Trust Your Gut · 3 October 2020

When it comes to fantasy football, you have a couple choices. You can trust your gut or you can trust the pundits.

I have been participating in fantasy football for a long time. I even won our championship a few times. Twice before we got our official trophy. (Even though our commissioner does not recognize those wins that were not immortalized with etchings on said trophy.) I am sure those wins were mostly luck. After all, fantasy football is all about statistics. And statistics was my worst subject in school. (Which is why my first job after college was doing probability and statistics. Which is a completely different story.)

The thing about statistics is that past performance does not guarantee or in any way predict future performance. It might give us an idea. It might help us predict trends. At least in many areas where we have statistical tools to analyze the data. But when it comes to performance data in a football game as those statistics count toward fantasy points, all bets are off. So to speak.

When it comes to statistics and sports, there are surely algorithms that can help a person predict how many points a player will score. Indeed, most online sites that host fantasy football do just that. They put up likely numbers for the week and season. Or at least what they think are likely numbers based on past performance and upcoming opponents. But with all the variables in a single football play, it is difficult to predict what will happen in a game. Even with best prediction algorithms using the best input data. Which just means that even in fantasy football, football players play football games. Which just means that the points will be made or not made during the games by the football players playing the game, regardless of what the statistics or pundits say ought to happen.

Which brings me to my premise and my lament.

Arguably the most important part of fantasy football is the draft. I pick my team and you pick your team and even though adds and drops and trades will happen, that first team you get will often determine your place in the final league standings. I know that I have often gotten rid of my drafted players too soon in the season. And I also know that I have kept players that others would have gotten rid of long ago. Regardless of how a person determines who to add and drop and trade, that draft can loom large. As it did for me this year.

I am usually one to trust my gut above the statistics or the pundits. Those numbers are nice to look at and the experts weave a likely tale, but there is something about the gut, that raw instinct, that ought to be taken into account. At least in the fantasy football draft. This year, I trusted the pundits over my heart and my gut.

As for the heart, I am a sucker for hometown heroes. I love the players who came from our area or who play on the home team. Which for me means that I love those players who played at the University of Washington (or even Washington State) or who play for the Seahawks. So when it comes to the fantasy football draft, I try to remind myself not to get too caught up in the hometown rah rah. I try not to listen to my heart too much. But maybe a little is okay. Especially when mixed in with the gut.

My gut said not to trust the numbers when it came to who to draft first. I like to get a quarterback on my first or second pick. And I usually forget about our live draft so I set my preferences for who I want drafted when. Back in the day, I stuck with Big Ben Roethlisberger as my quarterback. I had him for many years and he earned many fantasy points. I think he was even my quarterback in one of the years I won the championship. At any rate, I tend to go with people I know. This year, I wanted either Lamar Jackson or Russell Wilson as my quarterback and first pick. The numbers pointed to Jackson, but my gut and my heart said to pick the hometown hero. Pick Wilson. Like I said, I listened to the numbers and not my gut. I picked Jackson. A good pick, but not the best pick this year.

Well, if you follow the NFL at all, you know that I picked incorrectly. At least if the first three games are any indication. Jackson has been pedestrian while Wilson has been monstrous. The whole season must be played before any lasting impressions can really be made, but at this point, it seems like I made the wrong choice.

Which brings me back to my original point. When thinking about fantasy football, you can either trust the numbers and the pundits or you can trust your heart and your gut. I need to remember to trust my gut more often. Especially in fantasy football.

© 2020 Michael T. Miyoshi

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My Own Private Air Show · 26 September 2020

It is quite the treat to have your own private air show.

This past summer, I got to have my own private air show. Truth is, I got to have a private air show two days in a row. I took pictures the second day. Or at least I tried. Actually, I tried to take video and failed miserably. Still, it was fun to have my own private air show.

I am not sure why, but some pilot was flying above our town doing aerobatics. Loops and stalls and rolls. It was great fun to watch. Especially since it has been years since I have been to any air shows.

I love airplanes. Fast ones, slow ones, military ones. I love seeing them do all the fun stuff that I am sure they used to do at old fashioned barnstorming – loops, rolls, and stalls. I love to see them fly in formation like the Thunderbirds and (Canadian) Snowbirds and Blue Angels. The Blue Angels are my favorite. Just watching them do takeoffs and landings in formation is a thrill. I have fuzzy pictures of a single Blue Angel flying over my house from way back when. And I can spot those FA-18 Hornets a long way off.

Of course, I love watching those old planes do their thing too. Those biplanes with their upper and lower wings. And even the newer single wing planes flying around doing all the fancy stuff.

I was clued into the first day of the air show when I heard a strange noise that was oddly familiar. A plane sounded like it was struggling hard to climb. The engine sounded taxed to the max. I looked and looked in the sky to find the airplane. I finally saw it as it came out of its loop. Or some such aerobatic trick. And then I watched to see what else the pilot would do. I was not disappointed as I watched the plane, loop, roll, and stall. Well, at least it looped a few times.

I was impressed by the pilot above our house. I did not think pilots were supposed to loop and roll and stall above residential areas. But I did not mind. I just enjoyed the show. Of course, there was no wing walking or anything like that, but still, seeing a propellered plane doing all those fancy things was fun. I marveled at the pilot’s skills and daring. And like I said, I tried to take some pictures and video.

Well, if you ever hear a plane sound like it is revving its engine too high, look up in the sky to see what is happening. You might just get the thrill of getting your own private air show.

© 2020 Michael T. Miyoshi

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Silver Linings · 19 September 2020

There is always a silver lining in every bad situation. You just need to look for it.

The pandemic has not been a great time. Mostly because of the disease itself and the pain it has caused. It has also kept people apart, which may be a good or bad thing depending on your perspective. Still, many people have seen the silver lining of being cooped up in their own homes. They have seen that being apart and slowing down has kept people together as family units. Or drawn them closer as family units. That is an amazing silver lining in and of itself.

I had a personal silver lining at the beginning of the school year.

I have been teaching high school since 1995. A long time. I love to do it. The energy of the student and the love of my colleagues and friends are what keep me going. (Yes, that love is sometimes shown as razzing and kidding, but that is another story.) And even though the first day of school is not necessarily the most important day in terms of what students learn, it is surely an important day in terms of getting to know each other and setting the tone for the whole year.

I love that first day of seeing my colleagues all ready to go. They are either cool, calm, and collected just waiting for the day to start, or they are running around frantically trying to get that last thing in place. I love when the kids start arriving and are wandering through the halls. The ones who have already been there are walking around greeting teachers or just soaking it in or pretending to be aloof. Their energy says, “I am ready and excited for the new school year,” whether their words say the same or not. I love greeting my students and letting them know that I am excited for a new school year.

We did not get to have that kind of first day this school year. COVID kept us out of the classroom. Or at least it kept the kids out of the classroom. We did not get to experience the energy and excitement of the kids being around each other in the school building. But the kids were excited to be there. Even online. They would rather have been together in the high school building, but they were glad they at least got to see each other and their teachers via video meetings.

For me, the silver lining of the pandemic was that COVID let me experience another first day of school. For without remote learning, I probably would not have been able to greet my students on the first day of the 2020 school year. I would have been home tending to the pain of shingles. And I would surely have missed more than just a day of being with my students and colleagues.

To be sure, I was at home tending the pain of shingles that first day. But the pandemic let me open school to keep my streak alive since 1995. And that was indeed a beautiful silver lining. Of course, it was not the same as opening school in person, but I was able to be there. I was able to introduce myself to my students and start them on their way to another successful year of high school. Not the opening that any of us anticipated a year ago. Not an opening with much fanfare. But surely an opening with much hope and anticipation, if not a bit of trepidation.

When it comes right down to it, I might be a bit of a Pollyanna, always looking at the bright side of life. But I cannot help but see the silver linings. Especially one amazing silver lining of the pandemic. The silver lining that COVID let me open up the new school year despite the fact that I had shingles. Yes, there is always a silver lining to every situation. Even with two bad ones together.

© 2020 Michael T. Miyoshi

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