Photo by Nenyaki
I’m changing this up today. After spending weeks profiling players and putting together top-whatever lists (you can find all the FREE data for the 2011 draft season in the Player Capsule section), I’m going to leave the field of analysis and tell a personal story. I’ve received a couple of emails the past few weeks about how one gets involved, professionally, in the world of fantasy sports. In what follows I’ll give a brief outline of my journey so you can see how one person did it.
At one point I was in graduate school (yes, you can be educated and still work in the field of fantasy sports). While I was getting started on my thesis I thought it would also be fun to do something a little “lighter” that didn’t require copious hours of research for 500 words of writing. I’d always loved baseball having played it my whole life and havin coached high school frosh-soph baseball for a year, so I contacted a few companies to see if they would let me write for them. No dice. In fact, I believe it took eight tries until I found a site that was willing to let a no-name write for them – for free mind you. Drafthelp.com and Rick Morris gave me that shot, and that’s when things started cooking. As best as I can remember…
I worked for about six months without making a dollar.
I was then offered $500 (if my memory is correct) to keep doing what I was doing (basically an article a week and some podcast work).
I picked up another gig writing for Athomeplate.com – again, an article a week type of thing.
About six months later I was making a whopping “grand” a year. That’s when things started to take off.
Ryan Houston, who I’m eternally grateful to (no one is more responsible for my success in this industry than he is), offered me a part-time gig to help out FantasyBaseball.com with their baseball product. I did that for a while when an opportunity presented itself. The company also owned Fantasyhockey.com, but they weren’t doing anything with it. Taking the initiative, I told the powers that be that I would put a staff together and work with the developer to get the hockey site up and running. They were so pleased with how that effort went that they came to me an offered me a full-time job to work for them (I basically forced their hand with my dedication and effort – and my modesty was of course another selling point). Having just completed my master’s degree I had a choice – continue on with my schooling and head down the road of PhD studies or stay in fantasy sports. You know which option I took.
I worked for a couple of years with Fantasy Planet, and it was rewarding and brutal at the same time. I remember distinctly one period of time where I, literally, worked 12 or more hours for 14 straight says (we were putting out our first baseball magazine). If I remember correctly, I think I left my house five times in those two weeks; three times to go to the grocery store, once to get gas, and once to get out of the house for dinner. Hey, it’s what needed to be done to get ahead. The hours were oppressive, the pay mediocre, but the results were worth the effort.
Moving on from there I followed Ryan Houston to Daily Racing Form. Originating in 1894, DRF was a company that had tentacles everywhere, so no, I didn’t cover horse racing. I actually wrote for two of their other periodicals – College and Pro Football News Weekly and The Sportsform – while at the same time functioning as the Managing Editor of FantasyFootballChamps (I also did a guest spot with Sports Grumblings and Head2Head Sports for a short while). Again, another stepping stone with new opportunities presented and learned. On the downside, it literally took 12 weeks for me to get my first paycheck necessitating a lot of Top Ramen and spaghetti dinners. That’s when Fanball.com came a calling.
Again, stop me if you heard this before, I followed Mr. Houston to Fanball and for the next three years we all experienced a ton of success. Our magazines were often voted the best in the business, I think we printed 11 of them in 2010, and our reach was extensive. We partnered with the NFBC and the NFFC in the live event arena, and Kyle Elfrink and I started doing a daily podcast on Blog Talk Radio. That experience, plus the diligent work of Mr. Houston, led to my current opportunity as co-host, along with Kyle and Kay Adams, of The Fantasy Drive on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio (the show is on Sirius 210, XM 87). And of course, there is my five year relationship with Sports Illustrated that continues to this day (one weekly piece on hockey and baseball).
So let me sum up the often circuitous journey and the steps/sacrifices that need to be made.
(1) You have to put yourself in a position to succeed. Sometimes that means you have to take out the garbage and wash the dishes. At the same time, every experience is invaluable. Learn all you can while you are where you are. All the experiences will help you.
(2) If someone offers you a job in this industry, and they are willing to pay you, take it. You might only be making $4 an hour if you work out the numbers, but the fact of the matter is that paying gigs just aren’t easy to get, especially with the proliferation of social media and the soapbox every moron in the world can now climb upon to spout off nonsense.
(3) Realize you’ll never get rich doing this. You had better be in it for the love of the love of the game or you’ll never last.
(4) Understand that you’ll have to work a ton of hours, I’m talking 65+ a week easy, if you ever want to “make it.” That means there will be times that you won’t be able to see your friends for dinner and there might be birthday celebrations that you’ll have to miss (good luck working things out with your significant other unless they are totally understanding). Vacations? You can pretty much forget about them unless you are talking about a quick 2-day jaunt somewhere.
(5) You really need to have a working knowledge of more than one sport. With the way the industry is moving there just aren’t that many full-time people who cover only one sport. The best way to make yourself a valuable commodity is to be able to navigate at least two sports – and it would help a ton if one of those sports was football.
So there it is, a quick outline of how I got to where I am. Hard work, some talent, and a little luck were all key. As I’ve always been told by my parents – if you put your whole being behind something you’ll never fail. So far I’ve yet to prove them wrong.
By Ray Flowers