Big O Tires

The neck-breaking rise and fall of daily fantasy sports


The neck-breaking rise and fall of daily fantasy sports

The apparent cratering of the Draft Kings/Fan Duel phenomenon is largely a tale of greed gone wild, with coatings of arrogance and bullying through advertising, not to mention naked avarice, raw cupidity and what the Greeks used to call “pleonexia,” which is Greek for greed, avarice and cupidity.

It is a tale of what happens when you try to game a system that’s bigger than your own without cutting the people who run the bigger system in on the goods. It’s alleged wise guys finding out that it’s easier to skirt the law when you make the law. And it’s very definitely guys who got out over their skis trying to dominate a market that was doing fine on its own.

And hey, what’s better than smart guys getting theirs?

But there is actually a greater lesson in this for all of us, and it is this: Fantasy sports leagues are best left as small, interactive tribes whose competitors see each other, talk with each other, exchange money with each other and socialize (re: drink beer) with each other. The phenomenon began as an entirely holistic and communal idea in the 1960s in Oakland surrounding the still-larval American Football League, and grew on the ground level in other sports, in bars, rec rooms, bars, office break rooms, bars, vacations, bars, taverns, and ultimately, bars.

It was a way for friends to gather and ignore the bigger issues of living (like, say, families, which are far too time consuming, expensive and always end up with the parents battling desperately for a tie in a game once it becomes clear that they cannot win).

It was not meant to be mass-produced, let alone dominated by the guy with the best algorithms. That’s not sports, that’s math, and when was the last time you said, “Honey, I’m going out. Some math teachers are getting together to raise a little hell, and I don’t want to miss it”?

So never mind the “The DraftDuelers and FanKings tried to pull a fast one” angle, even though they did. Ignore the “They got too big and too grabby too fast” narrative, even though they did that, too.

What happened here was a perverse monetization of something that didn’t actually need improving or enlarging, because it was perfectly good the way it was. And perverse monetization is the path to perdition, I think we can all agree.

The fantasy industry also made a fatal error by trying to say for legal reasons that it wasn’t gambling, which it clearly was – except in one very granular way that nobody ever addresses.

Gambling, as in finding a bookie who will let you bet on games in any manner of exotic fashions, is meant to be a solitary pursuit left best for quiet brooders. If you have Seattle plus the 1½ when everyone else is bitching about the evils of a 6-6 overtime tie, you quietly accept your incredible good fortune and start to handicap Broncos-Texans, which you probably lost.

Fantasy sports, on the other hand, are meant to be shared, but only with those in your particular fantasy league as opposed to all other people, who do not give a steaming chalky damn about your made-up aggregation of athletes and actively hate you for breaching their worlds with your relentless yammering about your alternate-universe imaginings.

Put another way, people who tell you about their fantasy teams are people who need to be taken into the desert and abandoned. And people who commit these crimes should be allowed to avoid hypothermia, dehydration and coyote dinner only by making regular offerings of alcohol and foodstuffs to those whose peace and quiet they have thoughtlessly breached.

And the industrialization of fantasy sports was the last frontier of that obnoxio-hateful social development. It used commercial television to beat us all to death with something only a few of us cared about, and it reminded us that our culture loathes two things above all others – people trying to pull a fast one, and people telling us repeatedly about things we’re not remotely interested in hearing.

In other words, even if you were planning to be saddened by the collapse of the first wave of industrialized fantasy sports, don’t. They were people trying to cut themselves in on action that wasn’t theirs, and make a national phenomenon out of a social development best confined to a single room with six-to-20 people, all of whom had the good sense to bring wine and snacks.

I mean, seriously. Why would you want to screw with that setup?

Spurs show early superiority over Warriors with sum of their parts

Spurs show early superiority over Warriors with sum of their parts

The Golden State Warriors wasted no time dismissing one of the 95 Narratives for this season – namely, the one that has them gunning secretly for 82 wins.
In a game very reminiscent of last January’s 120-90 win over San Antonio, the Warriors played the role of “90,” or to be more specific, “100” in a richly deserved 129-100 mauling. They provided a fiercely anticipatory and Beyonce/Jay-Z-enriched crowd everything they came to see – in the Spurs.
Kevin Durant? Did swell. Won a lot of hearts. Draymond Green? Had bursts of good and moments of not. Stephen Curry? Numbers but not a lot of impact. Klay Thompson? Didn’t shoot well, and didn’t do much else to mitigate that fact.
But the real failures came not from the individual components but the sum of their parts. A disrhythmic offense that highlight moments obscured too infrequently, an undistinguished defensive effort across the board, no bench presence of any kind, a casual attitude toward possessions in general and an almost dogmatic refusal to engage in rebounding skirmishes – in sum, they exhibited a severe pre-title hangover nine months before the fact.
So with all that as prelude, coach Steve Kerr attacked the media horde with a squinty-eyed “Anyone got any good jokes?”
And knowing that nobody did – at least none better than the game that had just been concluded -- he got down to the duties of the postgame presser. He broke the ice with the throwaway platitude (“I didn’t have them ready to play, obviously”), the dismissive swat (“I think they were embarrassed tonight. I know I was”), the quick nuts-and-bolts analysis (“We missed easy shots, didn’t get a lot of loose balls, second efforts, third efforts, and we didn’t play with much physicality”), said the collective performance was massively inadequate at best (“’Strength In Numbers,’ it’s got to be about the group”), and the one dagger that will be the emphasis of Wednesday’s unpleasantness (“We didn’t really look engaged, like we were taking for granted that things were going to go well”).
Which brings us to the box score, where the locals were outrebounded, 54-35 (20-8 on the offensive end), outscored on second chances (24-4), and crushed by the non-starters (54-16 points, 24-6 rebounds). Durant had a less effective game than Kawhi Leonard, Green had a less impactful game than LaMarcus Aldridge, and Curry and Thompson were not as dynamic as second-year shooting guard Jonathon Simmons, local deadeye Patty Mills and the forever-young Manu Ginobili.
In short, it was not a coming-out party for the new dynasty, but a reminder that this is not last year, or the year before, and the Warriors are not nearly the finished product they seemed to present in 2014-5 or 15-6.
Their rotation is still a work in progress, and their combinations are even further away still. Kerr has been saying as much all summer and fall, and logic supports the fact that all teams take time to coalesce.
This is not to say they are going to be minus-29 bad; that would be, well, typical morning-after media analysis, for all fetid air that is worth.
But tonight was a good bucket full of icy well water to everyone’s sensibilities. Just as a year ago, the Warriors have been crowned champions by far too many amateurs before the rite of succession has even begun, and Kerr just received all the fodder he needs to drive home an early-season rebuttal to the ones most in need of hearing it: His players.
As for anyone else who needs to hear such a lesson – well, narratives don’t die that easily. The Warriors are the most covered team in NBA history (imagine the Bird Celtics or the Showtime Lakers in this era), and their failures will resound as much as their triumphs, and it’s all background noise come April 15.
You know, when the season actually starts.

Six things Warriors can do to mitigate the looming 'Warrior Fatigue'

Six things Warriors can do to mitigate the looming 'Warrior Fatigue'

The Golden State Warriors begin their Hubris Against America Tour Tuesday evening against the San Antonio Spurs, and one thing can be safely predicted even now.

Warrior Fatigue.

Not their fatigue; they seem in moderately acceptable basketball shape. Ours. Very much ours.

You see, the Warriors have been in our faces, mouths and brains on an almost daily basis since they became an Internet meme (blow a 3-1 lead in the semifinals, people take no notice; blow one in the final and nobody can forget it). They assembled the latest version of The Greatest Team Ever, they have been castigated for talking it without walking it (yes, you, Joey “The Flying Auctioneer” Lacob). They have been relentlessly psychoanalyzed because Draymond Green may in fact be Public Enemy Number One, and they have been Curried, Thompsoned, Duranted, Iguodala’d and maybe even Looneyed into a thin gray paste. They have not been left alone for a day.

And they still haven’t played a game.

[POOLE: Curry: 'There's nothing that's going to derail' 2016-17 Warriors]

So yes, Warrior fatigue is coming, if it hasn’t already arrived. And there will no solution or cure for it. Whether they go 74-8, 8-74 or anything inbetween, they are America’s new sporting fetish, even more than the Chicago Cubs, and because America knows only one way to kill – overkill – America will Warrior you to death.

What the Warriors do about it is the Warriors’ problem, though there are things they can do to mitigate the problem:

1. Win a lot without winning at a record rate, and taking themselves out of the Race To 74 early. We would never encourage them to tank games, at least not without advance notice to take advantage of wagering opportunities, but removing that first block in the Hell-Jenga of anticipation they have created for themselves can only help.

2. Avoid high-speed cyclical dramas with Draymond Green (and good luck with that). The living embodiment of the talent-tumult scale is already the focus of the Warrior-Kumbaya-Is-A-Lie movement, and that frankly is a good thing since no team is as zen as the Warriors have claimed they are for the past two seasons. That Nirvana-in-Nikes (or Utopia-In-UnderArmour, if you must) sloganeering has been a particularly irritating part of the Warriors’ rise up the hoop-volutionary chart, and the sooner they stop explaining to us that they are so damned special temperamentally, they can get back to the business of being so damned special athletically.

3. Keep Lacob from explaining how the Warriors invented the Internet, reinvented basketball or deconstructed investing, or whatever new fanciful claim he wants to make to harangue his pals on the Silicon Valley Strip. Basketball is still essentially a pastime of players and styles, and the Warriors have lots of players and one very appealing style, so concentrating on that rather the innovation fetish that so appeals to the entrepreneur in Lacob would be an excellent public relations move.

4. Have Kevin Durant admit publicly for the first time that the real reason he chose the Warriors and offended old-timers everywhere is actually because the Sixers didn’t want to expend salary cap space on him. Or that he wanted to see water again before he died. Or that he made up his mind that he would only go where Javale McGee went. Or best of all, have him deny on camera that he signed with the Warriors while wearing a Warrior jersey. Denial in the face of demonstrable fact seems to work in a political year, especially this one, so why not have him tell a different ridiculous story every time he is asked – because HE IS NEVER NOT GOING TO BE ASKED.

5. Play the Georgian national anthem in tandem with The Star-Spangled Banner just to throw people off the “Did Curry’s eyebrow just twitch during the ‘rockets’ red glare’ part?” scent.

6. And most importantly, convince themselves that despite the mob or semi-coherent notebooks, tape recorders, microphones, cameras and zombie media ingénues that never go away, that they can remember the most salient facts about the 2016-17 season.

That they DID blow a 3-1 lead, and that they didn’t win the championship, and they’re not reinventing the mythology of unshakable team unity or the laws of basketball or anything else, and that until/unless they do win the title they tell anyone around to listen that Cleveland is the best team and has the jewelry and the parade to prove it.

Nobody will buy it, of course, and Warrior Fatigue will still be a part of all of our daily lives, but until we as a nation can mature and let the games speak for themselves on occasion, this is all we have.

Now, before we start doing something stupid and watching the Warriors play the Spurs, let’s fire off a few molten-hot takes about that Zaza Pachulia For Defensive Player Of The Year campaign...