Tag Archives: NFL

Hugging, No Learning

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NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith in 2011 at the ceremony for the new CBA.

I remember back during the 2011 NFL lockout, the Packers website columnist kept writing to the fans not to get invested in the heated rhetoric between the players and owners, because once an agreement was reached—and it would be reached—the representatives of the players and the owners would be hugging on stage, all would be well again, and the fans who’d so adamantly taken sides would be wondering why they invested so much energy and partisan passion into a public relations battle. And sure enough, a new CBA was reached, football started on time, and all those months of tit-for-tat suddenly seemed far less serious than diehard fans would have believed.

I was reminded of that time and feeling while listening to David Axelrod’s conversation with Karl Rove on Axelrod’s podcast. As the two chief political operatives for the campaigns of Barack Obama and George W. Bush, they are each other’s political opposite and rival, representing the ideologies of the two primary political parties in the United States. And here they are, chatting about life and politics like old college chums. If you didn’t know which party they worked for you might not even know they were opponents.

So when the fire-breathers on either side of the aisle get fired up on cable news or talk radio, excoriating the Other Guys for the sin of not agreeing with them or even viewing them as downright evil, I get to wondering if they’re just being played for suckers.

If Karl Rove and David Axelrod—the guys whose job it is to convince voters in strong terms that the other guy is absolutely wrong and must be stopped—if they can sit and have a laugh together, why can’t the people whose votes they seek?

If Trump toady Sean Hannity can hang out at a baseball game with Keith Olbermann, his arch media rival for a time, or harass Megyn Kelly—also a Fox News commentator—on Twitter and then literally hug it out, why don’t Hannity’s wound-up followers see through the pablum he’s peddling for views?

Sports and politics are similar in that they involve intense gamesmanship, strategy, and a struggle of power and will and performance in a high-pressure environment. Obama even compared politics to football in a chat with Jerry Seinfeld. So why is it NFL players can play the game intensely, trying desperately to defeat their opponent, but still converge on the field after the game for hugs and handshakes and prayer circles? And why can’t voters?

The easy answer is that sports don’t matter, ultimately. They matter to the players, whose livelihoods are affected by their performance. But when a fan turns off the TV after a game, his life is the exact same as it was when the game began. Conversely, politics do matter. People’s lives are affected by legislation and the action or inaction of leaders.

But I don’t think it has to be that simple.

If voters and pundits actually cared about winning—i.e. getting legislature through Congress or changing their opponents’ minds—they wouldn’t demonize the people whose votes will be needed in order to achieve that desired victory.

If voters and pundits actually cared about winning, they should read and view things outside of their ideological media echo chamber to better understand why some people have different opinions.

But it seems like people just want to act angry. Settle scores. Humiliate whoever their Other is. And all the while the TV networks, talk radio, the NFL, or whoever has something to gain from outrage, rakes in enough revenue through clicks, ads, and eyeballs to self-justify, rinse, and repeat.

I’m not doubting the sincerity of those with strongly held beliefs, or those who go public with them. In a democracy, that should be encouraged. I only wish to avoid the scorched earth that comes of it, because I, speaking for those of us who aren’t holding the flamethrowers, am not interested in getting burned by someone who doesn’t know how the game is played.

Big Returns: How Fantasy Football is Like Stock Market Investing

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This is a guest post by my friend and fantasy football foe Brian Waters.

By Brian Waters, CFP®

Note: Nothing mentioned in this article is meant to be a recommendation for your investment portfolio.

The rapid increase in popularity of daily fantasy football leagues like DraftKings and FanDuel has triggered a debate over whether these games constitute gambling. One of the biggest arguments I hear in this debate is that playing daily fantasy leagues is as much like gambling as investing in the stock market. As a Certified Financial Planner™ who plays fantasy football, I’ve always been irked by that claim. Though there are similarities between fantasy football and the stock market, which I’ll get to below, there are some blatant differences between the two that should be clarified.

How They Differ

The first and biggest difference between daily fantasy football leagues and the stock market is the idea of “winning.” The objective in daily fantasy is very simple: score more points than your opponent to win money. If you score fewer points, you lose the money you put forth to play. This zero-sum aspect to daily fantasy makes it much closer to blackjack than investing.

In the stock market, each investor has a different risk tolerance, timeline, objective, and experience to factor into each investment decision. These different factors impact performance; therefore, each investor generally has a different idea of what it means to “win” in the stock market. A retiree taking regular withdrawals from their account will likely be invested much more conservatively than a 25 year old who has 40 years before withdrawals will begin. In this example, the retiree and the young worker likely view “winning” differently because they likely have different objectives (income vs. growth) and timelines (short vs. long).

With investing, multiple investments can win on different levels. Here is a chart showing returns of Company A (blue), Company B (red), and Company C (green) shares from January 1, 2014 to December 31, 2014:

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Chart courtesy of Yahoo Finance

As you can see, each gained in 2014; however, Company B was outpaced by C and A. If you held B shares, it would be hard to say you “lost” in 2014 because you still had a 25% gain. “Winning” in the stock market, then, can mean different things for different people.

How They’re Similar

Though, in my mind, the differences between investing and fantasy football outweigh the similarities, let’s look at what they have in common.

Research

Shifting from daily/weekly fantasy leagues to the season-long leagues, in both investing and fantasy football it is important to do your research. Before the draft and during the season, a manager has to consider a lot of questions that will affect his team’s probability of success: How does this player perform against this team? How injury-prone is my running back? Does my defense play well against a passing offense? Which of my receivers have the most favorable matchup this week?

Similarly, investors may ask: How does this stock perform in rising interest environments? Will the seasonably warm weather affect sales? Will slower GDP growth in China affect future overseas earnings? And so on. The ability to accurately predict the answers to these questions will likely help a fantasy football team or an investment portfolio find success.

Diversification

To maintain a successful fantasy team throughout the season, you want a roster filled with dependable players who perform consistently week to week, along with certain “high flier” players that put up high point totals. Consistent players like Tom Brady, Antonio Brown, Adrian Peterson, and Matt Forte can dependably put up a predictable amount of points and make up your roster’s foundation each week. Supplementing this foundation with high fliers like Odell Beckham Jr, Dez Bryant, Ronnie Hillman, and Danny Woodhead—less predictable playmakers who could put up a huge game one week and get shut down the next—will give you the best chance to defeat your opponent each week.

Likewise with investing: depending on your risk tolerance and timeline, portfolios generally balance growth and value stocks, as well as bonds and other investment types. Certain stocks carry a lot of risk that can propel a portfolio in good years and drag it in bad years. Because of that risk, investors generally carry different weights of these investment types to help them reach their financial goals.

Management

Fantasy football rosters undergo lots of change throughout the season. Good managers maintain healthy rosters through bye weeks, suspensions, injuries, and other unexpected factors. If an injured player is expected to return in a few weeks, managers have to decide if that player is worth holding onto on the bench or if they should be let go for a player who can play right away. When reviewing trades, managers should try to swap overvalued players for those who will likely perform better in the future. And when considering players available on the waiver wire, they should beware overreacting to player having a breakout game and potentially dropping a player whose best performances are ahead of him.

Principles of investing follow many of these same rules. Many investors ask themselves if a security is worth holding through a bad earnings report or corporate leadership change. They also must decide if swapping one stock for another is an overreaction to a current slide in the price. Ultimately, the general goal is to buy low and sell high with investments, just as it is in making trades and waiver wire pickups in fantasy football. 

Conclusion

Comparing investments to fantasy football is like comparing apples and oranges. Just because you may be good at fantasy football does not mean you will be successful at investing. This was an exercise of combining two aspects of my life that I find interesting and relevant.

(Photo credit: Daniel X. O’Neil)

My Packers: The Emotional Tribalism Of Fandom

[Article republished from January 2010]

I can’t sit still when it’s down to the wire.

Four minutes to go in the fourth, the Packers are driving for the game-tying score and I’m on my feet, pacing around my room. It’s been a wild shootout at the NFC Wild Card game: Green Bay’s young gun Aaron Rodgers and Arizona’s grizzled gunslinger Kurt Warner were taking turns tearing up the turf with laser-precision touchdown throws, the defense on both teams nonexistent. In the third quarter, the Packers were down by 21 and gasping for air; now, they’re knocking on the door.

This is the second time in three years the Packers have been in the playoffs. In 2007, we—in Green Bay, Packers fans own the team—had quite the playoff run. We demolished the Seahawks at Lambeau Field in the divisional round on a snow-covered turf. The next week, with the field temperature at or around arctic, the Giants come to Lambeau for the NFC Championship game. In the fourth we tie it up 20-20. The Giants have a chance to win with a field goal, but Tynes sends it wide left. Overtime. I’m on my feet, pacing nervously around the room. Favre throws an interception, and the Giants win it with a field goal. It’s all over.

Today, the Packers are sweating in the Arizona dome. Rodgers connects with Havner, tying the game 45-45. Less than two minutes left, the Cardinals drive and set up for a field goal. Wide left. Overtime. I’m on my feet, pacing nervously around my room. Not again, I think. We win the coin toss. The lob to Jennings downfield – the game winner – is overthrown. Then Rodgers is hit, fumbles, a Cardinal picks it up and runs it in for the score. The game. It’s all over.

The heartbreak hangover. Every sports fan has gone through it: the empty feeling after a devastating loss. The aimlessness. The Packers were on such a roll coming into the playoffs—the loss doesn’t seem real. Its suddenness makes it harder to accept. We were playing, then suddenly the ball came loose, it was in the end zone, and we were done. A bad dream, really.

In the days after I joked with friends that I was going through the stages of grief. The denial came quickly: No, it’ll be called back. There was a penalty. Once it settled in, the anger showed up: What the hell? Why didn’t someone pick up that block? Then the bargaining took place: If we could just do the last play over again… The depression stuck for longer. Seeing the highlights from the game on TV the next few days made it worse. It wasn’t until about four days later when I was finally able to accept the loss and look forward to next year.

This is all very melodramatic, is it not? Applying such a serious paradigm to what is ultimately just a game seems belittling to those suffering the loss of something more than a game. But it is a process many sports fan goes through—consciously or not—with teams and games they invest so much of themselves into; surely these emotions cannot be entirely frivolous.

According to some research, avid fandom and a deep commitment to one sports team are anything but frivolous. A 2000 New York Times article explored the psychology of hardcore sports fans—what their investment means and why it is important. “Our sports heroes are our warriors,” Robert Cialdini, a professor of psychology at Arizona State University, said in the article about sports fans. “This is not some light diversion to be enjoyed for its inherent grace and harmony. The self is centrally involved in the outcome of the event. Whoever you root for represents you.”

Often fanatics of any sport are looked down upon as obsessed, depressed loners in search of diversion and self-identity. But one theory the New York Times floats suggests fan psychology has its roots in “a primitive time when human beings lived in small tribes, and warriors fighting to protect tribes were true genetic representatives of their people.” Every team in its own way is a culture of people who share similar beliefs and customs. In sports those customs – unique chants, specialized uniforms, shared investment in the team’s history – allow spectators to form bonds with their “warriors.” Dr. James Dabbs, a psychologist at George State University, said in an interview that “fans empathize with the competitors to such a degree that they mentally project themselves into the game and experience the same hormonal surges athletes do,” especially in important contests, like a playoff game. “We really are tribal creatures,” he said.

We wear jerseys and decorate our homes with the colors and faces of our favorite athletes – our warriors – and follow them into the field of battle, though our battle happens in the living room or in the stadium seats and instead of using our bodies to fight like the athletes do we use our voices and emotional support. So when our favorite team loses an important game, the effect is not just mental and emotional; it is common to feel physically depressed or even ill.

Which brings us back to the Wild Card weekend. I watch my team – my tribe – fall as the others smile victoriously on the field of battle. I don’t feel ill, but I’m not happy. I commiserate with my fellow Cheeseheads online. I call my dad to make sense of the game.

“That throw to Jennings,” I say. “That was the game.”

“I know,” he says. We were so close. We rehash everything that went wrong, but then turn to everything we did right. Everything that gives us hope for next year. And there is a lot of hope for next year.

I think my tribe will be just fine.