Every year, the league champ has to overcome injuries, goal-line vultures, guys losing their jobs, bad luck and a host of other variables. In the last few years, personal conduct issues have led to unexpected suspensions, appeals and even more uncertainty. Sometimes players get cut unexpectedly, and the occasional trade mixes things up even more. There are always challenges nobody expects on draft day.
It all makes winning a championship an impressive accomplishment. But no winning team has ever dealt with anything like this season.
Before the major sports leagues resumed (or began) their seasons, I considered whether the winners deserved an asterisk by their titles. After all, some resumed play after months of downtime, playoff formats changed, and a complete season wasn't really played. In most cases it wasn't a big difference, but in baseball's case they didn't even play 40 percent of the regular season. Some leagues had players stay in "bubbles," some rules were changed (seven-inning games during double-headers?) and teams weren't really playing in front of fans. Each league would crown a champion, but would it really be the same as any other season?
After watching the games, I'm confident that the answer is no. They aren't the same. They're much, much harder to win. If they earn an asterisk, it's because of the extra challenges they endured that actually enhance the title. It's a more-impressive accomplishment.
We're halfway through the fantasy season, and I'm convinced that the same applies to our leagues. Daily fantasy games (which I know people love, but are truly different than the traditional game) don't have these extra challenges, so I'm not including them. And if you're good at those, you'll have plenty of money to help you get over the insult. But fantasy football has never been harder than in 2020.
Not only do you have to deal with all the normal issues you'd face every year, but there are unique variables as well. If you happen to play in a dynasty league, you might have lost players before the season started when they simply opted out. You never got to scout any guys during the preseason, and those training camp battles were more up in the air, causing more confusion. And I don't have the stats to back this up, but it sure feels like we're seeing more hamstrings and ankles give way as teams had abbreviated practice time to get players in game shape.
But wait; there's more. You can't rely on expected bye weeks, or the schedule. You thought you had a handle on things, until a few positive virus tests scrambled your plans. All of a sudden matchups didn't look as good, or players were off when you thought they'd be playing. You might need new backups to cover a bye. And games kept getting moved around during the week.
You might think it's fun to see football on a Tuesday, but the fantasy management required is on a different level than in years past. Do you risk playing a guy whose game might be postponed? How did the testing look this morning? Nobody ever had to deal with this kind of stuff before, and you have to think about it every week.
You could lose a player due to virus protocols, and then you have to hope for consecutive negative tests. And that player could affect your other players. The new three-week IR means guys are definitely out for a few weeks, when teams actually use it. Then maybe they come back, or not. Who knows?
If there's a Monday double-header, and you're not sure if your guy's game will be played, it makes sense to pick up someone in the other game to have a Plan B. But that means dropping someone before their game, or they lock for the week. So you have to make that decision days in advance. You might have to drop someone you really wanted to keep, or risk taking a zero if a game isn't played. It kind of comes down to, do you feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?
You know all of this, of course. But have you really thought about all the different things you have to deal with on a weekly basis? How many contingencies you have to consider? This season has more variables and more uncertainty than any other. Winning a fantasy league this year shouldn't come with an asterisk. It should come with a bonus.
My point is twofold. First, don't be too hard on yourself if things aren't going your way. You still have time to make up ground, but this is a weird year. Cut yourself some slack if you take an L when you're just trying to CYA. Luck still plays a role, and it can derail you quickly. Keep fighting, and understand that you have many factors working against you this season.
And second, you better take advantage of a full year of trash-talk if you win. Claiming a title is always great, but it's really amazing this year. If you're riding high, be proud. Winning games in this atmosphere is a special accomplishment.
I understand that it's just a game, and I'm not complaining about the extra testing or changes to the season. Safety comes first. I just want to point out that I was wrong about titles losing their luster during Covid-19. The Lightning and Lakers accomplished something very special. The Rays or Dodgers will do the same. And whoever wins the Lombardi Trophy deserves the same accolades.
So will your champ. Here's hoping it's you.
What's the most frustrating difference for you this season? How are you managing all the extra variables? Are you spending more time on fantasy management than you did previously? Share your thoughts below.