Post-Mortem: The Bygone Bureau Fantasy Football League

League managers reflect on a season of wins, losses, caring, not caring, and the inexplicable awfulness of ESPN’s UX sensibilities.

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Read the pre-season survey first.

1. Capitol Hill Profiteroles

Darryl Campbell

How’d your season go?
It went great. I won the championship!

How active were you in terms of managing your team?
Pretty active. I had 61 acquisitions, which is about 45 above average for the league and thirteen more than the second-most-active team. That works out to be just under four a week.

Did fantasy football affect your relationship to the sport?
I definitely paid closer attention to non-Seattle games this year. I also watched post-game shows for the first time in a long time to try and scout new players who were available for pick-up. And I was constantly checking fantasy scores on my phone. On the other hand, I was pretty stubborn about keeping Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate active for all of the season even though he never consistently posted huge numbers.

What was your favorite and least favorite part of fantasy football?
My favorite part was the trading and acquisition of new players — it felt like I was constantly trying to understand a puzzle. What really predicted long-term success for a player, and what was just commentator hype? Where should I keep extra insurance, and where can I afford to not have a backup?

For me, I tended to go for players who were taking over due to injuries or who had good games despite less than ideal matchups. My big coup of the year was picking up Nick Foles and Riley Cooper right before the seven-touchdown game against Oakland — those two checked all the right boxes for me and that investment paid off. I also got Zac Stacy right after his monster game against the Seahawks. Conversely, I learned my lesson early by playing the Texans and Packers defenses far longer than I should have.

The least favorite was anything that slowed down or artificially hampered this process, namely the trading deadline and the long delay between the end of most games and the beginning of the new trading/acquisitions period. I also would have liked to see some accountability for the black box of standard projections and commentator rankings, which seemed ridiculously bad at times but were foisted on us in-app the whole season without any check for accuracy.

Would you play again? What would you do differently?
Absolutely. GO SEAHAWKS!!!

2. Seattle Zunes

Nick Martens

How’d your season go?
It’s hard to call a season where I tied (TIED!) and then lost to Darryl “good,” but objectively I did well. I had the second highest-scoring team, and made it to our league championship… where I lost to Darryl. Actually, screw objectivity. I lost to Darryl, so the season was a failure. End of story.

How active were you in terms of managing your team?
Pretty active. I don’t think I completed a trade, but I suggested a few, and I submitted waiver claims for players pretty much every week. In a casual league like this, that’s really all you need to do to be successful.

Did fantasy football affect your relationship to the sport?
This is my third year playing fantasy, and yes, it does affect how I watch football. The NFL RedZone channel, which shows every scoring play from every game basically live, is way way more exciting now. I know who players like Keenan Allen and Ben Tate are. I care about field goal distances in meaningless games between terrible teams. I’m not sure these are positive developments.

What was your favorite and least favorite part of fantasy football?
Favorite: having three top-ten running backs on my team and feeling smug about it even though it was mostly an accident. Least favorite: losing to Darryl.

Would you play again? What would you do differently?
Yes, I would and plan to play again. And I would definitely change my team name. I don’t know what happened there, but I feel sufficiently ashamed of it.

3. Chicago For The Nguyen

Sarah Pavis

How’d your season go?
Pretty good! I came in third which is better than I was expecting. I achieved not just my goal for a successful season but other people’s too for whatever that amounts to.

How active were you in terms of managing your team?
Very active. Too active. Embarrassingly active. Not that it matters since Keith, who was only active in talking about how little he cared and couldn’t even remember his ESPN password, managed to come in fifth out of fourteen, it made me wonder why any of us put in any effort. Either you luck into breakout players like Keith, or you luck into players who get injured and you can’t do anything about it since half the league wasn’t actually playing and therefor wasn’t trading. Their zombie teams soaked up enough good, untradeable players leaving only dribs and drabs on the waiver wire making it a league of football-haves, football-have-nots, and football-don’t-cares. It feels like a waste to have paid enough attention to fantasy football to realize this since it means that effort was pointless. Is this how those monkeys felt in 2001: A Space Odyssey?

Did fantasy football affect your relationship to the sport?
At the beginning of the season when I was watching games and caring about my players it made me like football more, by midway through the season when things began slipping, I started disliking football, and now I’m back to not giving a shit one way or the other. Equilibrium!

What was your favorite and least favorite part of fantasy football?
My least favorite part was being beaten by Darryl when he played with three players I had dropped. I don’t know why those guys didn’t play well when they were on my team. I blame misogyny.

Of course my favorite part was winning. Unlike my losses, which were never my fault, I take full credit for my victories.

Would you play again? What would you do differently?
I dunno. I’d want to play again if there was something attached to winning or losing. Like a little money, or like a binding referendum on my relationship with whoever I played that week, or like a lot of money.

4. True Scotsmen

Andrew Gourlay

How’d your season go?
Are you kidding? After winning the “Mega Bowl” I went running around the house screaming, “Fourth place! Fourth Place!” The True Scotsmen are the FF wing of the Flint Tropics ABA Basketball team. I suggest that next year we kick out the losers who came in 5th through 12th place and top four teams join a real fantasy football league.

How active were you in terms of managing your team?
Way overly active. It was a bad idea to up my thyroid medication for the season. Although I had the best fantasy player in Peyton Manning, the rest of the team stank. So I made 48 changes to my roster, with the players performing well only after I got rid of them for someone new. It is too easy to fire or bench players when it only takes one click of a mouse.

Did fantasy football affect your relationship to the sport?
Yes, as a Bears fan I need more reasons to bang my head against a wall. Due to the lax concussion protocol provided by our commissioner in this league — I really should have not been participating in the playoffs. At least I have someone to blame if I misbehave now.

What was your favorite and least favorite part of fantasy football?
Least favorite was losing to my little brother who is still looking for ways to get payback for hanging him by his underwear on the bedpost. As you can see my efforts to toughen him up have failed, and all he can do is string a bunch of words that don’t belong together as “smack”. Best part was the laugh I got when I remembered how funny that skinny Jonathan looked in his skivvies with the elastic stretched out to a Men’s XL. Unfortunately we both now need that extra elastic.

Would you play again? What would you do differently?
Most likely yes, depending on the league’s drug testing policy. It might be interesting to see what would happen if I do not participate in the draft, do nothing for 17 weeks, and see if I can do better than fourth place. No, even better would be for the comish to create a “control” team that would use autopick and make no changes all season long. Then we could measure ourselves to see if we are better or worse than a team that does nothing.

5. Whimsical Rabbits

Keith Calder

How’d your season go?
It turns out that I’m pretty awesome at fantasy football. I ended up in 5th place, even though most weeks I totally forgot to make changes to my line-up.

How active were you in terms of managing your team?
I spent less than an hour managing my team over the course of the season.

Did fantasy football affect your relationship to the sport?
In no way did fantasy football affect my relationship to the sport.

What was your favorite and least favorite part of fantasy football?
My favorite part of fantasy football was beating people who actually put time into managing their fantasy football teams. And then trash-talking.

Would you play again? What would you do differently?
Honestly, I’d rather play fantasy basketball. Does that even exist? I just prefer basketball as a sport, and I suspect it would actually enhance my enjoyment of the fantasy game and the actual sport.

6. Sportsball Champions

Garrett Miller

How’d your season go?
I finished in the middle of the pack, just above a .500 record.

How active were you in terms of managing your team?
I was fairly good about remembering to manage everything each week, although there were weeks when I’d be walking by a bar, see football on TV, and frantically fumble my phone out to see how screwed I was.

I didn’t actually watch any football this season, but I did have one freak out when I read about Adrian Peterson’s young son being murdered. Peterson was my number one draft pick (according to the robot that did the work for me). I spent several unethical minutes deciding if the emotional impact of the murder would prevent Peterson from playing. I didn’t bench him and he did play the following Sunday, although his points just weren’t the same as before.

Did fantasy football affect your relationship to the sport?
I certainly have moments of recognition of players’ names that didn’t occur before, but otherwise I remain confidently neutral on football. It’s fun to watch and fantasy adds another element, but it doesn’t make me any more or less excited to watch.

What was your favorite and least favorite part of fantasy football?
I mainly enjoyed the online company of the others in the pool, especially considering that many were as incompetent as myself at pretend managing a football team.

On the other hand, ESPN’s fantasy website is terrible and they should feel terrible for their crimes against UX. It was barely a step above managing a spreadsheet and spreadsheets are just the worst.

Would you play again? What would you do differently?
Absolutely. I would probably do my own picks this time around, which would allow me to pick less breakable players. Seriously, like every one of my players got injured.

7. New York Thought Leaders

Richard Dunlop-Walters

How’d your season go?
Very well. I was able to finish exactly in middle place without having to do very much at all. As you know, I appreciate the finer things in life, and expending almost no effort to achieve average results is certainly one of the finer things in life.

How active were you in terms of managing your team?
My first answer hints at my strategy, but here it is in more detail: I spent Week 0 compiling a spreadsheet of players to keep an eye on, researching effective strategies, and trying to understand how to use ESPN’s website. In Week 1, and until my final playoff match, I abandoned all of that and adopted a “hope for the best” stance. I don’t recommend this strategy for everyone, but due to my expert drafting (again, hope for the best) it worked out quite well.

Did fantasy football affect your relationship to the sport?
I try to avoid having any kind of relationship with sport, so in the sense that a relationship was unavoidable for a few months, yes it did.

What was your favorite and least favorite part of fantasy football?
Winning and losing, respectively.

Would you play again? What would you do differently?
The only thing I would do differently, I think, is spend more money on official NFL merchandise.

8. Riggins Rigs

David Jacobs

How’d your season go?
Poorly! I failed to acquire Russell Wilson, which is what would have allowed me to enjoy the games. I ended up with Aaron Rodgers as quarterback, and of course he got hurt.

How active were you in terms of managing your team?
I made sure my line-up was set up nearly every week — but I could have done better. Next year, I will.

Did fantasy football affect your relationship to the sport?
I think fantasy football gives people a way to enjoy the sport without having to face how horrible it is. For instance, I picked up Riley Cooper (I think that’s his name?), who is a horrible person, and then traded him along with another horrible person for a good player. It just feels false. But at the same time, as a math game, it’s exciting. God I sound like such an asshole! Rationally, I understand I should not support football in any way. But fantasy gives me an excuse to do so.

What was your favorite and least favorite part of fantasy football?
I liked the email threads, although I rarely participated in them. I like that it is over pretty quickly — if anything, I think it should start later. I would like more stats like Grantland‘s Bad Quarterback League — we should be ranked on the events that make up the spectacle, not just the game.

Would you play again? What would you do differently?
I would play again! But I’d recruit a co-manager.

9. Washington Pussywillows

David Tveite

How’d your season go?
Not well. Expectations were high among Pussywillows fans going into this season, and frankly I don’t blame them for being disappointed. With the amount of talent on this team, we owed them a lot better than we gave. Darren Sproles in particular. What the H was that guy’s problem this year?

How active were you in terms of managing your team?
Aside from totally forgetting to update my roster several times towards the end of the season, I was HYPER VIGILANT.

Did fantasy football affect your relationship to the sport?
Mostly just in terms of destroying my capacity for basic human empathy. For instance, when Eddie Lacy got a pretty ugly-looking concussion in the Packers-Redskins game early this season, I immediately picked up James Starks off the waiver wire. And the move didn’t even pay off. I am a horrible man.

What was your favorite and least favorite part of fantasy football?
Favorite: WINNING. Least favorite: losing. Second-least favorite: somehow tying against Kevin in the playoffs. How does that even happen?

Would you play again? What would you do differently?
Yes I would. I would change things up by bringing home that trophy that the Pussywillows faithful so sorely deserve.

10. Brooklyn No Romo

Kevin Nguyen

How’d your season go?
At first, very poorly. I never expected to do well, since I chose players based on how much I liked them rather than how many points they might score, but losing the first eight games straight was more than disappointing. But things turned around, and I ended up in tenth after winning the last four of my five regular season games, winning a playoff matchup, and eventually tying David’s team in the second playoff game. My team was actually quite good by the end of it, so I am awarding myself Most Improved

How active were you in terms of managing your team?
Truthfully, I meant to be more active at the beginning of the season, but I wasn’t simply because I couldn’t figure out how to use ESPN’s fantasy football site. It’s really a UX nightmare.

The iPhone app is actually much better (though not great), and once I downloaded that, I was able to manage my fantasy football team like an adult. Midway through the season, I started being smart about my pick-ups too. My real weakness was at the running back position, so I started grabbing free agents on waiver that had good games. This, it turned out, was not a great strategy, because a lot of players with big individual games just turned out to be flukes. Once I started choosing running backs that showed steady improvement, I ended up with a much stronger rushing core. My best get was Cordarelle Patterson on the Vikings. He scored a touchdown in each of the last five games of the season!

Did fantasy football affect your relationship to the sport?
Probably similar to everyone else that played, I was watching more games between teams that I had very little interest in. I think I was always destined to watch more football this year than last, since I finally had a convenient, legal way to see the games in the NFL Sunday Ticket package, as opposed to last year, when I spent most of my Sunday afternoons closing dozens of pop-up ads from illegal pirate feeds. But playing fantasy definitely contributed to a broader interest in the sport.

What was your favorite and least favorite part of fantasy football?
I didn’t really care so much about winning or losing — mostly because I was doing the latter for the majority of the season — but the best parts were when my acquisitions played well. I mentioned Cordarelle Patterson, but I also got a lot of production out of Danny Woodhead and Andre Ellington.

Would you play again? What would you do differently?
I’d definitely do fantasy again. I think I’d prefer strong running backs over having great wide receivers, since running backs play much more consistently. And I’d be more active in the early season. I’m feeling a lot more confident in my managing abilities now, and I think I could finish top 4 next year.

Still, I might try and draft a team similar to the one I had at the end of this season. As a Seahawks fan, I spent most of the season being very proud I had my favorite quarterback, Russell Wilson, and my favorite defense, which was obviously Seattle’s.

11. Connecticut Diaper Genies

Jonathan Gourlay

How’d your season go?
After beating my brother by one point in the first week and thusly proving, mano-a-mano, which brother has a monopoly on the testosterone, my season went downhill.

How active were you in terms of managing your team?
I was active. The more active I was, the worse my team performed. As my big draft picks, CJ Spiller and Matt Ryan, totally tanked, I needed to compensate by predicting second-stringers who might break out for a game and get me some points. Needless to say, my long-shots never quite worked out.

Did fantasy football affect your relationship to the sport?
When has treating human beings as mere numbers ever gone wrong?

What was your favorite and least favorite part of fantasy football?
I guess I feel like a Cleveland Brown — as soon as you start losing and you know your season is going to tank, it’s difficult to keep your head in the game.

Would you play again? What would you do differently?
I have played every year for the past few seasons because it is the main way my brother and I communicate. Plus, beating him in fantasy football feels like payback for the time he hung me on the bedpost by my underwear.

What I will do differently in the Bygone Bureau League next year is send all you arty-farty aesthetes scurrying back to your chic Brooklyn hovels like little hipster chipmunks. You’ll be quivering in your Peruvian ukulele cases and whimpering into your chocolate micro-brew. Issues? I don’t have issues. My only issue is figuring out how much to beat you by next year without embarrassing you so badly that you need therapy.

12. 15 Best Fantasy Team Names

Aaron Cohen

How’d your season go?
Not great, Bob.

How active were you in terms of managing your team?
Once a week.

Did fantasy football affect your relationship to the sport?
No.

What was your favorite and least favorite part of fantasy football?
I didn’t have a favorite part, but my least favorite part was Kevin not creating some way for everyone in the league to email each other. Kevin!

Would you play again? What would you do differently?
Oh yeah! I’d win more games probably. I can’t win fewer.

13. Meadville Ladyhips

Nathan Pensky

How’d your season go?
Pretty well?

How active were you in terms of managing your team?
Well, I did absolutely nothing for this fantasy football league beyond naming my team. I aggressively did nothing. Someone even tried to contact me to trade (is that the right term?) one of my players, and I didn’t even respond. (Sorry Sarah. I wasn’t trying to be rude. I just really didn’t want to do anything at all.) I’m realizing now that I should have named my team “the Nihilists,” because my players, figments of a computer’s imagination though they were, truly believed in nothing.

And yet in spite of doing nothing, absolutely nothing, I somehow managed to finish second to last. I didn’t lose! I BEAT HALLIE! WHO ALSO PROBABLY DID NOTHING? USA! USA! So what this means is that if I do nothing, I have some chance of beating other people who also do nothing. I’m the best at doing nothing!

And that’s kind of great, when you think about it. It’s great, because it’s both fair and totally unpredictable. In the do-nothing game, no one has the advantage, and no one is the underdog. When the contest is reduced to bare probabilities, anything is possible within the confines of the game.

I guess, what I’m trying to say is that I played the game my way and came out the victor. This was classic Nathan Pensky fantasy football. My team had a lot of heart and/or no heart, and they left it all out on the field. Half-lidded eyes, empty hearts might lose (but might not?).

I’d like to thank God and my mom, who have always supported me in doing nothing, and Kanye and the Olsen Twins and Joe Biden and Alan Alda. Big shout out to all my fans, none of whom know who I am, because their fandom is predicated on my doing nothing, and their being unaware of their fandom.

Did fantasy football affect your relationship to the sport?
No.

What was your favorite and least favorite part of fantasy football?
It was fun getting to name the teams. That was probably my favorite part. My least favorite part were the email notifications.

Would you play again? What would you do differently?
I would play again, totally. I wouldn’t do anything differently.

14. Hallahassee Bloody Stumps

Hallie Bateman

How’d your season go?
Very well, considering my team was composed entirely of amputees competing against players who had ALL their limbs (i.e. cheating cheaters).

How active were you in terms of managing your team?
I was extremely involved. Before each game I made my team watch sports movies about unconventional athletes. We watched Air Bud, Air Bud: Golden Reciever, Air Bud: World Pup, Air Bud: 7th Inning Fetch, and of course the classic Air Bud: Spikes Back. Also, Radio (starring Cuba Gooding Jr., who is not a dog). Afterwards I would give a long inspirational speech, usually paraphrased from the movie we just watched. There would have been standing ovations but of course most of the Bloody Stumps are balancing on a crutch or just kind of sitting on what’s left of their torso. And most only have one stump to slap against another appendage, which doesn’t make a “clap” so much as a dull “whomp” sound.

Did fantasy football affect your relationship to the sport?
I must say, coaching a team made me think about the sport for more seconds than I ever had before. Now I’ve probably thought about it for up to six, maybe even seven seconds.

What was your favorite and least favorite part of fantasy football?
My favorite part was probably watching the movies and giving the inspirational speeches. Honestly, if I wasn’t a fantasy football coach I think I could make it as an actress. My least favorite part was probably watching my team play. It was just horrifying. I know they say in Air Bud, “There’s nothing in the rule book…” — but maybe there should be?

Would you play again? What would you do differently?
I dunno, if we did, I would probably try to get those artificial limbs for my team, or just like, at least some painkillers?