While walking my dog tonight, my headphones were blasting at a safe enough volume for a middle class pre-dad to avoid a hit-and-run accident. … This is not as simple as it sounds. By mooring earbuds and sailing away on the good ship Shuffle All, I willingly handicap one of my senses. My arrogant human brain tells itself hearing isn’t important enough for survival on a two-mile stroll through the neighborhood. Statistically, this is a safe bet. I routinely walk my dopey dog in this fashion. We remain alive and well.
The threat of curbside carnage remains. Crazy and unfortunate accidents happen everywhere all the time. The safest way to avoid such incidents is to never leave the house and draft fantasy teams as often as possible through the magic of the internet (reserving some amount of time for sleep and activities in the bathroom). Boring. We need to get outside from time to time, especially because dog turds as a regular fixture in my home would surely challenge my psychological stability. Sure, I might die if I leave my home, but there’s a strong chance I won’t. I have a ton of experience staying alive beyond my door.
I’m so confident in my suburban survival skills, I believe I can impair my ears and still count on a safe trip. Pretty daring, I know, but my sense of sight is trustworthy enough to manage a 7 PM dog walk with a overlying soundtrack. Context is important in making these decisions because different situations and environments dictate which senses we need the most. For example, I’d argue that my senses of smell and taste are largely useless when my task is walking the dog. On the other hand, smell, taste, and texture climb my sensory hierarchy when choosing a place for lunch. All senses have roles to play in the scheme of human existence. Over time, we develop each sense through positive and negative feedback from their individual and combined use.
Sensory Fantasy Football
Fantasy football has its own sort of sensory experience. There are countless inputs that inform our strategic decisions and opinions of players as fantasy commodities. Statistics give us a numerical history of past performances. Game tape and real-time viewing give us insight into talents that don’t easily translate through statistics. Athletic measurables try to bridge the gap between stats and physical skills. Information from analysts, players, coaches, scouts, agents, and team officials help us color our opinions and construct narratives to explain and project performance. I’m only scratching the surface with these examples.
Each fantasy sense can be honed and refined. There are wine connoisseurs and, among them, there are specialized subgroups who expressly know more about particular grapes, yeasts, regions, and vintages. As fantasy connoisseurs, we can dive past surface level stats like yards per catch to yards per route run or average depth of target. We can start with fantasy points allowed and adjust them for strength of opponents. These are only a few examples of statistical concentration. The abyss of minutiae in our game is vast.
The deeper we go, the more we uncover, and the more we must learn to assimilate into our strategies. Whether we realize it or not, we develop mental shortcuts to help filter the wealth of data at our disposal. Our brains tend to ignore what they’ve learned is unimportant and prop up the data points that historically correlate to successful analysis. If we hear Sean Payton say he wants to get C.J. Spiller more involved in the offense, but his words never translate to what occurs when the Saints actually play games, our sense of Payton’s public statements is one of distrust. As coaches across the league follow suit, we can infer that most, if not all coach-speak is meaningless. We can then tune out comments from coaches and apply more mental energy to the inputs with real value.
Sometimes a strong jolt to one of our generally inactive senses can trip an alarm in our brains. I could be walking my dog, zoning out on the tunes from my headphones, admiring the skyline, and suddenly feel a jerk on her leash. In an instant, the music and scenery become background inputs and my attention turns to my canine companion. I immediately begin to process whether her pull at the leash is a serious concern or yet another minor annoyance in my role as her tour guide/poop butler.
Every once in awhile, a football coach or front office person will tell us the truth regarding a player or scheme. Such an event plays contrary to our programmed shortcuts, necessitating a recalibration of our coach-speak sense and its role in our strategic processes. Can we move forward trusting everything that all coaches say? Certainly not. Can we trust everything this one particular truth-telling coach says going forward? Probably not. We simply have too many other data points proving that coaches lie. With time and practice, we can become adept at discerning outliers from trends.
Also remember that all senses can play tricks, even if they trigger the most pronounced psychological responses. These dangerous reactions are prominent during the NFL preseason because we fiend for football so drastically this time of year. Our fantasy senses are largely deprived of meaningful inputs in August and we often misapply value to performances in exhibition settings. It’s certainly fun to watch Dak Prescott go ham and see Robert Griffin III connect on deep bombs to Terrelle Pryor, but don’t indulge in preseason hype based on instinctual cravings for fantasy sustenance.
Learning to use your fantasy football senses can be a long and challenging process, but it becomes easier the more you play. The wealth of football knowledge available to the masses is always expanding. The trick these days is understanding how to refine all the raw data into digestible and actionable sensory inputs. From person to person, the tuning of fantasy senses can vary wildly. Use trial and error, lean on trusted resources, and sharpen your skeptic wit to figure out what works best for you and your sensory fantasy football experience.