Decisions, Decisions: Creating Monsters

“No way! It’s Victor. How could you be so stupid?”

“Dude, it’s got to be the creature. He literally strangles innocent people like it’s his job.”

“And who created the creature and completely discarded him?”

“That doesn’t matter. He should know better.”

Voices rattle throughout the room like an approaching freight train. Tempers flare. It’s 8:30 a.m.

I had no idea that my question would spark so much animosity at this hour in a room full of high school seniors in rural Ohio. I simply said, “I read some of your blog posts this morning for our book discussion on Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein,’ and I’m interested in your opinions about who the real monster is?” 

The book tells the story of a scientist, Victor, who is obsessed with unlocking the ability to bestow life upon inanimate flesh. It also details what becomes of his successful creation after Victor immediately rejects it and the sorrows that both endure in the aftermath. The perspective of both parties are explored equally and the reader is left to sort out the horrible tales based on their own beliefs and experiences. 

At the ripe age of 25, I found myself soaking in the effects of opinions, beliefs, groupthink, confirmation bias and much, much more. I gravitated to what came naturally to me:  I’ve always been a fan of arguing both sides of an issue. 

This wasn’t just a peacekeeping effort aimed at keeping the principal from marching down the hall to see what was going on in Mr. Tulanko’s classroom. It’s an essential contract between you and those that you dare to engage within a critical conversation:  You must recognize all the beliefs of all parties involved as their truth. As an educator, it was my job to be the antithesis of Victor. I couldn’t just create monsters of my own and abandon them.

My classroom quickly split into two mindsets:  Those who believed Victor Frankenstein to be an egotistical/idealistic/irresponsible/reckless/you-choose-the-adjective villain and those who felt Victor’s nameless creation deserved that title. I mean…the creature did say “I will glut the maw of death, until it be satiated with the blood of your remaining friends.” That’s some dark shit. 

Both corners of the debate found themselves inflexible when it came to the alternative viewpoint. Both sides had evidence. Both had a group of folks who agreed with them. Both were entrenched. 

Both sides knew the truth. 

The last statement is a common problem in today’s world, and even in fantasy football. Truth, I learned, is based on perception, belief, experience and all of the other little factors that make people the individuals that they are. Trickier still, we humans are programmed to find and align with others who share our “truth.” (Google information on “groupthink” and enjoy the horrifying rabbit hole.) For fantasy purposes, I can go full David Blaine and make the data and statistics create whatever illusion I choose to believe. I touched on some of this in my previous article.

So what do you do? How do you fight your natural instincts?

Diversity of Thought

Embracing people who challenge your thought and decision processes is not easy; that’s how you know it is worthwhile. The keyword in that last sentence is “embracing,” which is decidedly different than “engaging.” When you engage with someone, it can feel forced or combative, like you are coming with your agenda and have your guard up. Embracing is decidedly different. It’s hard to be welcoming of people and their ideas with one’s guard up.

It’s easy to identify individuals in possession of a differing perspective. Victor found the actions of his creation to be repulsive and morbid. The Creature felt that, given a proper level of affection and mentorship by his creator, the deeds would never have transpired.

The tough part is leaning into that difference and listening to understand, which is different than listening to respond. I can understand where someone is coming from without agreeing. The added perspective is just another garnish for the dish of fantasy football goodness I am looking to create on my teams. I can choose to stand my ground and not entertain a difference in cognition or a perspective different than that of my own. The latter route will likely find me creating my own fiend, as Victor had.

My suggestion is to witness people who offer a counter to your assessment of a player, strategy or trade and ask them to explain because you want to understand where they are coming from. The second challenge is to listen or ask questions instead of offering your position in rebuttal. You already know how you feel about the player, strategy or trade. What use do you have in hearing yourself state it again? Just listen and refrain from judgment. 

Next, find more people to practice this behavior with. You may find that some start doing the same with you over time. Others may not. Building a truth-seeking group of diverse thinkers is typically not an overnight process. However, it pays dividends through added perspective and understanding of your opponents, friends, audience, and so on. Why create an insatiable monster when you can form a powerful ally?

Time for an exercise.

Deep Breaths. Stretch Your Mind. Let’s Do This!

Let’s exercise diversity of thought in the decision making process on some polarizing players.

Decisions, Decisions

C to the E to the H

The stans and haters abound. One side tends to lean on the fountain of potential. Clyde Edwards-Helaire (CEH) is the No. 1 running back in an explosive offense and has the potential to explode like a joyous points piñata for his owners any given game or week. He had some solid weeks for sure and an RB2 season even with his injury issues. Year two will definitely be a step forward for our favorite rusher in red, gold and white.

Despite having the highest Average Draft Position (ADP) amongst all rookie running backs, Clyde Edwards-Helaire finished as the rookie RB4.

The haters tip their caps toward return on investment value. In either major format, he returned poorly for those who went all-in with early picks on him expecting Kareem Hunt-esque numbers. Speaking of Hunt and backs like him, CEH also doesn’t quite physically measure up to the prototypical superstar backs. Guess it’s time to throw him away like yesterday’s Darren Sproles wannabe. 

Which side you fall on depends on your beliefs when it comes to CEH, the Chiefs, draft capital, offensive schemes, measurables, NFL personnel trends, the schedule, so on and so forth into an infinite chasm of factors. In the age of hot takes, the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle. 

If you went all-in to grab CEH early, it didn’t work out as anticipated this year, and it’s hard to see it working out that way in the future due to size and trends in NFL team roster construction. Now, if you are comfortable with him as an RB2, that’s a safer bet. Even if the Chiefs bring in a bruiser, the offense is so explosive that CEH could bust out a huge play at any time. It’s not like Mahomes doesn’t believe in getting the best out of everyone. See Mecole Hardman in the AFC Championship game.

Stafford, So Hot Right Now, Stafford

As I gaze on the Matthew Stafford situation with piqued interest akin to Mugatu, I can’t help but think about the arguments for and against reinvesting in him. Pre-trade news, this would surely be due to my bias for “unsexy” players at a solid price point. In the current dynasty mindset, he is totally more of a Hansel than a Zoolander.

Matthew Stafford has finished the season as a QB1 six times in his 12-year career.

The positives to Stafford are that he is young enough to have plenty of years left in the tank by current NFL QB standards and his track record of success and toughness made him an attractive enough acquisition for the Los Angeles Rams to deal Jared Goff, a third-round pick and two future first-round picks. Once the draft happens and the community moves from Stafford to the shiny new toys though, it will be hard to find the same kind of upside for the price. He clearly can perform with or without a dominant No. 1 wide receiver. Note: Two of his three top-10 years are without the legendary Calvin Johnson. Got it.

The biggest knock against him has to be recent injuries. The Rams seem willing enough to gamble against this, but we have seen enough QBs sustain injury after injury and never be the same. His performance under Matt Patricia has got to make you slightly worried too. Has Patricia ruined him similar to the way Robert Griffin III or Tim Couch were ruined by coaches? Can he rise from the ashes similar to Rich Gannon? Does he have any lingering doubts in himself after these “lost” seasons?

Somehow, I believe the truth lies somewhere in the middle. With all of the unknowns surrounding Stafford, his price should be negotiable enough once the rookies hit the market to take the perceived risk. The potential reward is more QB1 seasons, now with the Los Angeles Rams. #WorthIt

The Ghost of JuJu Past

Despite being a fantasy WR2 or better in three of his four seasons, Juju Smith-Schuster has only eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards once (2018).

I remember getting into a debate before the 2019 season on “Fantasy Football Breakdown” about JuJu Smith-Schuster. The short story is that I was worried if 2018’s top-10 performance was an outlier. Also, I felt his price was inflated with Antonio Brown being a Raider and Ben Roethlisberger not getting any younger. He was a must-sell for me; the value would never be higher. I was told that I was “crazy.”

The counter was that Smith-Schuster’s talent is proven over two seasons and we can’t predict long-term injuries for Roethlisberger. Plus, Smith-Schuster carries an added bonus of being a fun player to own. Which is totally true and valid. I don’t know about you, but I play this game for fun!

The interesting part is we were all right to some degree. I certainly got lucky in 2019, but I can tell from Smith-Schuster’s 2020 performance that there is plenty of juice left in him. If he stays in Pittsburgh, with the right incoming QB and rising talents at WR around him, he should be able to continue at a WR2 floor. And the ceiling…is Sistine Chapel levels of attractive.

Trendsetting

Just as we have found our way to the most-likely truths, my class of senior literary debaters found their way to a similar conclusion on the matter of who the real “monster” is in Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein.” Victor is victim to his arrogance and blatant disregard of responsibility and is the root of his own suffering. Even after learning the basics of benevolence and unwavering kindness, the Creature, though certainly able to be pitied, committed evils in the face of so much potential for good and set his course in a similarly arrogant direction as his creator.

The trend to set is that of the students in the classroom. They paused. Listened to understand. And realized the truth fell somewhere in the murky middle.


Make today a great day! And don’t forget to be awesome (DFTBA)!

@TheThirdMike