For the betterment of all of us, the positional series comes out next week. In my intro piece last year, we looked at the importance of focusing on the concepts used in the analysis being provided, just as closely or even more closely than the results of the analyses—the lists, valuations, sleepers, etc.—that we love so much. To summarize, with each league being different, it is important to be able to adapt our valuations and strategies to different contexts and we are best suited to do so when we understand the concepts and theories behind the rankings and strategies.
This suggestion is borne out of an assumption that we want to get better each year. In order to have continued success (in almost anything), we need to continue to improve because our competition is likely improving. This is known as the Red Queen Hypothesis, which we have discussed previously. A quote from that article follows:
“The Red Queen hypothesis explains that when entities are in competition (such as predator and prey battling for survival, businesses vying for the same clients, fantasy baseball participants competing for eternal glory, etc.), an improvement in one entity necessitates improvements in its competitors should they desire to survive. Once both entities improve, neither is better or worse off. As the Red Queen says to Alice in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, ‘Here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place.’”
The question then becomes, if we are all improved, not just by finding new, more, and better information and analysis, but also by analyzing concepts and process, then how are we going to get even better? Great question. For starters, we need to continue with the past improvements we have made (such as improving the ways we consume the positional series); just because they have moved from differentiators to needs does not make them any less important. Next, we need to continue to find new and better ways to improve. This is the trickier part. Applying the concepts of human behavior, decision-making, and strategy is only going to take us so far. So too is reading the articles written by our favorite internet writers. Consequently, I am proposing two new goals to help us out pace the Red Queen Hypothesis—two New Year’s Resolutions if you will have it.
Resolution One: Teach More
Outside of experience, nothing has made me better at fantasy sports than writing about fantasy sports. I am guessing that most other fantasy sports writers would feel the same. Giving advice, whether through writing articles, teaching, or any other means—if one is not only going through the motions—forces one to critically think about why we do the things we do. In "Learning through Teaching," Claudio G. Cortese writes:
“The great learning potential inherent in teaching would appear to be generated as the result of a particular aspect of the teaching process itself: the encounter with diversity, which on the one hand tends to increase reflexivity while on the other hand tends to break down resistance to change.”
We (I) have spent a lot of time on this website discussing the different cognitive biases we face when making decisions in fantasy sport. We have also noted (many times) that identification is not the entire solution. Teaching, writing articles, giving advice, etc., provides us with a potential solution for the rest of that equation. Whether it is our desire to be happy or not wrong, pride, or any other reason, we are often blind to our own flaws. Meanwhile, teaching makes it much harder for us to cover up those flaws.
Now we will still be flawed about whatever we teach, but if we listen to those we are teaching (and listen to ourselves while doing so), we have a chance to get better in ways we would not have otherwise realize. Moreover, being a teacher or writer is not needed to realize the benefits of learning through teaching. We only need to recall the last time we trained someone at work, helped a friend or child with homework, or anything else of the like, to see the ways in which teaching provides us with a way to observe our own assumptions and processes.
This goal is difficult because opportunities to teach as it relates to fantasy baseball are not obvious. That said, co-owning a team with someone who has less experience or getting someone who is inexperienced to play and providing mentorship is one place to start. Another step, if you have the time, is to write. If none of that is possible, then the internet is an excellent resource. While this might be overly idealistic, continue to use the comments section for discussion, and try to make it more about listening and less about justifying our past and future decisions. The effort involved might certainly not be for everyone, but the benefits are there for those that seek them.
Resolution Two: Learn More
Last year, as mentioned earlier in the preciously mentioned article, we challenged fantasy sports participants to learn not just the data, but the concepts as well. Another differentiator is might then be associational thinking—the ability to draw connections between seemingly unrelated fields. While some people are better at associational thinking than others, we can hopefully improve our personal abilities by expanding our learning scope.
The information age provides us easier access to different types of information than ever before, but as has been discussed previously (in Nate Silver’s The Signal and the Noise and elsewhere) we end up using this opportunity to consume information that reinforces what we want to believe. I am hoping, however, that Resolution Two forces us to break this cycle. Instead of reading the same fantasy baseball analysis we read every year (well still read that), but let us also learn from new and different sources and, moreover, let us learn about things that seemingly have nothing to do with baseball or fantasy baseball. Most people do not take this step because the payoff is not obvious or immediately tangible, but being undervalued by others only increases the payoff for those who wager on it.
For me, this is the biggest resolution of the offseason. I have tried to pick as much fruit from the behavioral economics and business strategy trees as I could the past two years, but to keep getting better, I will need to find new trees of ideas to pick from. As of right now, I do not know what those fields or ideas are, but that does not mean trying to find them will not be worthwhile. Who knows what will come of it, but the more we learn, the better I like our chances of improving.
Thank you for reading
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