had to say and would take a couple hours a week out of their lives to listen to you. So we gave them what they wanted, and each year the listenership keeps rising at an incredible rate.
I then wanted to have the opportunity to extend the show out to places where people would not be looking for a fantasy sports podcast. So I started promoting my shows to local radio and got a chance to work an NFL draft show in 2008 for FOX Sports Radio in Jacksonville. That was like giving an alcoholic a beer. I wanted more and pursued it like there was nothing else on Earth.

I was able to land a show on ESPN Radio in St. Augustine, Fla., called The Sports Bash. The show was a big hit in the area, and we were able to attract the casual sports fan over to our eccentric world of fantasy sports. Then the first time that we started talking to Sirius XM about starting a 24-7 fantasy sports radio station, it felt awesome. We now have placed fantasy sports in the mainstream — right there with Howard Stern, Oprah Winfrey and, of course, the Boss (Bruce Springsteen)!

2. What brought you together with the other Fantasy Pros 911 guys to launch that site?

The move to FantasyPros911.com was an easy one for me. At the time, I was working at FantasyBaseballMafia.com, and the idea there was just to keep things simple and small. I had the itch and wanted a little more. There was this guy named Lenny Melnick who did fantasy baseball over at MLB.com. I ended up meeting up with Lenny after listening to his podcasts. To this day, Lenny is the only guy doing a solo podcast that I can listen to. (So if you are currently doing a podcast solo, grab a co-host. Friendly advice. LOL.) Lenny was part of the Melnick & Greco website, but they wanted to add staff and expand the site. They grabbed Patrick Di Caprio from FantasyBaseballGenerals.com, and I loved the energy and passion of the parties involved.

The first two years have been exciting, and the guys have been tremendous to work with. We are well established in the baseball community and now are working to improve our fantasy football product to match our baseball offerings. Paul Greco has been busy recruiting some of the top writers in the industry. I am fired up about the direction of the site and the 2010 fantasy football season. The basis of the site was to build a community where our readers and listeners have access to Lenny Melnick, Paul Greco, Pat Dicaprio and myself. We provide a 1-800 number for instant advice. We answer emails in an hour, except during the shows. (We are good but not that good.) We also have a community section at the site where users create their own page and can discuss anything from fantasy sports to hot chicks.

3. You bounce around among several fantasy sports (baseball, football and basketball), beyond the normal one or two on which most analysts focus. What, to you, are the key differences among the different fantasy sports, and what are the positives and negatives for each?

This is a great question, and the reason I bounce around is ADD. The one thing that is essential to success in any fantasy sport is opportunity. You do not have to manage a player’s success to find the next hidden gem. It is all about opportunity, if a baseball player attempts to steal 50 bases and is thrown out on 27 occasions, that’s my guy. Most people see that player as a guy with 23 stolen bases. I see it as a player who has to improve or the coach would not allow him to keep stealing bases.

In football you want to focus on running backs that have no capable [fill-in]. If you think that Frank Gore or Michael Turner is a better player than DeAngelo Williams, than you need to speak with Jon Gruden. Gore and Turner have the opportunity for maximum touches. That is why Cedric Benson should have never surprised people last season. In football, focus on touches and targets, and the points will come. Fantasy basketball is gaining popularity. The amazing thing in basketball is the different styles of league. In head-to-head leagues, Dwight Howard is a stud. On the Roto side, he is a category killer.

The biggest positive in fantasy sports is football is 16 weeks and is not the drain of a six-month season. This hurts basketball and baseball with your average fantasy sports player. I have come to love daily fantasy sports contests and often play over at FantasyFactor.com and FanDuel.com. I think this is the wave of the future for fantasy baseball and basketball players.

Bonus: What exactly are you “all fired up” about?

I am all fired up about life! I sit and talk about fantasy sports and have a great family and a hot wife. Why would I not be fired up? I can host a fantasy football show on Sunday morning, take 50 calls about their lineups, then shift the focus to my teams in the afternoon and watch Ray Rice bring you a fantasy championship. Then to celebrate my championship and the fact that I have just won an all-expenses-paid trip to Las Vegas, you head to the strip joint with your wife. (There is nothing better than having a lap dance with your wife in the VIP room with you. Try it and e-mail your thoughts.) That is living a life of fantasy my friends, make it rain in 2010.


FSB Daily 7/30: Fantazzle, Nick Lowery, Name Game, RotoWire, More

Friday, July 30th, 2010

A roundup of items recently posted on the FSB News page.

- Fantazzle is offering customizable high-stakes fantasy football leagues as part of the SUPERDRAFT event in Las Vegas. Buy-in levels range from $1,000 to $10,000, with customizable league rules and sizes (anywhere from eight to 14 teams). Each level includes at least an 85 percent payout rate to winners.

- We had former Chiefs and Jets kicker Nick Lowery on the RapidDraft.com Fantasy Lunch, our BlogTalkRadio show on Thursday. Although it was enough for us that Lowery — an obviously bright guy and now professional public speaker — was engaging and entertaining, the part that really made it worth a post here came deep into his interview. That was when the veteran of 18 NFL seasons said, “Fantasy football is the best thing that ever happened to football.”

- The Hazean is keeping polls open through Saturday to determine your favorite fantasy football team name for July. I voted for “Stafford Infection” among the 10 options, though I find the leader quite clever in its use of all four Steelers quarterbacks.

- Just like it did for baseball season, RotoWire is offering its fantasy football draft kit as an iPhone app. Among the features is a function that provides player recommendations when you check off the guys who have already been drafted by others.

- FFChamps.com has reached an agreement with Boston-based WEEI.com to offer the former’s fantasy football draft kit through the website for the popular sports talk station.

- Jene Bramel of Footballguys.com takes a turn in the NYTimes.com Fifth Down blog to tell fantasy football folks why they should be playing with individual defensive players and refutes the common arguments against doing so.

- I recently took part in one of eight “Pros vs. Joes” drafts put on by the folks at the Fantasy Football Players Championship, which pits six fantasy players against six fantasy site representatives in each league. Those who didn’t participate can pick the winners for a shot at free 2011 FFPC entries. (Find my squad here — League 5 — and keep in mind that tight ends get 1.5 points per reception and it’s an optimal-scoring format, where you don’t have to set your lineup.)

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


Might Sports Stock Trading Find Mobile Home?

Friday, July 30th, 2010

We’ve seen a fair number of games pop up over the past few years that present the public with the opportunity to buy and sell imaginary shares in professional athletes. The latest entry, however, might feature the best fit.

Locus Innovations this week introduced the Fantasy Trader iPhone app, which provides the same kind of functionality mentioned above. Users create a “Sportfolio” of shares in athletes that can be bought and sold stock-market style.

I find it a mildly interesting concept in general, and one that doesn’t really qualify as fantasy sport. That’s because an athlete’s value in such a universe boils down to popularity — either long-term or fleeting — rather than actual performance.

Still, with so many sports-crazed individuals out there, many with extra time on their hands and too many looking for anything other than human interaction, the sports market setup can be a fun diversion — one particularly well-suited for the mobile market.

Buying and selling athlete shares seems to cater to the kind of quick-action mindset at play in iPhone apps. Got 5 minutes? Maybe I can quickly expunge Stephen Strasburg from my Sportfolio.

This differs from actual fantasy sports play in that the latter tends to take much more time, research and thought … at least if you care to do it well and are competing with experienced players.

That’s certainly not to say that fantasy sports don’t fit the mobile format. Everything is moving more in that direction, and any fantasy company out there not thinking smart phone is in danger of being left behind.

The simplistic nature of trading on the hot or not streaks of athletes, though, seems tailored to the app genre.


Sporting News Launches Custom Fantasy Source

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

When SportingNews.com announced back in March that it was doing away with hosting fantasy games, the plan was to refocus the site to really center on content. In the middle of that focus is the new Fantasy Source platform.

Fantasy Source has long been the subscription area for fantasy sports content (primarily football and baseball) at SportingNews.com, but the recent relaunch involved changing the interface to greatly enhance customization.

Upon arrival, a registered subscriber ($40 for the year) now faces a page that looks like a clipboard of widgets, which it basically is. You control which content buckets appear on the page — choosing among items such as player rankings, player news (centered on your selected players) and stat projections — and dragging each box to your preferred spot.

Much of the content is also customizable, from controlling which players you track to inputting your own scoring settings to cater rankings and projections to your league. (An example of the extent of the scoring flexibility: You can choose among 49 categories for kicker scoring alone.)

“The emphasis on customization and personalization of information is what makes this product unique,” Geoff Shaw, Sporting News’ VP of digital media, said in the press release. “With personally relevant and tailored tools, analysis and stats, we deliver our users a valuable and engaging experience and deliver our advertisers a valuable and highly-engaged audience.”

The platform also allows for importing rosters from leagues hosted elsewhere, which will automatically tailor features to fit that player group. The site currently only supports imports from Yahoo!, though. Although Yahoo! hosts more leagues than anyone else, that will need to be expanded to better serve subscribers.

Shaw told FSB.com that SN is negotiating with other major operators to increase that lineup and that his team has pre-loaded the default scoring settings from top hosts such as Yahoo! and CBS Sports to make it easier for users to customize stats and rankings.

“By tweaking league settings, all stats related tools reorganize to fit the scoring system, meaning point-per-reception leagues will have a different top-200 than a standard yardage-only league,” Shaw said.

For the new focus to work overall, it was likely necessary for Sporting News to build out its Fantasy Source site and deliver something different. The fantasy content landscape has become densely populated, with outlets all over the place touting free fantasy football advice and analysis (and the same goes for other sports). In addition, the big league-hosting sites all have their own methods of delivering player news and other fantasy content.

Sporting News has long been a valued source for general sports content as well as fantasy-specific material and has made interesting moves in other areas in recent years — such as cutting its magazine back to bi-weekly issues and launching Sporting News Today, the daily “e-paper” that has since gone pay — to navigate a changing media landscape. It’ll be interesting, again, to see how consumers respond to the new Fantasy Source.