Monday, August 5, 2013

The Meanest Fantasy Football Leagues In America

A Very Average Experience
With every year, the public thirst for fake football grows. Dynasty leagues, keeper leagues, contract leagues, IDP and PPC and super-deep leagues... it all keeps growing, and the hobby has become one of the most common and financially prosperous in America. But perhaps the greatest challenge ever to the serious player is now in operation for dozens of leagues across the country, and fans of the format feel that this is the most challenging approach yet for the serious player.

Constructing the best team is, of course, the goal for the vast majority of fantasy football leagues. And there are any number of Loser Leagues where your goal is to find the guys who will contribute the least, while, well, still playing. But it's an entirely separate and distinct challenge to make a team that is the absolute mean, finishing as close to average in as many categories as possible.

"For sheer immersion, you can't beat a Mean League," said Craig Adams, the commissioner of Hebron, IN's "Mean Machine." "In a Mean League, you need to be constantly tweaking your roster, watching to see what the outliers are doing to get back in the game. You aren't just following your guys, you follow everyone's. I've seen new owners just freak out from the challenge of it all. It's intense."

The Mean Leagues are the reason why you never see a 100% owned mark next to any player, no matter how good they are. "New owners always make the mistake of taking an Adrian Peterson or Aaron Rodgers and try to just fill the rest of their lineup with garbage, but it just doesn't work out that well," says Adam Alvarez of Holy Hill, SC. "Plus, the risk of injury is far too great. For that flat line performance that truly says you know more about football than anyone, you need to fill your roster with absolutely average performers."

How does the rise of running back by committee situations and spread offenses impact Mean leagues? "That's one of the biggest reasons we started our league," says Adams. "Things really seemed to be moving in our direction. All we need now is quarterback rotations, like you have in college, and everything will be set for a Mean Revolution."

There is one final, crucial difference between Mean Leagues and traditional fantasy: the payout. Alvarez explains. "When it came to working out the money distribution to the winner, it just didn't seem to be in the spirit of the league to pay out more than the average. So everybody gets back an average amount." When asked if that just made the whole exercise kind of pointless, the four-time league winner didn't mince words. "I think you'll find that when it comes to payout, a Mean League is guaranteed to provide a better return on investment for more players than any other format." He's got a point.

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