Fantasy Ultimate is here. Something that has often only been dreamed about on a large scale has finally been simplified down to a level in which almost every Ultimate fan can enjoy it. As someone that has been playing fantasy sports (mostly unsuccessfully) since 1995 I was immediately intrigued, even though the scoring system was very simple for the AUDL. Of course, that simplification has presented some problems. As Jonathan Helton, Chicago Wildfire player has put it, one league is too simple, while the other is too complex. I tend to agree.
The first league to hit the scene was the AUDL. The AUDL fantasy league was very similar to the Club Championships Fantasy Ultimate League that took place last October. The Club Championships competition was focused on the same four statistics, d’s, turns, assists, and goals, but given the nature of a tournament that focused on one weekend, the two leagues, while very similar in scoring, would work very differently in the end result. In the Club Championships weekend there was no adjusting lineups, each player’s initial predictions stuck with them win or lose. In the new Fantasy Ultimate AUDL, each player has the option of adjusting their lineup each week. This favors fantasy owners that A) check their team each week, and B) care even a little bit about whether they win or lose. For me, this isn’t enough. In addition to checking your team’s status and caring about winning or losing, there should be some degree of strategy involved. I think the AUDL fantasy league will end up with the top owners rotating the same 10-12 players each week. That’s not very interesting. That’s why I’m a fan of the MLU fantasy league.
Major League Ultimate Fantasy presents some strong contrasts with AUDL. The most prominent one is that groups of people draft teams, instead of each player drafting whichever seven players will give them the most points each week. Not every team is going to have Brodie Smith, Jonathan Helton, and Jeff Lindquist on their team (if you don’t have Jeff Lindquist on your Unbenchable team, you need to adjust your lineup). In MLU, much like traditional fantasy leagues, a player can only be used by one team, not multiple teams, as the case is in the AUDL. Only one team gets to have Beau Kittredge. Not only that, but the MLU league has a much more sophisticated point formula. There is a point differential between cutters and handlers, and O-Line players and D-Line players. There is also an “all star player” formula for players that get points on both sides of the disc, though these players are penalized for their mistakes more than traditional O-Line and D-Line players are. I like that the MLU Fantasy League is more complex. I like that there are point differences between cutters and handlers. Players should be rewarded for knowing who is going to make big throws and catch big throws. However I think a player’s strong play should be rewarded regardless of whether they are playing on the offensive of defensive line, which other than the superstar option, is not allowed for in the MLU fantasy league. As it stands right now, if you have Nate Castine of the DC Current on your O-Line, and he is playing on the DC Current’s D-Line on universe point, as he no doubt would be, if he throws the winning assist you don’t benefit from that play. It makes no difference. That is my problem with the MLU fantasy ultimate league.
So how do we address these problems? Firstly, the MLU fantasy league’s problems are miniscule compared to the AUDL’s. Some players may have problems getting enough players for a viable league (though I think even four would do), but for most that shouldn’t be a problem. Though the MLU fantasy league won’t reward players when they should be rewarded (like when an O-Line player gets called on the D-Line at a big moment) the competitive nature of the MLU fantasy league vastly outweighs the AUDL fantasy league.
In the AUDL fantasy league everyone is available to each team, so there isn’t much room for variation. So what can be done to make the AUDL fantasy league more interesting? Well I’m glad you asked. As long as you’re comfortable not finishing ahead of each of your facebook friends, you can hold a fantasy draft just like in the MLU fantasy league. Identify a group of players (or even just one other player) that’s interested in upping the stakes. Then hold a draft via email or facebook. Snake style draft (team 1, 2, 3, 3, 2, 1, 1, 2, 3, 3, 2, 1, 1 etc) would be best. Each team drafts 14 players each. Each player is only available to play for the team that drafted him. You can only play one player a maximum of nine weeks each. Currently there are 13 weeks that remain in the AUDL season. This means that your bench will matter, and you can vary your lineup depending on matchups on number of games each team is playing during the week. After each week you count the number of points each team has, awarding the win to the team with the most points. Some diligence will be required to ensure that no team plays any player more than nine weeks each, but I believe most fantasy Ultimate players will abide by spirit of the game in this regard. If not a PMF will be assessed, and the player will be disqualified from contention.
I myself am in such a league. Well, league is a stretch, it’s more of a challenge with one other player. With 13 weeks remaining, one of us is guaranteed to win at least seven times. Here’s my roster:
Not bad if I do say so myself. Meanwhile here’s my challenger’s roster:
While there may be players that each of us snubbed, we’ll have to live with it since this league doesn’t allow for waiver wire pickups. No doubt some homerism is at play on each side, one of us picked a teammate from a year of high school while the other picked a teammate from a semester of college. But both rosters look fairly solid. Even though it will hurt my standings in the overall Unbenchable standings, I think that ultimately this challenge will be more fun since it’s a greater, more interesting level of play.
Meanwhile the MLU presents a different problem. I think they tried too hard. I like the scoring system, but not the O-Line/D-Line differential. Most teams do a pretty good job on their website saying which player is on which line, but if they don’t have their top players on both lines during clutch moments they’re making a big mistake. And owners should be able to score fantasy points for each positive play their player makes, whether or not they’re on the proper line. This problem is not as easily corrected for, so if anyone wants a chance of winning their league they’re going to have to do some serious research. Maybe that’s for the best since it will make fans follow along more diligently, but it will turn off some fans after struggles in the first couple weeks.
At the end of the day, I think the MLU Fantasy League is stronger. Though it has its faults, the drafting system puts it way ahead of the AUDL model. Plus with the MLU fantasy league you get to compete against your friends in a more direct way. The AUDL model allows you to compare your score with your facebook friends, but when each of you are starting the same five out of seven players each week the competition is less exciting.
What’s really important is that every fan realizes that Ultimate has risen to a new level as a spectator sport. Not only is Ultimate more fan oriented in person than ever before, the semi-pro teams are making sure that fans can feel involved even if they don’t live anywhere near a team. It’s an exciting time to follow Ultimate.