Name: Ken Crites
Job: vice president of business development, fantasy sports analyst, RotoWire
If you are one of the estimated 57 million North Americans who play fantasy sports, then you might think getting paid to play and write about the hobby is the coolest job ever. Shelburne's Ken Crites agrees.
"It really is ridiculous that I get paid for this," he says recently over pizza and beer at Folino's in Shelburne. "The amount of sports I watch now is obscene." Then he jokes, "It's not healthy for the marriage, frankly."
Unlike most other sports-obsessed husbands, Crites does have a legit excuse: It's his job.
Crites, 47, is a fantasy sports analyst and the vice president of business development at RotoWire, one of the oldest fantasy sports websites in the country. He joined the Wisconsin-based company following two-plus decades of working high-pressure white-collar gigs for the likes of Nestlé and, most recently, Keurig Green Mountain. Now he works from home for his old college buddies and, most importantly, gets to spend more time with his family. And his marriage is just fine, thanks.
"It's one of the best decisions I've ever made," Crites says.
In fantasy sports — whether football, baseball, basketball, cricket or any other iteration — the teams are imaginary, but the scoring is based on the on-field performances of real players. For fantasy enthusiasts, real-life information that might lend them a competitive edge is crack cocaine. That makes RotoWire something like the Pablo Escobar of a now $27 billion-a-year industry.
The company's bread and butter, and Crites' primary responsibility, is syndicating fantasy-relevant sports news to media partners such as ESPN, Yahoo Sports and DraftKings. Media outlets take the information, culled from hundreds of beat reporters nationwide, and distribute it to fantasy addicts the world over.
Each of RotoWire's 30 employees also contributes content to the site. Crites writes fantasy basketball columns. Naturally charismatic, he makes weekly appearances on a handful of East Coast radio stations to offer fantasy football advice. Every Wednesday, he's a guest on the local drive-time show "The Huddle With Rich & Arnie" on ESPN radio affiliate 101.3 FM.
Crites talked with Seven Days about the tricky business of prediction, the hazards of mixing fantasy sports with dating and the future of his biz.
SEVEN DAYS: A big part of fantasy sports analysis is projecting how players will perform. So why are fantasy analysts always wrong?
KEN CRITES: [Laughs.] Well, you can never predict injuries, for one. One way that RotoWire differs from our competitors is that we rely on player news and trends, rather than mathematical formulas, to predict how a player might do. That's easier to do with yearly projections. But weekly predictions are random, because it is such a small sample size. Somebody gets hurt in the first quarter, and there goes your projection. But the randomness of it is part of the fun. Nobody really knows exactly what will happen. That's why they play the games, right?
SD: I'm having a crisis of faith with fantasy football this season, because I just can't catch a break with any of my teams. Talk me off the ledge.
KC: Take a step back. Really, this isn't important. The recent election, for instance, is far worse news than whatever happened with your little fantasy team last week. It's easy to obsess. The game encourages obsessing. But you'll be back next year.
SD: I just violated this rule, but — one of the most annoying things a fantasy player can do is talk to other people about their fantasy team. You must get that all the time.
KC: Everyone completely obsesses about their own team. But no one cares about your fantasy football team. That's a fact in 50 states of the Union. That's especially true in dating. I'm old and married, but nothing is more of a buzzkill in dating than when someone insists on telling their date about their fantasy teams. Maybe you talk to people in your league. But in normal society, this is not to be discussed.
SD: Does making your hobby your job ever become a burden?
KC: Certainly. When Browns-Bengals are on, for instance, there are times when you question your life choices.
SD: I'm a New England Patriots fan. Inevitably, with fantasy football, my rooting interest is compromised because I either own a player the Pats are playing against or I'm playing against a team with Patriots players. How do you balance that?
KC: Look on the positive side: It is just more reason to be happy. If the Patriots win, you're happy. If your player has a good game against the Patriots, that's a reason to be happy. We spend so much time and money in sports, having more reasons to be happy is a good thing. Don't look at it as more reasons to be upset — though, especially for New England sports fans, our natural tendency is to find things to complain about.
SD: Daily fantasy sports revolutionized the industry. And there is a fantasy version of almost any sport you can think of. What is the next frontier?
KC: When fantasy started, it was just baseball. And MLB actually tried to kill it. They wanted to own it and sued third-party sites like ours. They lost in court. The NFL saw that, back when fantasy football was a distant second to baseball, and realized that, with fantasy, people were watching five games instead of one. They decided to nurture that. That's when fantasy football flew by fantasy baseball.
So the next wave is that basketball, hockey, eSports — they're realizing that, if they can get fans into fantasy, those fans will spend more on their sport. eSports [competitive video gaming], for one, is taking off. Not here yet. But it's huge globally and is probably the next growth thing for fantasy.
The original print version of this article was headlined "Fantasy Life"