Note. I have had to explain some elements of fantasy football for UK readers. If you are one of my regular readers, this is likely to be a post of less the normal interest to you. It is to a purpose.
One of my favourite writers, Lawrence Block, has said that when Person X tells him they have a great idea for a novel, and why doesn't he write it and then they can go halves no the proceeds, he replies that he actually has some spare ideas himself that he hasn't got round to writing, and why doesn't Person X write one of them and they can go halves on those proceeds?
Ideas are easy. People have good ideas about things all the time. Even you have probably had one. This post is about an idea lots of people must have had which would make millions of people's lives (very slightly) better, but which no one has made happen. Or it is a post in which I have got something obvious wrong.
I play fantasy American football. It's a brilliant game. Unlike other fantasy sports I've been instantly bored by, each footballer is only owned by one fantasy team, and the fantasy teams play each other in a league. It's exciting. It's the linchpin of a ginormous industry whose top analysts are paid seven figure salaries by companies like ESPN. I love this fact. I love that it's a derivatives industry where a player's value is separate from his value to an actual team, and that it ballooned during the recent boom in derivative trading. I love that you can have a job called 'Fantasy Injury Expert'. It's a metaphor for everything.
The biggest problem with the game, which players complain about relentlessly, is that the format starts to break down if two or three teams in the league stop participating (usually because they're losing). Games against those games become walkovers and skew the standings. Everyone gets very frustrated. I am new to the whole thing, and am experiencing my first big frustrations with it.*
If only something could be done about it! But something could be, couldn't it?
NFL.com and espn.com are two of the many sites running hundreds of thousands of these leagues. These are huge operations. All they need to do is create an Automanage function. The algorithm behind this would not be very complicated. These elements might not be perfect, but they're a start:
1. Any player on a team's starting line-up who is injured is automatically replaced with the bench player with highest projected score.
2. If no player in that position is available from the bench, then the player in that position with the lowest projected score for rest of season is automatically replaced by the Free Agent with highest projected score for rest of season.
3. A manager can disable the automanager if he thinks he can get by one week without a Defence/TE whatever, but only for one week.
And so why doesn't this function exist? I literally don't know, but I am going to find out. It seems like a small piece of computer programming would massively improve things. In fact, it's so obvious that there might be a glitch in my thinking. But I have looked for reasons and discussions and haven't found anything. Do tell me if I'm being a fool. It wouldn't be the first time.
* These frustrations are less today than usual because in a miraculous development in the league where I have the weakest of my three teams, which is really hurting at running back, someone has just agreed to trade me Adrian Peterson in exchange for Matt Forte and Dez Bryant. It's not even a PPR league.