Walton Spurlin spacer
The Fantasy Gerbils


| More
More articles from Walton Spurlin

“Gut feeling,” “hunch,” “sneaking suspicions” or “last-second idea.” These are a fantasy owner’s worst nightmare, and nothing good ever comes from them. All of these monikers apply to what I refer to as my fantasy football gerbils. You know them. They are the voice in your head that starts Sunday mornings when you get up and start planning to watch what is sure to be a glorious day of NFL action. The culmination of a week’s worth of meticulous planning and strategizing to have the best possible line up set in your fantasy league. They prey on that one position that you were a little leery of starting one player over the other option. You checked the matchups, the average scoring against the defenses that both players face and even checked out a few of your favorite websites to see where they had both players ranked and projected. Yep, you made your decision on Saturday and it felt good. This is the lineup to win with this week!

Hang on. I’m getting a murmur from the gerbils. That other guy is due for a breakout game! He’s been down a few games but is too good to stay down! Maybe you should switch these players. It’s only 10 a.m. and there is plenty of time to switch it. Let me run those numbers again and click on all these fine Fantasy Football TV pregame shows. Let’s see what the “experts” have to say. What we don’t like to admit to ourselves is that it’s already over and done. You’ve decided in your head that there is a basic need to mess with your lineup and will be reading and watching the coverage from that angle. All you need now is for Mathew Berry, Jamey Eisenberg or hell, even Randy Cross to make a comment about the player you left on the bench Saturday to justify inserting him last second. It doesn’t even need to be a positive comment because we as owners love to twist things in our favor (read over some of the outlandish trade requests you’ve sent or received to verify this) so we’ll take a “bench em’” from an expert as a reason to start him.

Fantasy football is as close as we will ever get to being real life big wigs in the world of the NFL, and I fully believe this is another weakness my gerbils exploit. Some of us just feel the need to make it harder than it is to help support all the time we put into fantasy football.

“Come on. Switch it! Don’t give up on improving your line up! This is a 24/7 ‘hobby’. Don’t be that show-up-Sunday-at-12:30 p.m.-no research-last-second-lineup guy. He doesn’t care like you do! Get back online and make those adjustments that show you are the smartest guy in the league.”

Yep, my ego gets stroked and I am firing up the I-Pad. There is more to be done. I can’t just sit on those decisions I made yesterday (forgetting it was made after a week’s worth of careful preparation). I need to check the weather dammit! How can I just sit here and not be looking to improve my lineup? I have to get to a Sunday morning live chat and see what’s up! I’m sure I can find at least one other person out there in the fantasy football world to support this last-minute switch. If not, too bad. They are all idiots compared to my fantasy knowledge anyway. At this point the gerbils have won the day. I am officially dead owner walking.

Now, the afore mentioned actions have undoubtedly played out in many fantasy football team owners minds on countless Sundays for countless years, so I’m not unearthing a rare occurrence in the fantasy world. What I am also convinced of, with no hard facts or numbers to officially validate, is that these last-minute lineup changes screw the pooch at an 80 percent rate (just because I have no hard data doesn’t stop me from throwing out arbitrary numbers). Or at least it feels that way to me. Our minds are hard wired to drift toward the negative results of these switches because it’s the players you pay special attention to all day long, so if it is a ‘failed’ scenario it will obviously resonate in our thoughts and thus add to the 80 percent number I use. If it pays off it is just a ‘smart move’ that worked out well and we may or may not feel the urge to boast about it later to our league mates. After all, we know this stuff, and making that move is what being a good owner all is about. When it doesn’t pay off (again, at that 80 percent rate … go ahead, run your own numbers, it works out) it haunts us.

“Why? Why? What was I thinking? I know better than that! No way I should have touched my line up …” and so on and so on.

Let’s calls a spade, a spade here and simply admit we made the lineup switch simply for the sake of change. To satisfy an inner need to ‘tinker’ with things. It’s as simple as that. The “gerbils” are pure and simply nothing more than my name for that inner voice that runs through our minds, casting the voice of doubt on our decision making process.

“Are you sure?” “Is that really the carpet you want?” “A red car, really?” As sure as I lose that week’s game by the difference in points made by the lineup switch the gerbils will start right back in. They chide me for the very move I attribute to their contribution in the first place.

Now I am not saying that there is never a reason to make Sunday lineup changes. We all know there can be any number of mitigating circumstances (game day injury during warm ups, benching, etc.). Staying abreast of all the inactives on Sunday is still a must for every serious owner. However, once that list is out and we see that our entire lineup is OK and playing, walk away and wait for kickoff. Know that the research you’ve done and thoughts you’ve put into deciding on that particular player over the others are sound ones. It seems like this should be one of those things that is so easy that the proverbial ‘dead horse’ is being beaten like a drum in this article. However, it still happens over and over in leagues around the world, doesn’t it?

There is that momentary rush of the ‘clicking’ the set lineup button after deciding that this move is a smart “game day” switch. Of course that rush will undoubtedly be replaced with that afternoon of wondering why said players point totals are not rising at the rate we suddenly decided that morning that they would. They are not matching the totals of the guy he replaced in the lineup. How can this be? It’s simple. The first lineup was the better lineup, the one that we put together by research and sound reasoning. Trust that lineup implicitly.

Last-second decisions are never a good idea. This cannot be stated loudly enough, and just think about other aspects of life when a sudden shift in already sound plans played out.

“Hey, I know we planned to go the San Diego Zoo, but I just heard about this San Diego wildlife tour. Let’s go there instead!”

Ever been on the San Diego wildlife tour? It’s goats, lots and lots of exotic African goats. You know what African goats look like? Every other goat! These sudden change-of-heart decisions are just our gerbils exercising their right of free speech. That will always be the case. It is up to us to let those rodent ramblings roll out into space unheeded. This is the year folks. This is the year that we stand by the convictions of our original lineup decisions and take back our minds. I challenge myself and all my fellow fantasy football enthusiasts to accept the same challenge. Do the homework, consider the pros and cons of each position decision you make and have the confidence to stand strong on those decisions. Trust me, they are the right decisions.