Silence. My heart is aggressively hammering in my chest. One. Two. Thr–
“Look at your kids. They are so cute and silly.” The voices of my co-workers save me. The sliver of quiet, which felt like a free fall into the dark abyss, ceased as people centered on the pictures I shared of my boys. Predictable. I’ll take it over silence though.
A simple activity to share about yourself with new teammates should not be such a difficult thing to do. This is especially true when you have worked with most of them on various projects and shared after-hours drinks and laughs with the rest.
One of the last questions, “What’s a tough challenge you’ve had at work within the last 6 months?” posed a particular problem. The only answer I had was about the severe feelings of depression and hopelessness that have plagued me since mid-June of 2020 and how I have recently started to get a real handle on them. Lately, part of handling it is being open about it. Though I included this new aspect of my life in a write-up I did about my boss when I nominated her for learning and development (l&d) employee of the month, it still seemed to come with a certain level of shock to my teammates.
Even as I write this column, I find myself wringing my hands, heavy-chested and woeful just thinking about this conversation. I didn’t think it was a secret or something that would make others uneasy. Yet there I was, counting the moments before someone weighed in on the share. We chattered in a brief arch around all the subjects that I shared which make up the spider-web of my life.
All of them except the big, dirty fly stuck right in the middle.
As I reflected on this conversation I found two things interesting.
Observation No. 1
Let’s play a quick game. Picture the following scenarios as you read them and answer the question afterward aloud with the first thing that comes to mind.
A person holds a door for you as you walk toward it with an infant in a carrier.
You have two seconds: How would you describe this person in one word?
You tune in to the end of a random football game on your TV just in time to see highlights of a young receiver who nabbed 10 receptions for 152 yards and a touchdown.
You have two seconds: Do you want this player on your fantasy team?
You meet a new colleague and are swept up in their humorous approach to life, smiling nature and politeness toward you.
You have three seconds: What three words describe this person?
Naturally, you think the person who holds the door is respectful and adores babies – but how do you really know? The answer is: You don’t.
Get that player on my team, yesterday: It’s time to blow that Free Agent Acquisition Budget (FAAB) before someone else snags this dude – or is it? My response is “nope.” Your colleague is a sunny person who laughs through life and relishes those little self-deprecating jokes he cracks every so often – isn’t he? This one is also a “no.”
Don’t worry. You didn’t fail the test. Yet you likely fell prey to the halo effect. The halo effect is the cognitive bias that allows you to characterize someone based on a positive first impression that they have given you. Our brains are wired to see and assess threats/non-threats quickly. It’s part of our age-old survival mechanism, and your brain finds this to be a pretty effortless task. All of the given scenarios seem like non-threats, so your brain quickly files them under positive traits that are associated with what was experienced in line with your previous experiences.
After some reflection, I decided that the first impression I give most people, along with the reinforcement of this perception through the rest of the activity with my team, clouded their vision to the piece of information that didn’t fit this narrative. Namely, my recent dealings with the depression demon. The quick judgment was that Mike is a happy-go-lucky dude. Look at these silly pics of his kids, dog and ice cream he is sharing, and let’s throw that stuff about being sad out because it doesn’t fit the story.
Observation Letter B
The second thing that stood out was that nobody reached out after this midday call. My teammates get a pass. I’d be surprised if some of them weren’t falling prey to a second bias we have: anchoring bias.
This is where one can lean into a single piece of information when making a decision regardless of the accuracy of that information. In this example, it’s easy to lean into my generally light-hearted nature and dismiss the conflicting information I gave about depression.
I have certainly anchored to my assumptions and doubted the need to call someone or reach out before. “They’re a strong person, they’ll be fine.” It’s an easy trap to fall into. (In case you were wondering, my boss gets a pass too. She checks up on me all the time. Hey, boss-lady. If you are reading this, thank you. Seriously, thank you.)
Before I move on to fantasy football advice, I’m asking you to reach out to the people you care about. You are never imposing when you call to tell someone you love them and care about what’s going on in their life. You can never truly know what someone else is struggling with inside, but you can try to make the important people in your life feel appreciated and supported.
1-800-273-8255 is the number for National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones and best practices for professionals.
Mental health is such a huge deal. While I and many others who find themselves pressed in the vice of a mental health issue do not need the number above, we do need support.
Please, be a force for good, there is enough swamp water out there to wade through.
Decisions, Decisions: Fantasy Football Halos & Anchors
Keenan Allen (WR, Los Angeles Chargers)
Keenan Allen is a yearly target of many fantasy owners’ biases. After a productive 2013 rookie season, 2015 and 2016 found him injured and the negative halo of being injury-prone was placed on him. For many, this anchor still exists, which is why you can still often get him at a budget price even though he has only missed two games since 2017, has continued to have a WR2 floor with top-tier upside and continues to put up 1,000-plus-yard seasons. I think it’s fair to say that 992 yards in 13 healthy games, in a year with a rookie quarterback, might as well be 1,000 in my eyes.
Bottomline: If people continue to sleep on him, don’t make the same mistake.
Travis Fulgham (WR, Philadelphia Eagles)
So that young receiver that I mentioned before was none other than Travis Fulgham. He posted solid games that got owners hyped during Weeks 4-8 of 2020, only to fade into the bushes like Homer Simpson for the rest of the reason.
There is a reason I called him “Travis Foolsgold” in one of my leagues when someone grabbed him early via waivers and tried to sell him to me. I have learned to not let players get the halo effect when it is unjustified in my eyes.
Robert Foster in 2018, Marquez Valdes-Scantling in 2019 and his teammate Allen Lazard (also 2019) are recent examples of players who showed promise for streaks of time. They were also given premature must-have status by plenty of analysts and fantasy players. I’m guilty of buying the Foster hype myself.
None of them have delivered though. And should we be surprised? It’s rare for fifth-rounders and undrafted free agents to catapult to permanent stud status. The Rod Smith and Wes Welker types are the exception to the rule for a reason.
So what should make Travis Fulgham any different? Consider his situation on a rough-around-the-edges offense/team at the time. He was surrounded by reliable receiving tight ends and 2020 first-round receiver Jalen Reagor. Being a sixth rounder himself, Fulgham is relatively expendable from the NFL teams as a business perspective.
I’m not in the market of burning FAAB in an attempt to fleece another owner in a trade. It’s terrible for your fantasy karma. It was best not to waste the FAAB chasing after this halo.
Robert Tonyan (TE, Green Bay Packers)
I’d love some feedback on this one, but Robert Tonyan is another halo that I did not chase and will not be chasing in any format going into the 2021 season. Red flags for me are his catch percentage (88.1 percent, fourth in the league), number of touchdowns (11, tied for fifth in the league), the lack of a true No. 2 receiver for Aaron Rodgers and defenses scheming differently after this year that deviated from the anchoring bias that Rodgers doesn’t throw to tight ends.
Maybe I’m falling into that anchoring bias as well, but I feel that the Packers finally try to grab a receiver relatively early in this draft. This would, in theory, give Rodgers a solid target across the field from main man Davante Adams.
In that case, Tonyan would probably see a similar amount of targets (59 in 2020), considering that Jimmy Graham actually had only one more target in 2019 as the premier tight end during that season.
A second solid receiver would see Tonyan’s number of touchdowns regress and the prospect of defenses scheming for him would bring down his catch percentage as well. Most of the other players with percentages in that ballpark are running backs which are most likely to easy-to-catch dump-offs. The others are wide receivers that were not heavily targeted and therefore playing against softer defense/defenders. I believe Tonyan fits into this latter category, yet happens to be a tight end.
Call it what you want, but I’m not going to buy in on this halo.
Make today a great day! And don’t forget to be awesome (DFTBA)!