Bonding With the Team: How to Start a Shop Fantasy Football League

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Fantasy football. You’ve probably heard the term while channel surfing, or maybe you’ve heard a couple of your technicians talking about it on Mondays. You don’t really know what it is or how it works, but that doesn’t matter because you’re focused on more important things — things that will improve your business.

Slow down. It’s time to get the play by play on an American hobby that will help boost your most important asset — your employees. That’s right, starting a shop fantasy football league could not only be the next thing you’re looking for to improve employee morale, but it might also help you bond with your crew.

Fantasy Football: The Basics

“I like to say that fantasy football is kind of like a choose-your-own-adventure experience for NFL fans,” said Liz Loza, fantasy football analyst for Yahoo Fantasy and co-host of “The X’s & Y’s” podcast.

Loza explained that a fantasy football league is generally comprised of between 10-14 teams, but most people play in a 12-team league. There are a variety of formats to choose from, but the most common is a standard scoring redraft league.

“Every person drafts and manages their own team [in the league],” Loza said. “You get 10 to 14 of your buddies together, and then they draft and manage their own fantasy football teams through the 16 week NFL season. There are 17 weeks [in the NFL season], but most people forgo [week 17] because of potential playoff implications — like your starters may end up sitting [on the bench] if they’ve earned their team a place in the postseason. Most fantasy football teams consist of one quarterback, two running backs, three wide receivers, one tight end, one [team’s] defense, one kicker and six bench players.”

When drafting your fantasy football team, you have the entire slate of NFL players to choose from. So each of the players on your fantasy football team may actually be on different teams in the NFL.

“What do you do if you’re a Cleveland Browns fan?” Loza joked. “Are you really going to root for RG3 this year? I guess you’re going to have to. But wouldn’t it be kind of cool if, I don’t know, you could root for Andrew Luck as well? There are guys you can be personally invested in and they won’t ‘hurt’ your [favorite NFL] team. For example, the Browns and the Colts don’t meet in 2016. So you can cheer for a guy who is not going to affect your team’s outcome, and you actually have something to root for during football season. It’s especially wonderful when you have a team that’s not that great. If you have a super winning team, then you’re already addicted to winning, so you just add more to the equation.”

Each fantasy football team not only has starters but also a bench full of backups for you to call up in case of an injury or bye week. To add players to your team, you can get them from two sources: trading players with another team or the waiver wire — a listing of available players that aren’t already on fantasy teams who you can request to add to your team. You can make changes to your lineup throughout the week, moving players back and forth between starting and bench positions.

“God forbid Tom Brady gets hurt again, and he is your quarterback,” Loza said. “Then you better get on the waiver wire and pick up Jimmy Garoppolo — who is his backup — or find a suitable replacement. And when bye week comes and a player is sitting that week, then you have to draw from your bench or draw from the waiver wire [to fill your empty roster spot].”

Just like in the NFL, the fantasy league sets a schedule where the teams rotate through playing each other. Unlike the NFL, each team usually plays all of the other teams at least once during the season.

You may not be a football fan, but you know several people in the shop are — even more of an incentive to start a fantasy football league.

“Do you have to watch football [to have a fantasy football team]? No, but what fun is that?” Loza said. “I think it’s more fun if you’re watching the games as they’re going on, because the investment level makes the victory that much sweeter.

“You’re sitting there thinking I can’t have Pierre Garcon catch one more pass or I’m going to lose. Or, you’re hoping that Greg Zuerlein (the kicker for the Los Angeles Rams) makes a field goal because you’re down by three points. I think it just makes football much more exciting to watch. You get to know these different players and their storylines and histories, and it makes the whole thing intoxicating. I like to say there’s more drama in an entire slate of Sunday football games than an entire season of ‘House of Cards.’”


A Boost for Your Most Important Asset

Now that you have a little better idea of how fantasy football works, you’re probably wondering how it could help your shop.

“One of the reasons I think fantasy football is so popular is because of the social engagement and because you don’t have to manage your team on a day-to-day basis,” Loza said.

The crew gets to have a sense of camaraderie and something to talk to each other about — besides work — leading up to Sunday.

“All week long you’re like, ‘I’m playing Mike this Sunday. Mike and I are facing off. It’s going to go down.’ And then on Monday it’s, ‘Mike really kicked my butt. But, that’s OK because Sean, you’re going down. I made some changes to my roster,’” Loza said. “You’re going head to head, so you and one other team will be matched up, and then the next week you and someone else will be matched up. Everyone has a shot at everybody. It’s a level playing field in terms of being able to win or lose against another team.”

If you’re looking for a way to bridge the gap across generations in your shop — fantasy football might be the answer.

“I think fantasy football is a really great hobby that is very inclusive and allows a lot of people of different generations and age groups to come together in one commonality,” Loza said. “It’s a commonality that diverse groups of people can share. It’s great when you want to better get to know somebody or maybe understand how to better talk to somebody. You might learn that one guy likes a no-B.S. kind of approach. You might learn that through his fantasy football playing style and be able to apply it when dealing with him in the workplace.”

There’s nothing better than a little friendly competition to keep everybody engaged.

“Because it is a national pastime, it is so American and so loved, it allows us all to kind of come together and live those fantasies we had as little kids,” Loza said. “Boy or girl, old or young, it doesn’t matter; we’ve all wanted to catch a touchdown and have an end zone celebration, right? So in some small way, we get to do that.”


Ready to Start? Here’s How

If you think a fantasy football league would be a great boost for your shop, here’s some advice from Loza on how to get started.

“I would recommend going to Yahoo Fantasy — — and locating the fantasy football tab,” Loza said. “You can either join a preexisting league full of strangers, or you can get the guys in your shop together in a league and just follow the provided step-by-step instructions to set one up. They are step by step. It’ll take you through [what to do]: you figure out how many people are playing, figure out the scoring system you want to use, you check the boxes and you decide what date you’re going to draft. It’s all online, and it’s really simple. It should take less than five minutes to set up your league.”

Don’t worry if you’re not the most tech-savvy person in your shop, you can always have someone else set it up and preside as the “commissioner” of the league. You only need a team to play the game.

In order to manage your fantasy football team, you must first draft your team. And draft season is quickly approaching!

“I would recommend setting your league draft for late August,” Loza said. “I’m in one league where we always draft the night before the first regular season game. It is a Wednesday night, because the first game is on a Thursday. I think it’s a little bit late [to be drafting]. I prefer drafts the week leading up to Labor Day weekend.”

Loza said to aim for hosting your draft for the end of August or, at the very latest, the first of September. If you can get everyone together to have a live draft, it makes it even more fun!

Once your team is drafted, you can actually set it once a week and forget it, if you want to.

“The thing that makes fantasy football so wonderful is it’s not like baseball, basketball or hockey where there are games every day,” Loza said. “While there are games on Thursdays and Mondays, the bulk of the contests are played on Sunday, so you don’t have to manage your line up every single day if you don’t want to or you don’t have the time to. If you have guys playing on Thursday night, you can check on your team Thursday morning or Thursday afternoon, but then for the most part you can kind of check out until Saturday night or Sunday morning. For instant gratification, it’s wonderful because most of the results are going to be known by the time the Sunday night game is over.”

If you have the type of shop where April Fools Day is a much-celebrated national holiday, you might want to consider putting a “prize” in place for the league’s loser. Loza shared a couple of creative ideas she’s encountered over the years.

“There’s one league where the loser of the league every year has to adopt a cat,” Loza said.  “These are good guys; they aren’t going to do anything bad to the cat. But, there are some younger single guys, and you don’t want to be that single guy with a cat, right? Adopting a cat — I thought that was a pretty creative one. And you’re not buying the cat; you’re giving the cat a home, so it’s sort of a win-win, even for the ‘loser.’”

If a cat isn’t your style, maybe a toilet is.

“I know of another league where the loser has a trophy, and the trophy is a legit, old nasty toilet,” Loza said. “[The loser] has to put it out in their living room or family room for the whole year. It has to be prominently displayed in their house, and it is not a trophy of a toilet, but an old disgusting toilet. Maybe it doesn’t bother guys so much, but no wife wants a toilet in the middle of her family room.”

If you’re looking for an excuse to watch more football or a great way to get your crew to bond, maybe it’s time to start your shop fantasy football league. Here’s to 50-yard touchdown passes, claiming the next big star off the waiver wire and a fantasy football championship headed your way!

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