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Fantasy World: The Debate Begins

2/18/2009
"You can already draft Albert as a DH in my league. We're forward-thinking." Getty Images

Leno or Letterman. Batman or Superman. Boomer or Starbuck. These choices have strained relationships for years; the disputes are so heated is that there's no correct answer, just a matter of opinion. (Except for the above three examples, which have simple answers: Letterman, Batman and Starbuck.) And in the Fantasy World, there's a similar battle being waged without a definite answer: the choice between a Head-to-Head and Rotisserie fantasy league.

The choice is so impassioned in one of my leagues that, this year, we've created two separate entities, one Roto and one Head-to-Head, in order to see one the league enjoys more. That experiment isn't going to help you make your decision before this season begins. To the loosely-constructed factual evidence we go!

Head-to-Head
Description: Head-to-head is easy to understand. You draft a team and your players score points based on their performances. (Ex: A single is worth one point, a win worth ten, etc.) During a set period of time, in most cases a week, your team is playing another owner's team. Whoever has the most points at the end of the time period wins that week. The best records at the end of the year get into the post-season, where a champion is decided in standard brackets. In short, it's fantasy football with baseball players.

Biggest Plus: Easily, the ability to talk trash to your opponent. Since you're only playing one person at a time, you can focus your energy on making fun of their inability to draft a quality team, the weight of their maternal parents, or by referencing incidents from that weekend in Tijuana he had long ago blocked out.

Biggest Drawback: H2H leagues still rely on the inconsistent head-to-head scoring method, meaning you'll have plenty of weeks when you finish in the top three in scoring and still lose. A few leagues have the option to play every team every week, which evens the playing field a bit, but you also lose the above-mentioned ability to trash talk.

Why It's Preferred: The level of understanding needed to play in a head-to-head league isn't encyclopedic. Instead, as long as you know the big boppers and stud pitchers, you'll have a decent chance to field a good team. For that reason, H2H is the first league for a lot of people and, thusly, the only way they know how to play.

Rotisserie
Description: Roto is a bit more complex. You still draft a team of players (usually filling out a few more positions than standard H2H leagues), but in this case, you're not playing against a single opponent on a weekly basis. Instead, you're playing against the entire league all of the time. This time, instead of getting points for how a singular player does on the field, you're getting points based on how your entire team does in a specific category. (Categories like home runs and batting average for hitters, strikeouts and wins for pitchers.) If you're in a standard 10-team league, you get 10 points for finishing 1st in a certain category, 9 points for 2nd place, and so on. Whoever has the most points at the end of the year across all of the categories wins.

Biggest Plus: It gives you a deeper knowledge of the game, because you'll have to pay attention to more than just your standard home run hitters and strikeout artists. You need to know what bottom-of-the-order hitters steal a handful of bases every year and what middle relievers will give you consistent innings of low ERA and WHIP.

Biggest Drawback: A lot of the drama is taken out of the game. Since we're talking about a stats that build on top of each other, day after day, usually by the time the All Star Break rolls around you know if you have a chance to win or not. And since there's no playoff to finish the year, there's no way for the 6th best team to get hot, run the table, and take away the championship.

Why It's Preferred: Not only does it have prestige attached to it—this version of the game has been traced back to 1979, when writer Daniel Okrent got some of his friends together at the New York City restaurant, La Rotisserie Française (where the name "Roto" comes from) to have a little fun with stats—but it's also considered a better way to gauge the quality of a fantasy GM, since the luck of playing a weak schedule is accounted for.

Conclusion: It really depends on what you enjoy about the game. If you're into the thrill of a walk-off home run victory or the agony of blown save on Sunday night defeat, then you won't mind giving up the more accurate method of scoring for a head-to-head playoff system. But if you're into cold, hard statistics (you're the "Nate Silver" of your group of friends), then you'll be more into Roto. In order words, it's Kirk or Spock. And since I'm a Virgo, I'm taking the one who's not responsible for this.

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Player on My Team of the Week: Shayne Graham, my fantasy kicker last year, who got the franchise tag from the Bengals despite, you know, being a kicker. It suddenly seems to me like a good barometer for judging the intelligence of an NFL front office is whether or not they choose their kicker to place their franchise tag on. If they do, they're not. (This website made a video of him cooking once, apparently.)

How to Heckle Me of the Week: Here's a nice little heckle directed towards me in response to a column I wrote a few weeks ago. From commenter Jholm003: "This was terribly written. If this man is seriously getting paid to do this, I will punch the next idiot-shaped thing that I come across." It works on so many levels.

How to Fix the Chicago Bears of the Week: Maybe it's time to actually get a decent quarterback behind center. Say, Jeff Garcia. He's available now. His hard-and-sometimes-bloody-nosed attitude would fit right in with Chi-town. And the fact that he's already 39 years old should be offset by the fact that he'd be bringing the 2004 Playmate of the Year to town with him.

Buy High: That Watchmen will rule, after we saw the latest viral game that was released onto the Internet, this decent mock-up of an old 70s—more like 80s—arcade game. Ten thumbs up to the first person who correctly identifies the old side-scroller this parody was clearly based on. Side note: Malin Ackerman? Hot.

Sell Low: Rewarding innovation in advertising, after Chicago divorce attorneys Fetman, Garland, and Associates posted a billboard with the slogan: "Life's short. Get a divorce." The billboard has since been taken down.