Fantasy football is back this weekend after missing a week for internationals. Since transfer deadline day (gadz), and all the fanfare and fake hoopla that goes along with it, has came and gone the squads to choose from are pretty much locked till the new year (save a few raw teenagers who might get on as a sub and pick up 1 point so will be added and given a reflectively low price) so planning ahead is now a safer option should that be your chosen tactics, or use your wildcard, that might be my best plan.
Bit of an in depth, and so, a confusing opening there. I should explain, the English Premier League has a fantasy football game on its website and I have been playing it for 8 years (which might be since the start actually) not only do you play in the whole thing for the huge prizes which you have a miniscule chance of winning but you can also set up your own mini leagues which you have a better chance of winning and you get something better than tickets to the game of your choice or a strip or a trip to the world cup, you get the bragging rights of being a champion.
I have never won our mini league.
I did however come up with the name for it and that has stuck since the first year, in fact it has Roman numerals after it to signify the competitions age almost like the superbowl or wrestlemania. The name I came up with was Bummersliga. A play on words using the German bundesliga name and crowbarring the word bummer in at the front. I think we can agree its both puerile and a bit crap. However I am happy it has stuck for 8 years, my little contribution.
I have been into fantasy football for ages, I set up a Euro 96 one for neighbours and pals from school, which I won on the back of a a stellar Alan Shearer performance at the tournament. That involved me tracking everyone’s points and needed me to watch every game. At 16 that wasn’t a problem. A bit over zealous and or geeky, but achievable. For the start of the new season I attempted a full effort at the premiership with a draft system and everything that would see transfers carried out between managers and attempts at new players maybe resulting in a bidding war, points worked out by the Shoot! magazine and me counting them. It lasted about three weeks. No one got the concept and I quickly lost interest compiling points for something no one gave a shit about. I was winning though, I had David Beckham who scored that goal from the halfway line on the opening day, it was going to be a good year. I reintroduced the other format for France 98 and essentially failed my highers on account of drawing up nice point calculators with wee felt tipped pen done flags beside the players names for everyone. Rather sadly I was 17 then. Ryan Rubertazzi won it.
I think I hate it now but continue to play. I am regularly in the lower reaches of the mini league (let alone in with a hope of winning the whole thing) and its not for the want of trying, I make all my transfers but loyalty to certain crap players affects my weekly scores. I have a horrible feeling Ricky Van Wolfswinkel could be this years chosen guy. My affection for Arouna Kone last season wasn’t too bad for my team all things considered as he picked up plenty of points but I was maybe too sharp to add him back to my team as soon as he returned from African Nations duty, home matches at Rugby Park would be punctuated by frantic scanning of scores for goalscorers then the even more frantic scan through the turgid match commentary on the Sky Sports News app to find out who got he assist, Sometimes it was Kone, i was beside myself. Worse was when for two years I got hopelessly attached to Bobby Zamora when he was at Fulham. I could not for the life of me transfer him out my team, because you always feel that he could score a hattrick the week I ditched him and if he did I would have been on suicide watch. Also, you get an affinity with these guys whom I dub “my boyfriends” where you want to see them do well and they become your imaginary pals. It was around the time I was getting married and I thought long and hard about writing to Zamora and asking if he fancied being my best man, ultimately I never but still, I thought about it.
I should also mention that it was pointed out to me on the mini league forum (very popular arguement arena back before facebook went huge) that Zamora was like me. Not particularly good but scored a few goals and seemed likeable. Was never sure what to make of that but I had started that ball rolling by commenting that another fantasy football manager was like Tomas Brolin; a magical player when younger, now fat.
As I say, I think I hate it. There are certain things I wish it was that would make it better for me. For one I wish it was based on the Scottish Premier League (SPFL Premiership to give it its full daft name, p standing for professional shamefully) as I like Scottish football and a game like this can increase interest and participation for Scottish fans and people all over the world. The bosses in Scottish football should take their finger out their arse and get involved, folk pay more attention to the product on the park if they have a vested interest in it, even if that interest is whether Frazer Wright keeps a clean sheet for St Johnstone at St Mirren Park and doesn’t pick up a silly booking and cost himself some fantasy points, or waiting and hoping James Forrest doesnt get named in Celtics line up on the Sunday because you have a goal and an assist from Barry Robson sitting on your bench waiting for an autosub. People learn more from fantasy sport than anything I think, and I also think they learn to care. I have been playing fantasy baseball for about 9 years and think that I now know more than ever about the players and their skills through scouting the box scores (individual player stats for a game) every morning. The same happened when I moved to Canada for a year and wanted to get into the ice hockey. A bit of fantasy hockey and I could rattle off the name and position of guys all over the league. Fucking easy.
What I would like more though is for a rotisserie fantasy football game. That being like the ones you see in American movies or read about on twitter or whatever where guys are preparing for their fantasy draft (baseball or American football) and all bid for players and study the stats so they don’t get duds and spend the season on their phone trying to do deals with other managers to improve their squad. The commisioner based games you might read or hear about. that’s what I would like. English or Scottish league, it wouldn’t matter but some sort of package where you have a live draft for your mini league and no one has the same striker or goal scoring midfielder. That would sort out the men from the boys. See who knows this and can predict that. So surely someone out there can develop the program or augment the program for the American games that I mentioned to fit a British football model. Maybe I’m just being naive but its just spreadsheet manipulation? Isn’t it? No? Millions could be made here by someone, get it on Dragons Den, Peter Jones and his great socks would throw some dosh behind it and I would get my Sunday afternoon in late July spent in the biggest living room me or my friends have hoping to grab Ricky Van Wolfswinkel for a song in round 7 of the draft.
We can but dream.