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.
You know the stereotype, all the number crunchers are geeks that live in their parent’s basement. And I admit, in a lot of respects, I fit the mold pretty well. Wear glasses? Check. Heavy set? Check. Live in parent’s basement? Well, not quite.
It has been an interesting couple of years for your humble pundit. As some of you know, I have spent a goodly portion of the past couple of years serving as caregiver for my Dad who passed away last fall due to complications from Alzheimer’s disease. I had been living with him since 1997 when I moved back into the house in which I grew up for what was supposed to be a six month stay, following his triple bypass. As fate would have it, not long thereafter, I got a job about 20 minutes away, so six months became permanent. Heck, the food was pretty good, the rent was reasonable and the company was not bad either.
Fast forward to September 2010 and my family and I settled Dad into an assisted living facility. The plan was to spend the winter getting the house ready for sale, as the proceeds were going to cover the expenses at the facility. Selling a house in New England over the winter is a bit difficult. I believe it was sometime in December I was going through some papers when I happened upon a quote to have the underground oil tank removed. We had done some major renovations five years previous and I was under the impression this was already done, but since we were required by law to have it done before selling, I thought it would be best to check. Lo and behold, it was never done.
Because I am even writing this, you know what is coming next. The excavator starts digging and the Geologist looks at me and says “uh oh, smell that?” Yup, the tank has been leaking – for years and years. By the time all was said and done, just about the entire front yard and a decent portion of the side yard was either cleaned of the contaminated soil or bioremediated. The job began in May and the new lawn and driveway were put in the last week of October. The good news, if there is such a thing in an instance like this, is that it was covered by insurance. But for practical purposes, the sale of the house was delayed, not to mention it was costing me a whole lot more to live there than it would have if I could have moved out.
Intertwined in all this is the fact I have been unemployed the whole time. A couple of weeks ago, my family and I talked with the Realtor and he told us he would be able to sell the house faster if it were completely empty. So my sister, brother-in-law and their family extended me the invitation to move into their basement. Well, the food is pretty good, the rent is reasonable and the company is not bad either, so I am now the geek that lives in my sister’s basement.
I thought I would take just a little time now to outline what I will be doing for the site this season. While I will still be writing twice a week, I have decided to alternate between my two regular features, Under the Microscope and Chance Favors the Prepared Mind on Tuesday while adding a feature I have long wanted to do and have in fact started and stopped on a few occasions, and that is this stream of conscious effort I call Organized Chaos.
The site is thrilled to have extended our relationship with KFFL, which means you will continue to have access to their wonderful news feed directly from here. Lawr has re-upped his entertaining Tumbling Dice column while I am trying something new this year. Instead of the Mailbag, I am going to write Lord Zola’s Fantasy Baseball Roundtable. My knights will consist of the entire Mastersball staff plus our friends Tim Heaney and Nick Minnix from KFFL as well as some invited guests.
In addition, I have been contacted to do some freelance work for ESPN, in part to backfill the responsibilities of the Tampa Bay Rays newest scout, none other than original Mastersball founder Jason Grey.
Finally, I have been hard at work preparing the content for the Platinum subscribers. New to the service this season are a series of Excel based tools that really aid in your player analysis as well as improvements to our draft software, MastersDraft.
As some of you know, my father, Leonard Zola, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease about three years ago. I lived with him until we settled him into a long-term care facility in September of last year. Last Saturday night, he passed away. The end was a surprise but not unexpected. He went peacefully, in his mind doing something he loved so his family and friends can take solace in the fact that while we know he was suffering, he was not entirely aware of his condition.
In a weird way, this is sort of a blessing of Alzheimer’s disease as the afflicted is in their own little world, which, in a moment-to-moment basis, seems normal. In fact, the true essence of a person is often enlightened in such a state. My Dad spent the majority of his adult life either in broadcasting or in endeavors related to broadcasting. For longer than that, he was a news junkie, reading every newspaper cover to cover. This was back in the day when there were multiple papers in town as well as multiple editions. In fact, my first hint there was something wrong with him was when he would go out at three in the morning to pick up the newspaper. Reading the paper and news in general was just a part of him.
A little over ten years ago, mostly as a means to keep busy, my Dad founded what he called The Media Gang, a roster of retired and veteran participants in Boston/New England Media, Arts, and related fields. He organized bi-yearly luncheons and would send out monthly newsletters, at first by regular mail and then electronically as more members familiarized themselves with e-mail. He would include announcements and stories pertaining to Media Gang members as well as preparing a review of the luncheons, replete with pictures and anecdotes of the festivities.
At its peak, there were over 1500 active members of The Media Gang, half of whom would attend at least one luncheon a year. If my work schedule permitted, I would attend as well and always marveled at how everyone in the room was, for lack of a better word, an equal. Boston is a major media market and there were some well known personalities, most local but some national as well. But on luncheon day, there was just a room full of friends, many of whom had fallen out of touch. People were just as happy to see the behind the scenes technician as they were to see the anchorperson or host that started in Boston and went on to one of the major networks. My Dad was always reticent to accept the thanks and gratitude the members bestowed upon him. Perhaps, deep down, he realized how special his actions were and how much they meant to others, but he never showed it. To wit, at the last couple of luncheons after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, he made a point of reminding everyone he was not actually the original founder; that he took over from another gentleman and my Dad was almost embarrassed to be perceived as the founder. The truth is, the idea may have been borne elsewhere, but my Dad nurtured it, fed it and was the sole reason it grew.
In September of 2009, Leonard Zola was honored for his efforts in broadcasting, but mostly for the blood, sweat and sometimes tears he poured into The Media Gang when he was inducted into the Massachusetts Broadcaster’s Hall of Fame. Even though he was a year into his affliction, he was still completely able to appreciate the honor. I am comfortable speaking for him when I say that other than the times he spent reading to, playing with or just being Zayde to his four wonderful grandchildren and three grandpuppies, the induction to the MBHOF was the most cherished moment of the latter phase of his joyous life. For those so inclined, here is a link to his biography that accompanied his induction: Len Zola.
Earlier, I mentioned that my Dad passed doing something he loved and also that Alzheimer’s can bring out the true essence of the individual. When my sister was visiting our Dad the afternoon of the day he ultimately passed, she was sure that in his sleep, he was broadcasting. She could only hear him mumbling, but the intonation and speech pattern was unmistakable -- he was broadcasting. Not only that, one of the nurses told me that earlier, while touching to one of the tubes on his chest with one hand and pointing to the monitor tracking his vitals with the other, he asked that she turn his microphone up so he could hear himself.
Dad, we’ll all miss you. Do me a favor please and tell Mom we all said hi and miss her too, but don’t interrupt her Mahjong game.
Click HERE for the final 2010 hitting values. They are presented for 12 and 15 team mixed and single leagues. AL uses 12 teams with the NL using 13 teams. The designation "lose" means you lose the player if he moves to the other league, while "keep" means you, um, keep him. All leagues use a $260 budget. Hitting is 14 roster spots composed of 2-C, 1-1b, 1-2b, 1-3b, 1-ss, 1-1b/3b, 1-2b/ss, 5-of and 1-ut. NL uses 10 pitchers, everything else 9. The hit:pitch split for 4x4 is 67:33 and for 5x5 it is 69:31.