January 24th, 2011

Full List of 2010 FSTA Award Nominees

Monday, January 24th, 2011

We shared previously the group of finalists for the 2010 FSWA awards, to be handed out Tuesday night during the FSTA winter conference. Another central annual feature of the winter conference is the FSTA awards.

This year’s Fantasy Sports Trade Association process didn’t include the same whittling of nominees to finalists as the Writers Association did, but it’s still interesting to take a look at some of the key players and new entrants into the industry from the previous year.

With that in mind, here’s the full list of eligible FSTA nominees, most with links to their nominations. There you can read the pitch to voters and see samples of the products and services entered …

Most Innovative Fantasy Product or Service
Grid Iron Fantasy Sports — VuFantasyFootball.com
World Fantasy Games — RapidDraft Fantasy Football Weekly app
RotoWorld — Draftmaster software; Season PassOnline Fantasy Draft Guides
Fantasy Football Crystal Ball
Head2Head Sports — Injury/Bye Protection
RotoExperts.com — Fantasy Grinder
RotoWire.com — Fantasy Football Draft Kit (mobile)
NFL.com — Fantasy Football 2010

Most Innovative Fantasy Contest
RotoExperts.com — Upset Challenge
World Fantasy Games — RapidDraft
Athlon — Pro+College Fantasy Football
NFL.com — Fantasy Playoff Challenge

Most Outstanding Fantasy Advertisement
NFL.com — TV spot
MyFantasyLeague.com — print ad
RapidDraft.com (World Fantasy Games) — Week 17 Twitter mock draft
ESPN — campaigns for fantasy baseball, Tournament Challenge and fantasy football
FootballDiehards.com — print-Web promotion

Most Outstanding Fantasy Contest
CBSSports.com — Free Fantasy Football
World Fantasy Games
Fanball.com — Diamond Challenge Fantasy Baseball

Most Unique and Outstanding Live Event or Contest
Baseball HQ — First Pitch Forums
NFL.com — Fantasy Live webcast
Head2Head — The Draft 2010
FanDuel — Fantasy Football Championship
RapidDraft.com (WFG) — RapidDraft Weekly

Most Unique Fantasy Advertisement
NFL.com — “Dots” TV spot
FootballDiehards.com — print-Web promotion
RapidDraft.com (WFG) — Twitter mock draft

Most Valuable Fantasy Content
Fantasy Sherpa
Baseball HQ
The Huddle
XML Team
RapidDraft News (WFG)
GodfatherofFantasySports.com (Charlie Wiegert’s blog)

Most Valuable Fantasy Tool
NFL.com — Bloomberg Decision Maker; NFL.com Fantasy Tour
Competitive Sports Analysis — scoutPRO
Fantasy Football Crystal Ball
RapidDraft.com — Fantasy Football Weekly app
CBSSports.com — Fantasy Football Commissioner
RTSports.com — online draft room
Fantistics — Fantasy Draft Assistance Tool: Baseball; Football
RotoWorld — DraftMaster
Advanced Sports Media — Draft Analyzer

Rookie of the Year
NFL.com — Fantasy Football 2010
Competitive Sports Analysis
Gridiron Fantasy Sports — VuFantasyFootball.com
Joe Namath (World Fantasy Games)


Business Profile: Fantasy Judgment

Monday, January 24th, 2011

Company: Fantasy Judgment, LLC
Launch date: April 1, 2009
No. of employees: 5

Want a sign of the growth in the fantasy sports universe? There are multiple outlets around to offer dispute-resolution services to fantasy leaguers. Michael A. Stein brought Fantasy Judgment to the marketplace in 2009 and told FSB.com recently about what he hopes to accomplish.

1. First of all, please explain what your company does.

Fantasy Judgment is an independent, expert dispute resolution service for fantasy sports leagues. It comprises a five-person panel of expert judges who impartially render professionally written decisions (which are modeled after U.S. Supreme Court opinions) resolving any and all issues, disputes or conflicts that arise within fantasy leagues. Fantasy Judgment helps maintain the integrity of fantasy leagues by providing neutral decisions in lieu of a potentially biased league commissioner or a flawed league-voting process.

2. What brought you into the fantasy sports industry?

I have been playing fantasy sports since I was 6 years old in 1985. My father started a fantasy football league in 1979, and then in 1985 he created a junior division of the league where the league members’ kids drafted teams and competed against each other. I learned at that very young age how beneficial it was to have a QB-WR pairing on a high-powered offense when I won the league thanks to Dan Marino, Mark Clayton and Mark Duper. Ever since then, I have been hooked on fantasy sports. (I got into fantasy baseball with my father in 1989.)

In 2008, an issue came up during the first week of the playoffs in my fantasy baseball league, which happened to involve my own team. The issue centered on C.C. Sabathia’s one-hit shutout that Brewers manager Ned Yost challenged the official scoring of after the game. I made a decision that I know was correct and was the fairest option for everyone involved. However, I received some criticism and backlash from a few league members for making the decision in the first place. That is when I first wondered whether there was a third party or independent arbitrator that could have intervened and ruled on the issue. After doing some research and seeing that there were a couple entities that provided this service for fantasy sports leagues, I decided that I could do it even better. And that is when the concept of Fantasy Judgment was conceived.

3. What did it take in the way of startup cost and time to get Fantasy Judgment up and running?

I did my due diligence by searching business databases and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to make sure no other company or business was using the name, or anything similar. Once that hurdle was cleared, I purchased the domain and began the process of building a web presence.

I didn’t have much of a budget for this new venture, so I needed to be very cost-efficient with every decision I made. After getting several quotes for web design and development from various graphic designers, I thought outside the box and contacted a technical school in New Jersey. I spoke to the graphic arts professor and asked whether he had any qualified students looking to build their portfolio, and he set me up with a graduating student who agreed to build my website from scratch for $500. I also expended money on purchasing a trademark for Fantasy Judgment and forming a LLC.

After two months of planning and tossing ideas around, my website was completed by April 2009. Then it became a matter of advertising and promoting the brand, which I continue to actively do today.

4. What kind of space/growth potential do you think there is for your service?

I see big things for Fantasy Judgment in the future. (No, I didn’t steal the DeLorean to purchase Grey’s Sports Almanac). With the continued growth and prosperity of the fantasy sports industry, people take their participation in leagues extremely seriously. People generally spend hundreds of dollars per year on fantasy sports, so the need for accurate and expedited resolution of league issues is crucial. Dispute resolution in fantasy leagues is still a relatively new concept and has not yet been embraced as a necessary feature to be integrated within a league. I think this perception will change over time due to how seriously people participate nowadays.

5. With several other dispute-resolution services available, what differentiates Fantasy Judgment?

When I initially researched fantasy sports dispute resolution services in 2008, I was not overly impressed with what I found. I had no idea who the people were that made the decisions, nor did I know anything about their qualifications. That formed the basis for my approach to Fantasy Judgment: transparency. I think it is vital to introduce myself and my background to potential clients so they know what and who they are paying for should they retain Fantasy Judgment’s services. My background as a lawyer has provided me with professional writing and analytical skills, which help in authoring documents that are worthy of being paid for. That, coupled with my 25+ years of playing fantasy sports and running my own leagues demonstrates my knowledge and experience in this field. These two factors best qualify me to act as the chief justice and independently evaluate any issue, whether it is a trade dispute or a scoring discrepancy, and then collectively with my associate justices render a decision within 24 hours. The documents we write leave no room for interpretation and hopefully resolve the issue for the customer.

I advertise my own email address on my website, as well as all of my social networking sites and blogs. I invite people and prospective clients to contact me directly, either via email or phone. I want customers to feel comfortable when they entrust their league’s fate in our hands. I believe that dedicated and constant customer service clearly sets Fantasy Judgment apart from its competitors. I enjoy having a dialogue with clients and other fantasy sports players about various issues.

6. How have you gone about introducing your company to the industry? To consumers?

After Fantasy Judgment was launched, I felt it was necessary to first establish my presence within the fantasy sports industry. I immediately researched as many fantasy sports websites as I could and created a database of contact information. I reached out to dozens and dozens of people who either ran these websites or wrote about fantasy sports, including newspapers, magazines and law journals. I then joined the Fantasy Sports Trade Association and attended the conference last summer in Chicago. That was a great experience as I got to meet, in person, almost all of the prominent businesses and figureheads of the industry. I also tried to do as much writing as possible to build up a body of work that could define me as a credible resource within the industry. (I also joined the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.)

Once I built up these credentials and made enough contacts, I began trying to reach the masses through social networking and promoting everything I possibly could. One of the best avenues I have accessed is being featured on SiriusXM’s Fantasy Sports Channel on the RotoExperts morning show with Scott Engel and Adam Ronis. I made a few appearances with them where I heard on cases on the air from multiple parties and then settled their fantasy sports disputes in a mock trial.

7. What role have partnerships played in the life of Fantasy Judgment to date? What’s your goal on that front going forward?

I am a realist and fully accept the fact that I cannot succeed on my own. Fantasy Judgment is a specialized, niche service. I don’t provide content, statistics, rankings news updates or advice columns on FantasyJudgment.com. It is crucial for me to engage well-known businesses and websites in partnerships in order to help expose Fantasy Judgment to a wider audience.

In the summer of 2010, I came into contact with the owners of FantasyAlarm.com and Fantazzle.com. We formed a mutual alliance/partnership to collectively run high stakes fantasy football leagues at the 2010 Superdraft event in Las Vegas. Even though our efforts did not translate into hosting any $10,000 leagues, it was a great experience to collaborate with intelligent and innovative entrepreneurs in the industry on such a project.

8. What’s the nature of your affiliation with NFL.com, and how did that relationship come about?

This is the best example of how partnerships have helped Fantasy Judgment and continue to shape its direction. Over a year ago, I found the right person to get in touch with at the NFL regarding their fantasy football products. I pitched some ideas and concepts to them about how Fantasy Judgment can be incorporated with NFL.com. After several months of exchanging correspondence, eventually the NFL asked Fantasy Judgment to enter into a revenue-sharing agreement where Fantasy Judgment was advertised and featured on NFL.com’s new fantasy marketplace. I am hopeful that this relationship will continue, and I am looking forward to developing similar types of arrangements with other known brands and entities.

9. What role does blogging play in your efforts?

I run a blog where I post Fantasy Judgment decisions and also write about various topics in sports, fantasy sports and occasionally other things as well. Blogging helps keep my writing skills sharp and gives me an outlet to express personal feelings and opinions about various issues. I like to write about real life issues in the fantasy sports industry, including legal matters, because it is an extension of my law-sports dichotomy. Recently, I became a writer for The Hardball Times where I write a column called “The Verdict” about fantasy baseball league issues, disputes, and other relevant topics. Doing all of this writing in a blog format is great because it is personal and promotes ongoing debate and conversation about topics that I am passionate about.

10. What’s your ultimate goal for Fantasy Judgment?

My goals have fluctuated since I first conceptualized Fantasy Judgment. Initially, I admittedly was delusional thinking that everyone who plays fantasy sports will easily pay for Fantasy Judgment’s services to resolve their disputes. As time went on, I realized this would not be the case and I needed to re-evaluate where I wanted things to go. In an ideal world, Fantasy Judgment would get purchased by one of the large fantasy game providers and integrate its services into the league commissioner package, or I could be hired to provide Fantasy Judgment’s services in that capacity. Realistically, my goal is to slowly build up the brand and show the fantasy sports industry that dispute resolution services are necessary for all leagues to have. Once that is accepted, I can convince them that Fantasy Judgment is the highest authority in fantasy sports jurisprudence and is unparalleled in experience, quality and customer service. If that happens, then Fantasy Judgment can potentially become a sustainable business.