The game inside the game: Noah Pearlstein’s gameplan and experience

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For six months of the year, from early September to the first week of February, Sunday becomes “Football Sunday.”

Often referred to as “America’s game,” professional football is played under the NFL in twenty-two states, featuring thirty-two teams whose individual net worths sum to a whopping sixty-one billion dollars (ousting both the NBA and MLB). The NFL is a huge company and, likewise, football is a huge industry that possesses a lot of influence over  a large number of fans. In fact, many believe football is almost unmatched when it comes to the level of rivalries and fan interaction that is ignited. The rivalries, for the most part, are due to short seasons of only sixteen games and schedules that feature the same three divisional teams twice per season. These rivalries create immense excitement for many football games, but the majority of fan interaction can be traced to fantasy football, a cohort of virtual games that earn people points based on players’ statistical outputs.

Fantasy football is “the game inside the game.” It’s an “incredibly unique and intensive way to peak [your] interest” into the “professional football season,” junior Noah Pearlstein explained.

“I’ve been playing fantasy football for around 6 years, playing in my first league when I was 10 years old with friends from sleepaway camp,” Noah said. “Fantasy football enables players to act as an NFL General Manager… [they] can draft their team as they’d like and add or drop players from their team throughout the football season while playing against friends and even family.”

Both assiduous statistical analysts and occasional viewers can find competition, friendly or not, in the vast world of Fantasy Football. The virtual games it encompasses include the selection of a team of NFL players through a draft or a weekly auction that faces off against other people’s teams either one on one or all for themselves. Noah describes his “skill level as a fantasy football player… pretty high.”

Noah has offered some insight into his success and experience in this intersection of the NFL and fervent fan interaction. In preparation for the NFL Fantasy Football season, Noah said, “[I] read a few ESPN articles on “sleepers” (players that are overlooked in drafts) and players to avoid drafting in early rounds.” This step allows Noah to vet for potential breakout fantasy stars to players that will likely not perform as advertised. One factor that not enough fantasy football players consider that is a part of Noah’s process is looking specifically for players who are “playing [against] teams with worse defenses, specifically worse run and pass efficiency on defense” each week. These players “typically perform above their average, statistically.”

Noah has compiled a list of five rules that have helped him succeed. They are:

  1. Ensure that starter’s bye weeks do not overlap.
  2. Never draft a QB in the first 5-6 rounds.
    3. In the first two rounds, draft the best available RB or WR.
    4. Always draft a kicker in the last round.
    5. Shy away from players with injury histories.

With these rules, Noah has headed many winning teams over the years. This includes the 2016-17 season during which he completed a perfect season (16-0 win-loss ratio), an incredibly rare and amazing feat in the fantasy football world. Noah, however, admits that it is impossible to recognize what sorts of turns the NFL season will take in terms of injuries and sleeper players. Where he believes he surpasses others is the “ability to add productive players to my team early in the season that can become eventual starters on [his] team.” This has, of course, been a product of research and “watching more and more football” that has led to increased “intuition when drafting players to [his] team and adding and dropping players from [his] team throughout the season.”

Most Townsend Harris students have never played fantasy football and are not consistent watchers of the NFL. Nevertheless, Fantasy Football should be considered as a possible means of stress relief and enjoyment that can become a lifetime hobby. There is a lot of skill and complexity in how people approach fantasy football. In some cases, large financial sums are involved (The Fantasy Football Players Championship has a first prize of $250,000), and there are many free platforms that offer fantasy football. Here, the majority of fantasy players compete many times as a workplace bonding experience or a way to gain coveted bragging rights. This is a place to interact with America’s game and, like Noah, win leagues and maybe even complete a perfect 16 game sweep. Although there also exists fantasy baseball and fantasy basketball, Noah ensures, “Fantasy football is great because you don’t have to be incredibly invested in your lineup at all times” since games are only once a week “as opposed to basketball and baseball scheduling (games every day).” With his insight and the possibility to compete for free in a competition that that offers more than what any console can provide, there is no reason not to at least start your first draft.