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How to create the ideal setting for a live fantasy football draft (and avoid a clusterfuck)

If I took the time to list off my five favorite days of the year, my fantasy football draft with old high school friends would be towards the top. It’s a rarity I get to see this group altogether as most of us have turned 30 and the tomfoolery of yesteryear is on the decline.

But on draft day, it’s on. The gang is back together, busting each others balls, drinking way too much, totally unafraid of judgments from their significant others when they return home, and quite confident that this is THE year and the rest of the league are clueless idiots. For a little context, my first year doing fantasy football was 1999 and I shared a team with my best friend. Vinny Testaverde was our second pick and he tore his ACL handing the ball off in Week 1. It wasn’t meant to be but I was hooked.

The draft was done in a high school classroom with an administrator as the commissioner. I’ll always have pride that I started doing fantasy football before it blew up on the web, and that our league ran 100 percent with no online services.

We got paper scoresheets every week and the scoring was done by hand via box scores printed out in the paper — which was quite the chore, given this is a long ways from your standard league. Each team had 30 players and all of them could score any week as you didn’t start players.

The following year, I hijacked the league and became commissioner, as the faculty member who ran it the year before basically had a mini, Election-like downward spiral. We drafted on the second floor of a restaurant that rarely opened up the second floor, where two of my friends worked.

But as the years have gone on, the ideal fantasy draft location has become more and more elusive. These are the things required for a perfect draft location, a somewhat modern-day Narnia.

Seating AND Work Space

no workspace! Where to put a beverage or food!

No workspace! Where to put a beverage or food?

We have eight teams in our league, but because of shared teams and people who just like to get in on the partying, our attendance each year is closer to 12. So you need 12 seats. No big deal, right?

But you also need 12 seats that hopefully have a good view of the draft board. People have 12 people over for games often, so that’s not a big deal either — right?

Except people are bringing magazines and paper so each team/person needs workspace. Do you have a room in your house that can accommodate 12 people looking at a huge draft board with modest levels of workspace for them all? If yes, good for you. I’m jealous. Can I move in?

But Also Conference Space

It happens every year. One of the shared teams opts to break off from the main draft room because they want to freely discuss their draft intentions. Sometimes this means being outside of a sliding door. Other times, at the top of the stairs within shouting distance.

The perfect draft room is compact enough to have everyone looking at the same draft board yet somehow include mini-conference areas for those debating who their third kicker is. (In my league, each team takes three kickers. I always get flustered when someone takes Rob Bironas for some reason.)

Hard to discuss strategy in closed quarters

Hard to discuss strategy here in this tight space.

Internet Must Be Reliable and Easy to Access

I think in the early 2000′s, we started to need internet at our drafts. My dad worked for AOL at the time and one year, he let us draft in a big conference room and I remember a couple of people plugging in that year. This room was in the Bay Area, huge and important, so it’s possible that my friend drafting Joey Harrington in Round 1 may have been outdone as dumbest decision of all time in that space when AOL bought Bebo for $850 million (only to sell it for $10 million two years later).

For years, it became a pain as five to six people needed to plug an ethernet cord into a router so there would be a bit of a high-density turf war around that router. Now, mostly everyone is on wireless. Still though, crappy internet can kill both online drafts and live ones too.

Tech-Friendly Setup

Our draft lasts about five to seven hours. Is your laptop or iPad going to last that long? Outlets are needed in excess, so moving furniture and outlet adaptors are always a must.

Reliable internet is one thing, but if you have one or two people who want to video-conference in, then you need really fast internet and potentially screens as well, so you can see them by the draft board. We had one year when one of the villains in our group of friends was projected on a whiteboard, so you can imagine all the fun we had drawing on his face.

But at the end of the day, you don’t want a guy complaining he flubbed the draft because his computer battery died halfway through so if hosting a draft, you’ll need to accommodate as needed.

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Those chairs aren’t cutting it for six hours! Plus, who wants to pay extra?

Comfortable Seating/ Temperature Control 

A six-hour draft in late August or early September rules out crappy folding chairs in a garage or outside. Also, air conditioning is huge if it’s going to be a hot day and you’re stuck in a room with your sweaty, drunk friends.

So to recap, we need comfy chairs for 12, in a cool room, with views of a draft board, lots of outlets, good internet, and working space for 12. And we’re not even drunk or eating yet. Oh yeah — and conference spaces.

Easy Access to Booze and Ability to Get Sloppy Drunk

This is the deal-breaker for most. Around 2004 or 2005, the majority of us turned 21 and that’s when the draft became a whole other thing. Using big conference rooms just isn’t going to happen with booze in the mix. In fact, the last time one was extended to my league, it resulted in an incident being reported to Human Resources.

First, it was a beer or two during the draft. Somewhere along the way, it became a total shit-show.

I have a photo that I’ll hold back on posting from mid-draft 2012 of the only team in our league shared by three owners at their little table. The photo was taken because they couldn’t come to a consensus on a pick and a neutral person who doesn’t follow football much at all was called in to mediate. On the table were two handles of liquor (both half-gone), four shot glasses with three empty soda cans used as chasers, 12 beer cans, and two half-full cocktails. This was taken maybe round 18 of 30.

Two team members blacked out that night. The third, I am told, “was so drunk that he knocked over a lamp and scared the dog because he couldn’t stand straight.” You may find it hard to believe, but this is the only team in our league yet to win the championship. Their stated goal each year is to drink more than the other teams combined, which certainly adds to the draft experience and turns a pretty routine event into a party reminiscent of college freshmen days of debauchery.

Previous drafts have seen people pass out (I like waking people and asking them if they really want to draft Brandon Weeden), caused people to call off work the next day, and the leaving of cars at the draft location.

You can add large recycling bins, shot glasses, cleaning supplies, a close-by half-empty fridge, and a bathroom you don’t mind getting used and abused to the list of draft location needs. Oh — we also like to determine draft order for some reason via a beer pong-like game, so we need that too.

A Smoking Area

Preferably one within earshot of the draft room. Preferably one private enough where those who are inclined can smoke something other than tobacco. That rules out paying for many locations offered up by bars and restaurants.

Also a TV

Because college football games might be on or a preseason game or maybe your baseball team is in a tight race. People want to watch that stuff if you’re going to be stuck for hours waiting for your pick to come around.

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Food. Lots of Food. 

Basically anything to absorb the influx of alcohol that tastes good will get the job done. There was one year not that long ago in which food wasn’t planned at all. During a drunken stupor, one league member mustered up all of his coordination and motor skills to make a PB&J sandwich. Somehow he didn’t realize that the bread was incredibly moldy. He ate a couple of bites before it was pointed out to him. Afterwards, he blamed it on the draft host in quite the tirade that later required an apology. Don’t let this happen to your league.

Good food, or really any food, is a must — and like not having internet, your draft could be in deep shit without it. Paper plates, plastic utensils, some potluck system, delivery, rolls of paper towels, cash on-hand for delivery, etc., must also be planned ahead of time.

As I write this, I recall a guy who won’t let go of the fact that a previous league member “collected $10 from us each for TWO FUCKING slices of pizza. Probably financed his wedding with all that pizza money. Good riddance!”

Despite All of These Specific Needs/Wants…

Draft day never really disappoints as one of my favorite days of the year — even if we’re in a small, too hot room with no food and I’m worried that I’m about to break a flimsy plastic chair with the next donuthole I eat.

As more marriages and births take place within our league, each year the possibility of an online draft becomes more plausible. That said, I think half the fun of the league is the live draft and I hold out hope that we’ll be old men drunkenly bickering in a crammed living room, rather than the sterile and streamlined alternative.

Ben Koo

About Ben Koo

Copying and pasting my Twitter bio. I'm also refusing (for now) to write this in the third person. This is me - CEO of @Bloguin, GM at @AwfulAnnouncing, world's greatest chinese jew, proud Buckeye, funny dude, and sports and digital media zealot.

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