Oscar Pistorius, the so-called “Blade Runner”, is a Paralympic, and now Olympic, athlete who runs wearing prosthetic legs from the knee down. It’s a fantastically inspirational story, and the kind of unbelievable, against all-odds triumph over adversity that the modern media adores. I’m sure that it’s also particularly inspiring to all sorts of people with physical disabilities, proving once and for all that they can succeed on their own terms in any field, even in the highest echelon of athletic competition. There’s an adorable picture of Pistorius running with a little girl in a dress with her own tiny blade-prosthetics. You’d have to be a monster to look at that picture and not have your heart warmed, just a little.
I say the above because I want to make it perfectly clear that I bear no ill will towards Oscar Pistorius. I understand the appeal, and I understand all that he represents. However, I strongly believe that Pistorius shouldn’t be allowed to compete in the Olympics. I’m going to talk about Pistorius, and running, and fair competition. But first, I’m going to talk a little about myself.
I have some scattered thoughts about Fantasy Football that don’t really fit together into a single coherent post, so I’ve decided to just throw them up more or less as is.
NFL ‘s season started this week, which means that, perhaps more importantly for some people, Fantasy Football season started this week. For those of you who may be unaware, Fantasy Football is a game where each player manages a team composed of real world players in the NFL. Each player’s achievements on-field are translated into fantasy “points”, which are used to determine the winner in a series of head-to-head matches with other players in the fantasy league, culminating in a final bracket that completes just before the playoffs begin. For instance, running 10 yards might be worth a point, and scoring a touchdown might be worth 7 points. Many leagues require a cash buy-in, with various portions of the money going for various awards throughout the year (overall #1, most total points, etc). However, many leagues don’t, and are played just as a friendly casual supplement to the season.
Based on a complete lack of research, it seems likely to me that fantasy sports started with Fantasy Baseball, which honestly makes more sense. Baseball is essentially an individual sport, so the activities of each player could be abstracted to the fantasy team more easily. I suppose people may have played fantasy sports on pen and paper in the old days, but they’ve really taken off with the rise of the internet, where on-line leagues can automatically tabulate the scores and keep track of the teams in a central but easily accessible location. In the past few years, as the American public has drifted more towards embracing football as the American pastime, fantasy football has really taken on new prominence. Some adjustments had to be made for football, such as many leagues abstracting “defense” to a single “player” per fantasy team. There’s some interesting design implications there, which I may look at in the future (short version: offense is more fun), but overall, it seems to work pretty well. The weird thing is how many people have been tricked into playing what is essentially a market valuation and information game under the guise of watching a sport. Read more…