Sunday, July 20, 2008

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Fantasy Olympics 101

Since almost everyone is new to the Fantasy Olympics, I thought it might be helpful to dish out some advice before your drafts. Hopefully everyone has received the "Athlete Spreadsheet" I sent out to participants. My suggestion is that you use that as a guide if you don't have time to do your own research, but I strongly recommend that you at least Google somebody before you pick them so that you don't end up with an athlete who just withdrew from the games or didn't qualify in all his events. And feel free to go with someone not on the list. That's the beauty of the Olympics. You never know who's going to win. Now, a few words on strategy: 1. The biggest consideration on every pick is achieving a careful balance between the number of events and the medal potential. There is obviously a premium on athletes with more than one event because that means they have more opportunities to win medals. But be careful... speed skater Halie Kim and skier Bode Miller were both first round picks in 2006 because they were in four and five events respectively, but both came up with nothing. Meanwhile, the winning team in 2006 was powered by three snowboarders who only had one event each, but combined for 8 points. It's a careful balance. Beyond the obvious strategy of picking athletes who are likely to medal in multiple events (I'm talking about you, Michael Phelps), my advice is to use your early picks on athletes in multiple events with at least some medal potential. Swimmers are a great place to start, as are gymnasts and to a lesser degree, track athletes. You can always pick up a "guaranteed" medal later (i.e. Women's basketball or soccer), but you'll only get one. Wait until the late rounds to take a flier on your favorite equestrian star. 2. Because of everything mentioned above, Michael Phelps (who might win as many as 8 gold medals this year) should be the consensus No. 1 pick. While that gives the person with the No. 1 pick a huge advantage, it's not a guarantee. Remember: Anything can happen at the Olympics. While none of us wish injury on Phelps, he could pull a muscle just like anybody else. You also never know what newcomer might emerge in the pool to challenge him. That being said, there are also some ways to combat the Phelps advantage if you are not lucky enough to get the first pick. Start by trying to land some of his teammates on the relay teams. That will allow you to ride his wave of success and negate some of the points earned by the person in your league who has Phelps. But remember, don't waste an early pick just to get guaranteed points. Pick someone early who has a chance to come close to Phelps' medal count (for example, gymnast Shawn Johnson, who is projected by some to win at least four medals), and save your swimmer for a later round. Remember, there are three other men on each of Phelps' relay teams. Plenty of medals to go around. 3. Lastly, have fun with this... it's not like there's money on the line. If you really love gymnastics, try to get a gymnast. If you are an avid fencer, grab a fencer in a late round. The point is to make the Games fun to watch and give you a stake in the competition. Just make sure you do your homework and know who has a legitimate chance to medal in that sport. There are some events where the U.S. team has not medaled in decades. There's no point in wasting a pick on someone who is going to finish 52nd. For further details, ask Dark Cloud about its 2006 strategy of drafting biathletes and cross country skiers. Got more insights for this year's competitors? Put them in the comments

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