In the Queen song “Bohemian Rhapsody” Queen front man sings, “Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?”

The same question could often be asked of those playing fantasy football each fall.  With the 2020 NFL season starting shortly, I recalled my last encounter with fantasy football while reviewing current data about the popular pastime.

According to the Fantasy Sports & Gaming Association, there were 59.3 million people playing fantasy sports in the USA and Canada in 2017.  As of 2019 there were an estimated 45.9 Million fantasy sports players over 18 in the United States alone. According to a 2019 survey conducted  by the organization, demographics for fantasy sports — not just football — include the following:

  • 81% male, 19% female.
  • 50% are between the ages of 18 -34 (average age is 37.7).
  • 67% are employed full-time.
  • 47% make more than $75,000 (national average is 34%).

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The Sports Management Degree Hub clarifies that, “Of the 56.8 million players, more than 40 million play fantasy football.” The website further shares that fantasy sports participants spend an average of $465 a year on fantasy sports with fantasy football alone operating in an $18.6 billion market. That’s $6 billion more than the current estimated NFL revenue, and 4.5 times the current value of the NFL’s top flight team, the Dallas Cowboys.

I fielded two fantasy teams: The Shawshank Receptions in 2013 with work colleagues and The Dubai Deflators in 2015 after I had been living in UAE for a year — both times using ESPN’s app and website.

While my experience was limited, it allowed me to entertain the following 10 takeaways into ideal practices to maximize success and minimize conflict:

  1. Accept Reality
  2. Act Strategically
  3. Adapt Effectively
  4. Collaborate Honestly
  5. Embrace Unpredictability
  6. Lose Graciously
  7. Play Competitively
  8. Think Confidently
  9. Trade Fairly
  10. Win Gracefully

If you play fantasy football (or fantasy sports of any kind) what has your experience been — and what tips would you share with others interested in participating?

Sometimes you can say more with music than you can with words.

In that spirit, I am today launching a new feature on this blog in which I will showcase a musical selection on Mondays appropriately titled Music Mondays.

Cover of the Carmina Burana Score (Showing the Wheel of Fortuna)Due to the nature of my schedule, there might not be an entry here on every Monday, but whenever the mood strikes, there is some thematic relevance, or some especially poignant purpose in doing so, you will find music here for your aural enjoyment.

This selection — the opening movement of German composer Carl Orff‘s “Carmina Burana” — is a “scenic cantata” and is based on 24 poems from the medieval collection Carmina Burana.

This piece — which deals with the idea of fate (fortuna) — was chosen because today is the 60th birthday of Bill Belichick, the head coach of my favorite NFL team, the New England Patriots.

According to his official biography on the Patriots website, Belichick, who is in his 37th season as an NFL coach, is:

Bill Belichick (Darth Hoodie) Prowls the Sidelines“The only head coach in NFL history to win three Super Bowl championships in a four-year span. He currently ranks 10th all time with 177 total victories as a head coach. His winning percentage of .639 ranks third in NFL history among coaches with 150 or more wins, trailing only George Halas (.682) and Don Shula (.666).”

How’s that for good fortuna? Of course, there have also been struggles, but, Belichick took a team from the bottom of the NFL and made it a championship contender. This piece is also played at each Patriot’s home game as the players enter the field.

Lastly, Belichick casts a rather “ominous” presence while on the sidelines during games and, due to his frequent wearing of hoodies, has often been called “Darth Hoodie” (a reference to Darth Vader).

And so, without further adieu, here is O Fortuna for you to hear:

What’s your (un)lucky number?

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Yesterday, while volunteering during my younger son Max’s visit to his school’s library, we found and read through a Boston Celtics book together. On the cover of the book was a picture of  the Celtics playing the Chicago Bulls. When Max, who loves basketball and is playing in a youth league, saw the picture, he exclaimed “that’s my team!”

He then added that he wears jersey number 13 (presently worn by Joakim Noah), to which I joked “unlucky 13?!” Being a week shy of 6, Max looked at me and said “what does that mean?”

I realized our cultural dislike (in some cases fear) of the number 13 — which, in Greek, is called triskaidekaphobia — is learned. But why does our culture dislike the number 13? Since today is “Friday the 13th,” another common fear (called paraskevidekatriaphobia in Greek), I wanted to briefly explore some of the origins for these irrational ideas. Below are some snippets of insights I collected:

According to the USA Today article, Three Friday the 13ths, 13 weeks apart, a rarity, “for many pagans, 13 is a lucky number, because it corresponds with the number of full moons each year.” Interesting, the same USA Today article adds, the following:

“The number 13 and Friday are recurring presences in mythological, spiritual and religious tradition. In Christianity, 13 people attended the Last Supper before Judas’ betrayal and Jesus’ death on a Friday. A Norse myth warns of dire consequences for dining in groups of 13. Friday the 13th was the date the medieval Knights Templar were imprisoned.”

 An About.com article, “Why Friday the 13th Is Unlucky,” offers these unique insights:

“…the number 13 may have been purposely vilified by the founders of patriarchal religions in the early days of western civilization because it represented femininity. Thirteen had been revered in prehistoric goddess-worshiping cultures, we are told, because it corresponded to the number of lunar (menstrual) cycles in a year (13 x 28 = 364 days).”

“Twelve gods were invited to a banquet at Valhalla. Loki, the Evil One, god of mischief, had been left off the guest list but crashed the party, bringing the total number of attendees to 13. True to character, Loki raised hell by inciting Hod, the blind god of winter, to attack Balder the Good, who was a favorite of the gods. Hod took a spear of mistletoe offered by Loki and obediently hurled it at Balder, killing him instantly. All Valhalla grieved.”

“As if to prove the point, the Bible tells us there were exactly 13 present at the Last Supper. One of the dinner guests — er, disciples — betrayed Jesus Christ, setting the stage for the Crucifixion.”

Michael Shermer  — Founding Publisher of Skeptic magazine, Executive Director of the Skeptics Society, and columnist for Scientific American — examines the reasons “why people believe strange things” in his February 2006 TED Talk (presented below). You can also watch it on the TED website and follow along with an interactive transcript).

In his speech he addresses questions such as “Why do people see the Virgin Mary on cheese sandwiches” or “Why do people hear demonic lyrics in ‘Stairway to Heaven’?” It is for many of the reasons above that people look for logic — or at least deeper meaning — in places where there might really be none.

Consider the many other fears explained in the ABC News article, “Fear of Friday, the 13th (Paraskevidekatriaphobia) and Other Unpronounceable Phobias.” Often people invent explanations for things they don’t understand (or don’t want to confront). Just think about how the world functioned before the emergence of science!

For example, the current irrational obsession with all of the instances of “316” that presumably occurred when Tim Tebow lead the Denver Broncos to a playoff victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers last weekend.

When it comes to Tim Tebow, many well-meaning and honestly inspired individuals nevertheless connect dots that don’t necessarily make sense connecting and draw conclusions that are entirely based on assumptions and anecdotal evidence. “Tebowmania” seemed to hit a crescendo following the hysteria when what appeared to be a “halo” formed over Mile High Stadium in Denver last Sunday after the team’s playoff win.

Interesting, whereas many jumped to conclusions that it was some kind of heavenly sign, one rationally minded reader of the article (who uses the name “Rotten Rodriguez”) explained it as follows:

“It wasn’t a halo. I was at the game. After Denver scores pyrotechni­cs are shot out of a cylinder in the south end zone. A smoke ring came off the cylinder then floated over the stadium for as long as it take a smoke ring to dissipate.”

Superstitions and strange rituals have been a part of sports since people began hitting balls with sticks.  For a good laugh read the ESPN article “Curses, superstitions and sports,” the Business Insider feature “The 30 Strangest Superstitions In Sports History,” and About.com’s piece “Why Do So Many Athletes, Have Superstitions and Rituals.”

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Photo Credit: “Friday the 13th” by Dennis Skley.

If you’re feeling academically minded, read the scholarly paper titled “An Exploratory Investigation of Superstition, Personal Control, Optimism and Pessimism in NCAA Division I Intercollegiate Student Athletes.

If only Tim Tebow wore the number 13 instead of 15, perhaps he could have provided additional inspiration for those who suffer from paraskevidekatriaphobia. That would be especially helpful this year since, as the USA Today article also points out, “for the first time since 1984, those three Friday the 13ths — Jan. 13, April 13 and July 13 — are exactly 13 weeks apart.”

So, if you suffer from paraskevidekatriaphobia, maybe you should start Tebowing — or consider the luck-related insights of Guy Kawasaki to whom I attributed the phrase “go luck yourself!”

Update: Despite the above exploration into the absurdity of superstition, I wore my “lucky” Wes Welker jersey when my favorite NFL team, the New England Patriots, hosted the Denver Broncos for the AFC Divisional Game on Saturday, January 14, 2012 and they won! The following week, on Sunday, January 22, they beat the Baltimore Ravens in dramatic fashion at the AFC Championship Game, sending the Patriots to Super Bowl XLVI — while, again, I wore my “lucky” Welker jersey. Unfortunately, the Patriots faced and — in an almost exact replay to Super Bowl XLII — lost, yet again, to the New York Giants on Sunday, February 5, 2012. And, in true ironic form, one of the many reasons the Patriots lost was because Welker dropped a badly thrown pass from Tom Brady — negating the Patriots attempt at a very possible come back win. How’s that for luck and superstition? I admire Welker, but clearly I will need to wear a new jersey next year!