unpopularopinion

//From the DFW Vault (originally published February 14th, 2014)

By Jeff Melbostad (@Jeff_DFW)

Welcome to the Unpopular Opinion series at DFW.  In this series I will present you with a number of my opinions that are likely to be deemed unpopular.  In fantasy football, unlike in high school, being an unpopular idea isn’t all that bad of an idea.  In fact, it can most undoubtedly be a good thing since many of the more popular rule sets today were at some point fairly unpopular themselves.  Whether you agree with me or not (and I assume most of you won’t) this series will at least open your mind to alternatives and either confirm or possibly change your viewpoint on some things.  Anyway, we all have our favorite way of doing things and that’s why fantasy league rule sets are as diverse as the people who play in them.  This is just my opinion on a subject and I want to hear your thoughts so we can debate and make things better for everyone.  Who knows, maybe you all will change my opinion.

In our first-ever Unpopular Opinion article I’m discussing the topic of Victory Points.  For those that don’t know what victory points are I’ll provide a brief overview, as best I understand it.  There may be any number of variations on the specifics but I’ll baseline with the details I’ve used just for the topic of conversation.  Essentially, victory points are a different way of calculating your standings rather than the traditional win-loss record.  Teams are awarded victory points for wins, ties and points scored on a weekly basis.  So you’d be awarded points on a weekly basis such as this:

Wins – 8 VP
Ties – 4 VP
Losses – 0 VP
12 VP for highest total points scored
11 VP for second highest total points scored
10 VP for third highest total points scored
9 VP for fourth highest total points scored
8 VP for fifth highest total points scored
7 VP for sixth highest total points scored
6 VP for seventh highest total points scored
5 VP for eighth highest total points scored
4 VP for ninth highest total points scored
3 VP for tenth highest total points scored
2 VP for eleventh highest total points scored
1 VP for lowest total points scored

So, for example, if I won my game this week and scored the highest total points on the week then my victory points for the week would be 20.  Likewise, if I lost but scored the second highest number of points (the situation most victory point supporters argue for) I would score a total of 11 points.  Once the points are tallied your standings are adjusted based on the number of victory points your team scores and has no real bearing on win-loss record other than the relative derivation of points from wins and ties.

Throughout the hardcore world of fantasy football the prevailing wisdom is that victory points are a good thing.  Maybe the best of things.  Victory points make an undoubtedly luck filled game a little less lucky and a little more skill based.  For this reason, many hardcore owners love the setup.  It awards all of the hard work that many of us reading about fantasy football put in.  The countless hours that we spend pouring over stats, player profiles, message boards and opinion pieces become more worthwhile.  But to me, while victory points do all of those things, I remain somewhat of a traditionalist and prefer the straight head-to-head scoring system.  I’ll tell you why in an attempt to convince you of the same.  Maybe I’ll change your mind and maybe I won’t but at least we’ll all have thought through the discussion and come to our own conclusion.  Time to argue.

In recent years I’ve witnessed victory points explode in popularity.  This is primarily because, as I said, it’s a more fair way of doing things.  It does a better, albeit not perfect, job of eliminating some of the luck that is inherent in fantasy football.  If your team is good enough to put up the second most points on a weekly basis but has the bad luck of meeting the owner with the highest point total week in and week out you still benefit.  That is fair.  But is fair a good thing?  I suppose it depends a lot on your perspective.  Taking luck out of the game tarnishes it… makes it impure in my mind.  We all play under the same rules and stand the same chance of luck striking at any given time.  So why the need for complicated or complex schemes to minimize such a thing?

In my opinion we only have two results in head-to-head fantasy leagues.  Either we win or we lose.  There is no “I lost but scored a lot of points” in sports.  I get that it sucks when you have the second highest score in the league but were matched up against the highest scoring owner but if that’s how it shakes out you need to take your lumps and regroup.  We play to win the game.  Not to “sort of win” by scoring more points than half the league.  It’s that simple.  You don’t have varying degrees of winning.  In this case it truly is black and white.

To me this reeks a bit of the current social norm of awarding everyone for everything.  In grade school we give everyone a “participation award” for running a race.  Kids and parents alike are looking to be rewarded simply for being a part of something.  I say no!  You are awarded for winning.  For doing better than the rest of the field not simply for participating and completing a task which you set out to do.  Either you do well or you don’t and your “award” is completely subject to that.

I know what you’ll all say.  Jeff just hasn’t experienced the downside of a head-to-head league with no victory points in place.  I can tell you emphatically that this idea is untrue.  I’ve been the victim of this rule a number of times and a couple of those times were especially painful in particular since they happened in my favorite dynasty league (OSD shoutout!).  In the 2010 season of said league I had the 3rd most points scored through the regular season yet missed the playoffs entirely because of a bad-matchup riddled 4-9 season.  In the 2012 season the 8th highest scorer ended up not only making the playoffs but winning 2nd place in the league.  These are both fine examples of why I could support a Victory Point rule set.  They are also fine examples of exactly why I don’t.

Wins, but also losses are what make fantasy football fun.  If we don’t lose some games we don’t appreciate the wins or the struggle to get there.  In dynasty this is especially true where I’ve long enjoyed taking on an existing, junk team in the hopes of rebuilding it into a dynasty.  For those of us struggling to get a foothold while starting from behind these types “unfair” of wins are a good thing and can vault us up creating parity.  I think we can all agree that parity is a good thing.  It’s part of what makes the NFL itself as popular as it is.  As a fan you know your team has a legit shot at turning things around in a year or two.  The same view should be taken in fantasy leagues, particularly in dynasty leagues in my opinion.  A dynasty league without parity is a dynasty league doomed to constant owner turnover in the best case and in the worst case to folding completely.

In a league with close friends losing to someone you aren’t supposed to can be just as fun as, maybe more, than beating someone you’re supposed to.  In those leagues I have many memories of times when I suffered a bad beat.  These bad beats have you talking about them for a long time.  I’ve had countless bar sessions with good friends where we reminisce about fantasy football.  Every time, the tough losses come up and are sometimes the best memories.  We talk about the times when one owner or another blew a sure-fire win to this day.  It’s a part of the league legacy and fantasy football IS a game after all.  Sometimes we can all take a game a little bit too seriously.

Some of you may also say that I just don’t have the competitive juices of the rest of you.  While I can concede that I’m not an ultra competitive person I’d still much rather beat or lose to another owner straight-up, mono-e-mono instead of relying on some obscure rule set that makes me feel better about losing.  Are we all so frightened of losing that we have to invent a rule set that disallows it?  Do we all lack so much confidence that we need to soften the inevitable blow of a good old-fashioned loss?

I can see the victory point scoring system having more of a place in online leagues with people you don’t know.  It’s not as “fun” to lose to someone you’ve never spoken or talked to outside of your league website’s trading system.  Still, I can’t think of a professional sport where the equivalent of victory points is awarded.  In sports you win or you lose.  You don’t get rewarded because you barely lost or scored more than other losers.  Not everyone gets a prize for competing.  We win or we lose.  We take our lumps when we don’t pull it out no matter the circumstances.  We regroup and we kick some ass the next week.  Doing anything less seems childish to me.

So whether you agree with me or not on my view of the Victory Point rule I appreciate you taking the time to read my article.  I get the end goal here but it’s just not one I have the desire for.  I’m in both VP and regular head-to-head leagues and enjoy them both but if I have my choice of scoring system then victory points don’t enter the discussion.  I also get that my opinion on this matter is bound to be an unpopular one in the hardcore circles we all frequent.  I suspect that many of you have a competitive streak in you or you wouldn’t probably be playing fantasy football in the first place.  Losing isn’t fun but it’s a necessary evil.  For one person to win another must lose, be it in fantasy football, sports or life in general.  We all just need to quit trying to make ourselves feel better by trying to win and lose at the same time.  If you have some thoughts about this topic yourself please feel free to add a comment to this article or post in our forums.  I’d love to hear what you all think.  The simple fact is that while we won’t necessarily all agree we can all put our minds together on topics and come up with new and better ways to do things.  That includes the topic of Victory Points.

So am I out on an island by myself as I suspect I might be?  I fully expect to get blasted by many of you for this opinion but for those of you who agree with me please speak up as well.  I have a feeling I’ll need the support.  :-)