Despite the fact that I still get carded anytime I buy booze, one might say that I’m a 35 year old going on 60. That’s because I have always enjoyed reading, listening to or watching content about history. I can’t really explain it, but the fact that some of these insane stories were actually real continues to blow my mind as I get older.
But what I find particularly fascinating about historical content is the thought process of the parties involved in real-time while these major events were happening. We look back at countless events in history, and we take for granted how obvious they seemed in hindsight. Or, we often undersell the chaos, randomness or luck that occurred which led to world and society altering events.
And because I’m a true Best Ball sicko, my brain frequently reverts to applying so many of these seemingly unrelated historical events to this silly little fantasy football game we play.
Most recently, I started listening to a podcast called History Daily, which is a great fit for me. Every day, they release a 15-20 minute episode about a notable historical event that occurred on that exact day in history. An episode from last week, “The First Talkie Premiers“, struck a particular accord.
It’s a pretty typical story about advances in technology, but despite the countless stories of a similar nature, the lesson is one we as humans seem to continually take for granted in real-time in our own world. Just go listen to the episode for the full story, but the gist is about what you’d expect. In the 1920s, the only movies in existence were silent movies. Now we have countless streaming services and endless TV and movie options right at our fingertips at all times, but not *THAT* long ago that was thought to be truly absurd.
Not only did all movies have no sound, there was almost no one who believed that movies with sound were a good idea. People wouldn’t want to be bothered with sound during their movies, or it was not feasible for theaters to incorporate sound with the current technology, and many other opinions were accepted as the norm.
Clearly, those opinions appear to be laughable now, especially as I sit here writing this with one of my (way too) many streaming services on in the background. But at the time, not only was it not laughable, the opposite was believed to be true. Who the heck would want to hear their actors talk in their movies?
Obviously, these kinds of stories are littered everywhere across history, and we’re all very familiar with them. The iPhone, the internet, and countless other examples are popular stories (often ironically made into movies). But even with so many of these examples, it’s something that is still very difficult for the human brain to truly comprehend to the fullest extent in real-time as we live and breathe.
And no, Best Ball is not anywhere remotely as important to society as the internet or freaking sound in movies, but as we sit here 5 weeks into the 2023 fantasy football season, you can feel how easy it is to discount the chaos, randomness and luck that defines a fantasy football season.
Once we get the results, it feels like this was always how it was going to happen. It feels like we should have known who would perform well, or who would get hurt, or the “best” roster constructions for our best ball teams.
It feels obvious in hindsight because the results slap you right in the face, both good and bad. It feels like we know more after 5 weeks how the season will play out, and which teams we drafted will be successful. But there is really only one truth that we know for certain in this silly little game.
And that’s the fact that chaos ALWAYS reigns supreme.
Some Fun (or not so fun) History of Chaos
I’m sure you have seen plenty of these examples littered across social media through the first portion of the NFL season, but it really can be a helpful reminder as we get into the nitty gritty of the NFL season to remember some of the chaos from year’s past.
In 2021, Sam Darnold was the QB5 overall through the first 4 weeks of the season, averaging more than 24 fantasy points per game. Hilariously, he was tied for the NFL lead in rushing TDs and was fresh off the QB1 overall performance in Week 4 with 33.5 fantasy points. He scored just 57 more fantasy points that entire season, ending as the QB28. He is now the backup QB in San Francisco.
Last season, through the first 4 weeks, Clyde Edwards-Helaire was the RB4 overall in fantasy, averaging 19 PPR points per game behind just Saquon Barkley, Nick Chubb and Christian McCaffrey. He finished the season as the RB45, scoring just 22.8 PPR points the entire rest of the season. CEH has played just 63 total offensive snaps in 2023.
Also in 2021, Rashaad Penny scored a grand total of 4.3 PPR points in the first 12 weeks of the season. He went on to average more than 22 fantasy points per game over his final 5 games, including 32.5 points in the Week 17 fantasy championship.
Those are just a few random examples that I enjoy calling back every year around this time, and there are countless others that I’m certain you’ll find amusing looking back at historical fantasy scoring. But you can clearly see the point. Around this time in past seasons, you thought Sam Darnold and CEH were some of the best picks in all of best ball, and even around Week 12 it seemed Rashaad Penny was a complete waste of a pick.
But chaos ensued and everything we thought we knew at certain points was completely wrong. Chaos always wins.
Using Chaos to Our Advantage
All of this is mostly just a good reminder, especially as players like Devon Achane, Justin Jefferson and Anthony Richardson go on IR this week, that things are going to change in wild ways the rest of this fantasy football season. It’s also entertaining to look back on the chaos (or incredibly depressing).
However, there is a lesson that I found myself re-learning after thinking all of this nuance through this past week or so.
It’s almost impossible to overstate just how much chaos rules the day in how a fantasy football season plays out. We could list examples similar to the above until our fingers bleed, and that probably still wouldn’t even encapsulate accurately enough.
But that doesn’t mean we just throw our hands up and give in to the chaos. This is an exploitable facet of fantasy football, and especially of Best Ball.
What I mean by that is this –
We know this chaos is inevitable. But we also know that many of our opponents are going to use the benefit of hindsight to downplay the chaos. We know that because, as we discussed at the top, that is what happens in every similar situation across all of history. It’s just human nature, and it’s something we have to force ourselves to fight back against, especially in games like Best Ball where we are putting our money on the line to back up player and strategic takes we believed in over the course of the summer.
I am trying to make sure I keep reiterating this to myself all year, all offseason and on into next summer when we go through the Best Ball draft season again. Countless studies will be done on the results from 2023 and folks will draw sweeping conclusions about how to build our teams next year, what types of players to target, how specific NFL teams will operate and so much more. But these results are all largely the result of total chaos.
Whether a Zero RB, Hero RB or Robust RB team wins this year is up to the fantasy gods. Whether Devon Achane comes back later this year to boost teams back up the top of the leaderboards, or he never returns to form with this injury and sinks the teams that have counted on him is sadly just part of the chaos. It will change the results, but it won’t change anything about the draft process from over the summer.
What we can do is fully embrace the chaos. Once we accept it, it can really open us up to avenues by which we can navigate during the draft cycle to set ourselves up for success.
As Bane said, “You merely adopted the dark, I was born in it, molded by it.”
If we allow ourselves to fully embrace this inevitable chaos, it can really allow us to look at this game through completely different lens. It can allow us to accept that results are not necessarily indicative of the best ways we could have drafted to give ourselves the best shot at winning life changing money.
Obviously nothing here is super actionable for next summer, but more so a good reminder of what this game of Best Ball really is. And what it really is, can best be described by yet another Bane quote that I’ll leave you with (yes I like Batman and history, I’m a nerd) –