Earlier this week I met up with Lawr in Las Vegas where we represented the site at the winter Fantasy Sports Trade Association conference. After being a regular attendee of the conference for most of the early 2000s, I had not been for a few years so it was nice to be able to make it again. Aside from wanting to see a couple of the panels and having several meetings scheduled, the two primary reasons I really wanted to attend were the FSTA Experts Draft covered by SiriusXM and discussed by Lawr in his KFFL exclusive Tumbling and Dice, and me in Tuesday’s Under the Microscope. And, I did want to attend the Awards Dinner on Tuesday night.
The draft was a blast, though devoid of the usual table banter amongst this group. Picture the typical U-shaped drafting setup with the draft board in front. Now put a mini-radio studio in the middle, with two hosts broadcasting live. Then add in a meet and greet for a conference with hundreds of attendees, eating and drinking while peering over the shoulders of the drafters. Not exactly a setting conducive for cross table barbs. Adding to the confusion was the drafters were never sure if we were supposed to be announcing our picks into the microphone for the radio broadcast of told to the facilitator. Eventually, we were told to announce all picks into the microphone so they would be audible to everyone in the room. From what I hear, on at least two occasions, they flipped Lawr and my mic on a little early and the room got to drop in on our discussing our next pick.
For me, the highlight of the conference was the Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Tuesday night. This is the second class to be inducted. The inaugural class included Greg Ambrosius, Matthew Berry, Eric Karabell, Scott Engel and Greg Kellogg. They were joined by Brandon Funston, Nate Ravitz, David Dodds, Emil Kadlec, Peter Schoenke and Ron Shandler.
Brandon Funston is now fronting Yahoo fantasy sports, which itself is worthy of induction. What many may not realize is along with Eric Karabell, they were the first analysts to appear regularly on TV, at ESPN. Brandon and Eric opened a door that Matthew Berry later kicked in. The efforts of Brandon were instrumental in helping bring fantasy from a niche crowd to the mainstream.
Nate Ravitz has done it all in his career. He co-founded the now defunct Rototimes and was responsible for publishing The Hot Sheet, which was at the head of the class of content delivered in newsletter form. Nate joined Matthew at ESPN is now running all things fantasy at the World Wide Leader and has recently expanded his duties out of the fantasy realm, which is a testament to the quality of work that has defined Nate’s distinguished career.
David Dodds was a pioneer in the fantasy football industry, originally known as Mr. Football. Presently, along with Joe Bryant, David is the brains behind my favorite fantasy football site, www.FootballGuys.com. To me, they have the perfect business model and really took advantage of feverish fantasy football market. David and I share a kinship for spreadsheets and Excel based tools.
Emil Kadlec could have been inducted for either of two accomplishments. Back in the day, he was amongst the pioneers in producing magazines and is in large part responsible for the growth in that aspect of the industry. More recently, Emil is responsible for the birth of high stakes fantasy sports contests. He co-founded The World Championship of Fantasy Sports and built the football entity into largest event in the industry until he sold it.
Peter Schoenke is quietly one of the most influential members of the industry, founding the original Rotonews, which is now Rotowire. Peter has always been on the cutting edge of ideas and technology. He was the first to provide real-time news updates with accompanying analysis. They were amongst the first to combine providing information along with a commissioner service. Peter also paved the way for pay models to succeed just when the Internet was taking off.
Last but by no means least, Ron Shandler, publisher of Baseball HQ, the preeminent fantasy baseball site completed the class. Ron is like Kevin Bacon, except he did not begin his career in Animal House. If you play fantasy baseball, you are either directly influenced by Ron’s methods or are influenced by someone who has been influenced. Trust me, you do not have to go back six connections. On a personal note, Ron has always been incredibly supportive of my efforts, inviting me to speak at his First Pitch Forum seminars as well as being one of the few non Baseball HQ staff members to appear regularly on their site podcast.
All in all, it was an extremely enjoyable evening, featuring a slew of classy presenters introducing a slew of classy inductees each delivering a very classy speech.