Gary Davenport
Fear and Losing in Las Vegas ... From the Desk of Gary Davenport


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Hi, my name’s Gary Davenport, and I’m a professional fantasy sports writer.

That’s not really the way I ever figured I’d be ending that sentence, but through a combination of hard work, perseverance and a staggering amount of luck here I sit, doing what I love for a living at the beginning of a piece in which I’m about to pound the snot out of the old “don’t write in the first person” rule.

Since 2011, I’ve been a proud staff member at Fantasy Sharks. I joined the site that summer via the guest writer program, and now hold the title of Individual Defensive Player (IDP) Senior Staff Writer.

I have other titles, but they’re sort of … um … I don’t think “Exalted Poobah of All He Surveys” is really relevant to this conversation (or real), so … never mind.

Anyway, earlier this month, my article “ Watt to Do, Watt to Do ?” was named a finalist for the 2013 Web Article of the Year Award by The Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA).

I know. You’re stunned. Maybe appalled. I went with blown away and honored, but whatever gets you through the day.

I was invited to Las Vegas to attend the FSWA Awards dinner, and that’s how, on a January evening, I found myself looking across a room at ESPN’s Matthew Berry.

To say I was nervous would be something of an understatement, in that saying “politicians are dishonest” is something of an understatement. I’d never even been to Las Vegas, much less to an awards banquet where I was a nominee.

I felt very much like Tim Tebow at a quarterback skills competition. I mean, sure I’m a writer, but these people are giants!

Berry is easily the most recognizable face in the fantasy industry. David Dodds, of FootballGuys. Fantasy Sharks’ very own king of the tank himself, one Tony Holm (more on him in a second). Heavy hitters from all over the industry … the very people who paved the road I now travel.

Over my head? Ha! One way to put it!

However, my nervousness and apprehension were soon replaced by something different.

Astonishment.

I was positively floored by how friendly every single person I met was. That may sound like fawning, but I was far from the only person at the conference to voice a similar sentiment. The fantasy sports industry is comprised of tons of great people, and it was an unbelievable pleasure to meet many of them.

What really blew my doors off was how many people knew who I was. As honors go as a writer, it doesn’t get much better than having other writers whose work you admire and respect return the compliment.

At the risk of sounding trite, I felt like maybe, just maybe, I had “arrived” a little, even if I’d only arrived at the starting point in the next step in my journey.

As for the award itself, you may have already guessed that I lost. (The title might have given it away, and had I won, odds are good I’ve have mentioned it by now once or twice or 38 times). Mike Clay, of Pro Football Focus, won Web Article of the Year, which hardly comes as a surprise. He’s an excellent writer, after all.

Also one of those great people I mentioned.

Even in defeat there were silver linings. The fine folks at My Fantasy League (who I had the pleasure of meeting) won for Best League Manager Product, and one of the Fantasy Magazines (Fantasy Football ProForecast) I did some writing and editorial work for won the award for Best Fantasy Football Publication.

In any event, I left Las Vegas feeling very much like a winner. I got to spend a couple days meeting some wonderful people and talking about our shared obsession (win). I finally got to see Las Vegas, even if only briefly (win). I also had the distinct pleasure of meeting and chatting with Hall of Fame defensive end Chris Doleman.

When you’re an IDP guy, talking defense for a bit with one of the best to ever play is most definitely and absolutely a “win.”

Doleman, in case you were wondering, is a total class act. Gracious and funny. I could have sat there for hours listening to him talk about playing against the likes of Joe Montana and Barry Sanders. A high point for me not only as a writer, but also as a fan.

The whole trip left me feeling two things:

The first was incredibly grateful. First and foremost to my family, for putting up with 70-plus hour work weeks and my constant talking about football.

To Tony Holm, for giving me the opportunity to write here at Fantasy Sharks, and for making me feel at ease from day one. A better guy you won’t meet.

To Jim Bukowski and the other writers at Fantasy Sharks. Bukowski gets the thankless task of paring back my nonsense into something semi-coherent, and the writers here consistently push each other by raising the bar.

You can stop now guys … I can’t even see the damned thing now.

I could go on for a while thanking the folks who helped me break into the industry or helped along the way. Scott Fish, Greg Kellogg, Emil Kadlec, Bob Harris, Collin McCollough....the list goes on and on. Without their guidance, counsel and friendship there's no way I'd be where I'm at, and I'd have no chance at getting to where I want to be.

Finally, thanks to all the folks who read my work, ask questions on Twitter, listen to me on the radio, whatever. You guys and gals make this all possible, and there’s still nothing (not even meeting Chris Doleman) I enjoy more than an end-of-season email from a reader thanking me for my advice during the season.

My first FSWA Awards also left me more energized than ever. (In that respect the timing was perfect, because as most fantasy football scribes will tell you, by January we are one beat-down, sorry-looking bunch. It’s a long season.)

I’m incredibly excited to be kicking off my fourth season here at Fantasy Sharks, and I’m more dedicated than ever to working towards making Fantasy Sharks the best source of IDP information available.

Hell, I may even write an article about offense. Stranger things have happened.

Like say, me being nominated for an award.

Gary Davenport is the IDP Senior Staff Writer at Fantasy Sharks and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. Davenport’s IDP work has been featured in a number of national print publications and on both satellite and terrestrial radio, and he was a finalist for the FSWA Web Article of the Year in 2013.