Guest Post: The Number, The Feeling, The Line

DJ Turtleface is the author of SBN Grizzlies’ blog Straight Outta Vancouver, and a contributing writer for the mighty FD. Today he brings his thoughts regarding numbers, reality, and other things.

When I play fantasy sports, I win fantasy sports. No questions asked. I’m the best, I’m the king, and I’m killer supreme; I’m a fucking assassin. My collection of championships could tell Bill Russell to kiss the rings – bitch. I don’t necessarily win because I’m inherently better or luckier than everyone else. I win because I’m smarter.

Then again maybe I win so often because the recurring, multi-sport league I play in, known affectionately as Lollipops for Children, has a bunch of guys who are, to be diplomatic, a step or four slow. Not that they’re dumb guys, they just don’t really get the fact that fantasy sports aren’t normal sports. Last year a friend drafted Andersen Varajeo in the sixth round of a twelve team league. He promptly kept him all season because, “He’s a solid role player.”

Of course that’s an aberration; not all these guys are that stupid. In fact they do learn and adapt, it just tends to happen on a yearly basis. Our first season nobody really understood the player-rater, so I, being an enterprising fellow, would only trade different positions: “I know you lose two and a half blocks trading Marcus Camby for Mike Bibby, but think of all the threes you’ll get back!”

Each year they would get better and better, which made fleecing them harder and harder. Last season I lost Not Sun Tzu and Al Jefferson to injury partway through the season and promptly traded my entire guard core for Pau – who was criminally underrated in fantasy and real life until last year, Dwight Howard, and Gerald Wallace. My team that was a nine category terror instantly became a champion 5 category monster.

But in my draft yesterday I really started worrying. It was clear that people started to get it. Players were falling just where I thought they should. I didn’t get Dwight Howard at eighth, which I was truly banking on. I tried pushing some deals that night – no takers. People were spitting out rebounding rates, projected minutes per game, and telling each other that Jameer Nelson is definitely due to regress. It was terrifying – if fantasy players are arm-chair GMs, I was playing a bunch of Lazy-Boy Morey’s.

Of course fantasy sports aren’t the same as managing a real team, but I believe there is a little room for allegory here. As advanced statistics become a more and more common means to hose the opposing front offices, more and more teams will catch on. By the laws of economics that should mean market perfection, which will almost certainly ruin the fun of fans everywhere.

I’m not against advanced statistics – not at all, I love reading guys with level heads like Kevin Pelton and John Hollinger, among others who I’m sure to forget – but at some point things become a bit unreasonable. To cross sports for an example, would anyone have really protested Derek Jeter being traded to their favorite team just because his “range factor” or some bullshit is poor? I mean I hate the Yankees as much as the next guys, but come the fuck on. And, though it’s already been commented on ad naseum,

But as much as I’d love to be able to fight the MBA, and as much as I think it would be detrimental to the character of the most organic sport, it’s probably still coming. And it’s coming faster than anyone could have imagined. If the first shots were fired by the now legendary Times Shane Battier article, then the first battle was won when TrueHoop wrote and Kevin Durant responded, only to promptly be roasted alive by Abbott’s response. I really wanted to back up Durant, and I still love the beanpole’s game, but damn, that shit was real. You can’t argue against science – it is designed to be absolute. Abbott was right, kid’s got game, but he’s got work to put in.

And yet a quandary arises. As these advanced statistics and mathematical analyses approach perfection, the dark secrets will continue to slip into everyone’s hands. Where can you go from there? If the science is indeed absolute, then there is no ‘more absolute.’ Facts can only be facts. Suddenly, as mentioned before, there is a level of market parity that will make statistics into fool’s gold. GMs cannot negotiate the absolute. They can’t explain, “This trade is a positive 1.792 wins gained for the Future Nets” when fans know full well it is a negative 2.408.

I felt this trouble in my fantasy draft last night. I said somebody talked about rebounding rates; they were mentioning after I drafted Kevin Love. They mentioned projected minutes per game after I snagged Michael Beasely, whose competition at small forward includes Quentin “Babyface” Richardson and – Dwayne Wade? Jameer Nelson came up after I passed on him, though I did snag Air Canada late, to grab my boy Eric Gordon.

Everybody forgot about young guys because they were trapped in the player rater while I watched the games. I know these boys can fuckin’ ball because I’ve seen them do it with my own two eyes – not because of their face-time with David Berri. And that’s why I’m convinced that the ultimate counter to the statistical revolution will, in the end, be good old fashioned basketball. I mean if somebody wouldn’t have been willing to take a chance on the unadulterated, pure beauty of vintage Allen Iverson’s crossover or the Kevin Durants who seamlessly integrate new textures and tones into their game even as I write today, then do they really know anything about basketball?

Cliché-city ending here, but the more things change, the more they stay the same. Get caught up in moneyball; kiss it, make passionate love for it, and cook it breakfast in the morning because it’s here to stay. But that doesn’t mean it will ever replace the original. In the immortal words of Keats, “Beauty is truth, truth beauty…and that’s all ye need to know”str

Matt Moore

Matt Moore is a Senior NBA Blogger for CBSSports.com's Eye on Basketball blog, weekend editor of Pro Basketball Talk on NBCSports.com, and co-editor of Voice on the Floor. He lives in Kansas City due to an unbelievably complex set of circumstances and enjoys mid-90's pop rock, long walks on the beach and the novels of Tim Sandlin.