🤯Unknown Unknowns #68 - Philosophy and Football
Football season is back! This newsletter will be about football, but not *about* football. (No football knowledge needed).
I used to be obsessed with football. I watched every Giants game. Now, I don't even remember the last year they were good. The management made so many bad decisions that disconnected me from the team. On top of that, I found out I like doing things more than watching things.
Even when I was obsessed with football, my interest shifted to the decision making process, spurred by the book then movie, Moneyball. How are teams built? How do those plans turn out?
Fantasy Football is how ordinary Joes can play at building a team. Naturally, I gravitated to it. I discovered that the strategies of fantasy football have a lot of philosophical underpinnnings.
Fantasy football can surprisingly point to good ways to approach life.
Beginners approach fantasy football through projections. How well will a player do this year? How many yards will they have? How many touchdowns? Similarly, many people at the beginning of their career focus on maximizing their salary.
Once you’ve played a little bit, you figure out some things. You understand supply and demand and relative value. For example, there's usually 15 or so decent quarterbacks but each football league only uses 12, so you don't need to value them that highly. Likewise, in your career, you start to plan strategically. You might take a lower paying job that has more future upside. You might trade money for time, or even change industries entirely. Point is, you’re no longer focused on a single metric, you’re focused on a strategy.
Then there's an even higher level that I discovered a year or two ago that accounts for dynamism. The world is constantly changing. In football terms, players get hurt or their playing time may change. In the real world, your family situation may change, your goals may change, your job or industry could vanish.
Ben Gretch writes a newsletter called Stealing Signals and introduced me to strategies that try to take advantage of the dynamic nature of a football season.
Concepts that can be applied in Fantasy Football:
2. Process over results
3. Counterintuitive ideas backed by data are the most successful
I’d heard of all of these concepts before from people like Nassim Taleb, but I never thought of applying them to fantasy football. So much of our knowledge has a gap between knowing and applying.
Because most fantasy football team owners don’t think this way, players whose situation improves when change happens are undervalued - they are antifragile, to use Nicolas Taleb's term. You can get an advantage by favoring players who have upside that isn’t seen by other players.
The entire point is the scales are tipped in favor of a player who actually is by all accounts a very strong prospect, and so all of the potential chaos was moving in the same direction.
And that idea of all of the chaos moving in the same direction is what I think of when I think of antifragility and these “small miss, big win” picks I’m trying to target.
Most people judge in binaries and static outcomes. Is it possible to train ourselves to think dynamically and take advantage of these situations?
I wrote earlier that I knew and understood these concepts but I never applied them to fantasy football. There’s a concept called tacit knowledge, which is something you know but can’t explain. I think learning is bridging the gap between “knowing” and “doing”. Many times “doing” is through tacit knowledge, you can do something, but you can’t explain why or how. And many times you know a concept but you don’t know how or where to apply it. But if you can make the connection, you can start applying the “doing” more intentionally and in more situations.
I really enjoy Ben's newsletter because he is very meta in his writing. He writes about his process and how his thinking changes. He knows that he is intuitive, but he strives to be analytical. He constantly comes up with theories to match his intuition and then tests those theories to see if they're real. Writing helps him in this thinking process and connects the “knowing” and the “doing”.
I will also write about every situation, every week, so that I’m challenging myself to explain the reasoning behind my opinions — from detailing the specific points I think matter for an individual player all the way to extremely broad thoughts about how to be adjusting to changing macro trends. Sometimes that process changes my mind!
Questions, suggestions, complaints? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Feedback welcome.
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Leaving you in peace,