Fantasy Basketball as Economic Indicator

For the past decade, I’ve been playing fantasy basketball with a group of guys, most of whom are associated with real estate investing. Our league’s esteemed organizer is an accomplished trader and manager, and our participants are a loose federation of professional colleagues and friends of friends.

This man even bores himself. Kinda like Bernanke.

In the salad days, we upped the buy-in to $500 for a team, which is fairly rich by fantasy nerd standards. My team has always been run as a two-man partnership, with me as silent partner and passive investor for the past few years as my work responsibility has picked up at the same time my compatriot was laid off by AIG and rendered a full-time fantasy basketball manager. Not surprisingly, we got very good when he was able to dedicate 50 hours a week to the pursuit of fake general management for real money.

Unfortunately, last year no one actually paid us for that superior performance. That, or my partner ran off to Atlantic City with my half of the take.

The advent of the fantasy basketball season is always anticlimactic. It signals the impending end of baseball’s dramatic playoff push, and most fantasy hoops players are fully distracted by their fantasy football teams and unable to dedicate much mental bandwidth to the NBA at fantasy draft time. Let’s also not overlook the fact that the NBA is quite simply unbearable to watch, filled with immature prima donnas who wouldn’t be able to assemble the word “team” from the four correct letters, even if they were presented in the correct order.

The timing of NBA fantasy drafts also coincides with a normally chilly time in financial markets. My proprietary Fantasy Basketball Economic Index, not surprisingly, points to ongoing macroeconomic struggles. I’ve gathered data using sophisticated algorithms that comb my email inbox for signs of whining and monetary weakness amongst my league’s participants. No one wants to pay $500 anymore. Job security ain’t what it used to be, some of us now have families to feed, and bonuses have shrunk, maybe forever. We actually dubbed the league the “No Bonus Association” two years ago. Clever financial geeks we are.

It appears that our league will return from the brink of collapse, likely at a lower buy-in with additional prize money for statistical category leaders to encourage ongoing participation outside the top three teams. However, if the pre-draft hullabaloo is any indication, I prophesy that the global financial situation will continue to be a long, tedious, uneven slog, much like any game featuring the soporific San Antonio Spurs.

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