News & Politics

A Very DC Guide to Fantasy Football Domination

What happens in a 12 team league when you don't prioritize QBs.

It’s fall in DC again. Time for turning leaves, horse-trading, mud-slinging, and bickering over finance. Not to mention spending hours white-knuckling in front of the flatscreen, rooting for the Redskins, even when it’s complicated, because they’re facing the Cowboys, and Ezekiel Elliott is your Fantasy RB1.

That’s right. It’s Fantasy Football season–the competition is fierce, and the playing field no less political than Capitol Hill.

So Washingtonian did what DC people do. Called up a bunch of politicos, aides and fixers for advice on how to dominate.

A US trade rep on how to deal for Antonio Brown…when you can only offer a time-share running back:

In almost three decades at the U.S. Trade Representative’s office, Wendy Cutler has led talks with dozens of countries. Opening the negotiations respectfully, she says, is key to making them work.

“I’ve been in negotiations where we put forward proposals that were so offensive the other side wouldn’t even pick up the piece of paper,” she says. Her advice? Think about your end-goal and negotiate backwards.

“Maybe we’d want to phase out a tariff in five years. You don’t start with that, you would propose something like 8 years so there’s room to move,” Cutler says.

But what if the owner of a player you covet just doesn’t want to get on the market? There’s no such thing as imposing Fantasy sanctions to force them to the table. So Cutler suggests starting a public negotiation with someone else.

“Even if someone initially says no, they might feel like they’re missing out,” Cutler says.

Barney Frank on how to trash-talk your opponents into submission:

A little smack is an essential part of the fantasy season. Former Rep. Barney Frank knows a thing or two about the power of a sharp barb. Here he is on Newt Gingrich, for example: “He half-reads some future-oriented books and out of that comes a gabble that’s not terribly coherent.”

Frank says the best jabs aren’t actually ad hominem attacks. “My rhetorical style was to be a counter-puncher,” he says. “I wasn’t trying to get inside their heads, I was trying to point out the inconsistencies in what they were saying.” That’s where the crowd is key: “Nobody likes being laughed at, so provoking a reaction in the audience can cause them some distress.”

And think ahead. Even though Frank mostly worked off the cuff, he admits he kept a few choice lines in his back pocket.

A campaign strategist on crafting the perfect logo to show your strength:

A fantasy team name and logo offer critical opportunity to intimidate, so why waste it on another mediocre athlete pun and goofy picture?

Justin Griffin, a VP at the consulting firm Revolution Agency, compares the branding challenge to the start of a political campaign. “With your logo and branding, you’re trying to invoke that first connection. You’re distilling your strategy.”

That’s no easy task. “We build from the bottom up,” says Griffin. “If you’ve got a flashy candidate, make it fun and engaging. With more of a blue-collar grinder, don’t make it too flashy.” The last thing you want is a logo that doesn’t mirror your outfit’s spirit (remember that exclamation point in “Jeb!”?).

So how would Griffin make a fantasy logo that projects confidence? “Put on some bad self tanner, some blond highlights, and play off the Trump train. Say what you want, but he really does portray swagger and arrogance.”

A White House veteran on how to keep your lineup diverse:

Les Francis, deputy White House chief of staff for President Jimmy Carter, says he never lets sentiment weigh too heavily when he’s setting his fantasy lineups (he plays mostly to beat his grandson).

It’s a lesson he learned from years of staffing up campaigns and task forces. “You’ve got pressure to please constituencies and donors, but you’re trying to get the best people you can for any particular assignment,” he says. “Sometimes those objectives aren’t compatible.”

It can be hard to let go of those legacy picks, but Francis says it’s a necessity to be ruthless (sorry, Browns fans).

As an example, Francis talked about butting heads with a longtime campaign hand over a new donor strategy. “He thought it would be a waste of time and I said, ‘Fine, then. That’s your resignation.’”

In other words, as in politics, there’s no room for loyalty in Fantasy.