Monday, March 19, 2007

Living in a Fantasy World

As a young'en I had a big interest in professional sports. I would collect sports cards, watch games on TV, keep up with the news, and play the sport. As I got older, I started to notice that some of my original excitement for a sport wained as I began to understand the ebb and flow of the games. Not enough games were exciting, the cards were an artificial market, the stories were the same (other than the brilliance of NFL films), but I always liked playing a sport.

Pictured Above: From Terminus 2007 Pitt vs. Auburn (courtesy of Michael Smith).

Later on, I found fantasy sport. One day I joined up in a yahoo league for either hockey or basketball, invited some friends, and managed a fantasy team. For those of you unfamiliar with fantasy sport, let me explain. There are many different styles of fantasy games from managing individual players and benefiting from their success to picking teams that will win or lose and by how much. Fantasy also exists in the riskier domains such as sports betting, but many of the games are for free.

The thing about fantasy is it rekindled my interest in sporting events. I found I could watch a televised game again since I had some vested interest in a player or team, and I would pay more attention to the game. Sports betting has a similar affect where bettors now get an adrenalin high from the excitement of putting the money on the sport. In both cases, you become committed to the game.

Pictured Above: From Terminus 2007 Pitt vs. Wisconsin (courtesy of Michael Smith).

Fantasy Ultimate is a game, originally played on a sideline, where you pick players and get points depending on their success or failure (drops, scores, errors, etc.). Fantasy Ultimate was also recently applied to the MLU through the internet.

I think Fantasy is one of the key concepts that needs to be applied to Ultimate to help push the sport into a legitimate fan followed sport (not necessarily my goal). The concept introduces fans to important names in the sport, it gives the fan a focus on the game, and it can be fun.

There are lots of logistic aspects that need to be considered like stats (see the Count's recent post) and changing line-ups for tournaments.



Anonymous said...

There's a really interesting blog about sports statistics at

I've been thinking a lot about gathering meaningful statistics in ultimate, and I think it's potentially very hard. Aside from the logistical problems of actually tracking things in a sport that's still very informal about a lot of things, I think there's important questions about how meaningful various stats can be.

For instance, I think a lot of the time, the person responsible for creating a goal is neither the person who caught it or the person who scored it, but instead maybe the person who got open when the team was trapped in their own end and then made a big break to open things up and start flow. I think people's assists and goals have a lot more to do with their role in a team's offence than their strength as a player.

Similarly, if one looks at turnovers, completion-percentage, etc., we can easily see how someone's role in an offence could easily lead to serious stat-inflation, such as a player who always dumps having a perfect completion-percentage, or the primary handler getting credited for turnovers when the fault lay with the team's cutters.

I think, for that reasons, that meaningful statistical comparisons would have to be done on the basis of one's role in the team's offence, but we don't really have yet a solid way of describing different positions akin to QB, TE, RB, etc. in football. In a sport like basketball, there's not that much debate about what a player's position is, so it's easy to compare one point guard to another, for instance. I'm not sure you can do the same thing in ultimate.

Barbu said...

You are right about stat skewing Tom, but the same can be said in all other sports. For example, the QB stat in football is quite different depending on the offense the team is running. Or in soccer the defense man don't score as much goals as the forward...

Stats are stats and you can make them say whatever you want. That's as true for politics as it is for sports.