Welcome to the first of many tank-inspired interviews with Tony “The Prognosticator” Holm. Tony’s the founder of fantasysharks.com and also writes the popular “The Prognosticator” column. The questions you are about to read are real and straight from the shark tank (except the ones that aren’t). Only the language has been changed to protect the literate (not really).
So first off, Tony, may I call you Tony? Let’s get some background on you for those not familiar. Where did you grow up and how old are you, etc.?
That’s a complicated question as I’ve often wondered just when do we grow up? 5? 14? 23? I tend to think the epoch of adulthood happens early to mid-twenties so let me try and recap that saga. Born in Brisbane, Australia in 1967 – the summer of love. Moved to New Zealand then Houston in the late 60’s. We moved to Singapore in 1970 where I lived for 9 years. We moved to Massachusetts for a couple years, back to Brisbane Australia for a couple of years, then back to Massachusetts where I’ve decided to lay my hat. Sorry you asked yet?
Huh, what, ah, oh yes, yes, Singapore…please continue.
I currently stand at a ripe 37, am married and have a 7-year-old son and a 4-year-old daughter. I coach my boy’s little league team (don’t tell them I know more about Cricket than baseball as they think I actually know the difference). Being a Dad is the best thing that has ever happened to me and I doubt there’ll be anything that will ever beat that experience.
I usually say the same thing about being a Dad so people won’t look at me strange. Great. So, not being from the USA originally, when and how did you get hooked on American Football?
My Mother was more of a sports fan than my Dad was. In fact, my Dad never latched onto sports like I have, he prefers Wall Street and economics for a hobby, I prefer the thrill of victory with a minor in Wall Street. My Mom was the one I always played competitive games with growing up and when we moved to Massachusetts in 1979 I got my first taste of American Sports. What indirectly got me involved in football was baseball. When the 1979 World Series came about my Mom and I would stay up late into the night watching the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Baltimore Orioles slug it out. I was 13, watching Willie Stargell in the tail end of his career, as the Pirates took the series to Game 7 and settled a 2-1 game in the top of the 9th with 2 runs to decisively put the series away. I was hooked on sports for life.
It was around then that the Steelers and Cowboys rivalry was running rampant and because I had some odd affliction for rooting for the Pirates (what does a 13 year old know anyway?) it was a natural progression for me to root for the Steelers in the Super Bowl. I remember looking forward to my first Super Bowl like it was Game 7 of the World Series. I know you’ll be disappointed but I was let down by the Super Bowl. The pageantry, the players, the game was grand but even to this day, nothing beats Game 7 of a World Series for me. I hit American football right when the Steel Curtain, Terry Bradshaw, Mean Joe Green, Lynn Swan, Franco Harris etc. were at their peak. And while I was interested in the game I honestly didn’t really get hook, line and sinker hooked until I started playing Fantasy Football. That’s right, Fantasy Football brought me into the game, not the other way around.
How long have you been playing fantasy football and can you give a quick synopsis of your fantasy football experience?
Compared to some I’m not as ancient as many may think. I’ve been playing for a little over 10 years. Started in a league I created with a bunch of guys from work. The league is still together and was the dawn of fantasy football for many of the folks you see around here. I started writing “The Prognosticator” shortly thereafter as an e-mailed newsletter. Started writing on a number of web sites and contributed to the success of mrfootball.com before we sold it to Fanball when they were getting started. Wrote for thehuddle.com for a number of years and footballguys.com then decided it was time to try my hand at ownership and start fantasysharks.com.
Mrfootball, Thehuddle & Fantasysharks. Sounds like members in a linebacker unit or Earth, Wind, and Fire members. I don’t know why I just said that. I think it was a nervous comment. Not that I’m nervous being around you. I mean you look great. Wait, I didn’t mean “great” in the “not that there’s anything wrong with that” sense. Not that you don’t look great, you just don’t look great to me. Ah, forget it, let’s move on.
Looks like FantasySharks.com has really taken off and these must be exciting times for you. But as you’ve pointed out, nothing would be possible without the great staff you’ve assembled. How did you find all these guys?
Exciting and tiring all at the same time. Hopefully the site looks like it, but this is an enormous undertaking to get right. I kind of giggle at the folks that think they can open up a fantasy football web site and reap the rewards. It doesn’t work anything near that and believe me when I say, “it’s harder than it looks”.
The staff and members here are what make FantasySharks so great. I knew I couldn’t do this alone based on my experiences with the other sites I’ve been involved with. It takes an army to get it right. I hatched the idea while waxing my wife’s car. The next day I sent an e-mail to everyone I knew that was into Fantasy Football. I sent it to everyone in every league I played in and laid out the plan. I expected a few guys to bite but my door blew off its hinges when everyone responded. They then asked guys in their leagues if they wanted to pitch in and so on. I then came up with what we needed to get the site off the ground, tried to line up people with their interests and off we went. There was even a guy that goes by the name hemol around here on one of those early e-mails.
After that initial salvo folks literally came bleeding out of the woodwork. We picked up guys that have been instrumental in the success of the site off the waiver wire. Paul Fountain was a diamond in the rough and I owe that guy a new BMW if I ever can afford it. Corey Dragge, Pat Smith, Greg Allen, Ed Leduke, Ben Ice, Terry Utterback and others just chimed in and asked how they could help. I’m deeply moved by the devotion these folks have given this project.
What are the odds that there would be 2 hemols associated with the site? Outstanding! Really I would have like to help out more, but you know, I like money (so my wife tells me). As long as we are on the subject of the site, what is your favorite part of working on the site?
Smacking Rob around when he messes everything up. After that, everything is secondary. Nah, only kidding, couldn’t do it without Rob but don’t tell him that, he’ll probably hit me up for a raise.
I guess my two favorite personal rewarding parts are writing an app that is just too cool for school. I really like the apps we’ve been writing and the way we’ve directed the direction of the site. When I see a new eye-popper, I get all giddy inside.
The other is when I write a slam-dunk Progno. I know when they’re good and when they’re not so good. It’s a creative thing and you have to sit down in front of the laptop and be excited about it. When I look forward to writing a Progno it comes out well and I get a lot of positive feedback on it. When I dread writing a Progno but its Wednesday night and I have to get it done, I’m not always as proud of the result though I never purposely try to cut corners. Sometimes the creativity just flows and it’s a great piece, sometimes it isn’t there but I have to get it out. Those times when it is there, that’s a joy for me.
I bet most people can relate to the deadline hassle. Do you get many people calling you The Procrastinator? What about when you say you’re an Aussie, do people think you’re from Austria? Well, never mind that. Let’s stay on subject. How much time each week do you spend working on fantasysharks.com? Do you have a job besides working on the site and if so, what is it? Really, what is a typical day for you like?
It’s a round the clock kind of thing to keep it ticking but to balance my life at home I’ve promised myself that I will not work on the site while my kids want to play baseball or ride a bike or do any of that stuff. So most of my hardcore work happens from 9pm till 1 or 2 in the morning but it’s constant with “Can’t login” kind of problems and advertisers wanting me to place their huge ad on our front page for $5. The site isn’t a full time project for anyone involved, we all work on it as much as we can and yes, I have a day job developing Software and leading Software Development projects in the Semiconductor industry.
Good to hear you have your priorities straight at home. Could I get a big “hemol of President” banner on your site for $5? That would be cool. Then I could say I was published and ran for President all in 1 shot.
Okay, let’s wrap this up with a few more cutting-edge questions. First, a lot of people want to know if you think this site will ever become a pay site? What can you say about that and your long-term goals for fantasysharks.com?
An honest question that deserves an honest answer. One thing I think many of you have come to expect from me is honesty and I pride myself on it. I think many expect the site to turn pay as that’s what everyone else does but I’m not so sure that’s the right thing to do. In all honesty, never say never. One day we may look ourselves in the mirror and we may all be at that point where we say, we’re working ourselves to the bone on this, we have to get something out of it or we’re done. But in today’s market and today’s climate, I disagree with the model and the tact the majority of fantasy football sites are taking.
I just don’t see them sustaining long-term growth with their models. As in a fantasy football draft I like to start a run and never finish one. There’s a good reason for that as you’re devaluing the player you’re drafting. The same rings true for fantasy football web sites. I like to zig when they zag and start a run. Right now everyone has zigged and we zagged. We zagged to the point that some of the zig’s are very curiously starting to copy our concepts and ideas to catch up with our zag. Thing is, I planned for that. We’re so far ahead of that curve because we’ve established a nice zag base to build on so that our changes will be exponential over the next season whereas theirs will be incremental. A big difference. Then just as they get close to our zag I’m going to zig and shake them once and for all. The plan is in motion … <insert evil laughter here>.
The end result should be a win-win situation for the guys that work tirelessly on this and the folks that benefit from it.
Well, it’s hard to argue with that. Well, mostly because I got lost on the 3rd zag. I think I zigged when I should have zagged. Last, let’s end with a real fantasy question. Who is your sleeper pick of the season?
Everyone has their own definition but I’ll define it like this. Guys that I think will end up performing significantly better than their draft position indicates. Since RB is gold in fantasy here are a few popular and unpopular sleepers this season. I’ll err on the side of unpopular and pick some dark horses as it’s just too easy to say I think Shaun Alexander will have a solid season. You can go read one of the other websites to read that late breaking inside scoop.
Well, I’ll be sure to include “your list” <ahem> in the article. Thanks Tony for all the hard work you and the staff/servants put into the site. Look forward to talking to you next week when we’ll be discussing such cutting edge issues as experts in fantasy football and if fantasysharks.com was partially responsible for the recession.