Commentary

Scout Team: QBs to buy and sell

Storylines can be misleading, but the right stats will make you a more evolved owner

Updated: November 12, 2009, 7:21 AM ET
By Scott Burton | ESPN The Magazine

Have I got a story for you, one that could save your fantasy life. It's about how humans love stories.

Let's go back to the beginning, a couple hundred thousand years before the rise of the prognosticating machine known as Fantasy Scout, when we were all just a bunch of grunts roaming the plains. Storytelling wasn't just a way to amuse ourselves, it was a survival technique. It rains in October. When it rains, the dry river beds overflow with water. When the river beds overflow with water, the wildebeest come to drink. Wildebeests are tasty and nourishing and easy to kill. Therefore, when it's October, it's time to head to the river to hunt wildebeest. Naturally, those humans who told the best stories -- who detected patterns in the natural world and created a meaningful narrative out of them -- were more likely to eat, avoid predators and live long enough to procreate. It was survival of the wittiest.

Unfortunately, over many generations, we all became just a little too witty for our own good. We see pattern in coincidence, spin yarns out of randomness and confuse correlation with causation -- which brings this very special episode of Nova back to fantasy football. Watch just five minutes of any NFL game, and you'll hear all kinds of stories. The key to winning is establishing the run. Brett Favre is at his best when the game is on the line. Randy Moss loafs if he isn't involved in the offense. Some of these stories happen to be true. But many are bunk, the result of hyperactive imaginations. The next few weeks, we'll identify a whole host of these bunkoids. In doing so, we'll grant you -- the highly evolved fantasy owner -- a critical competitive advantage over the mouth-breathers in your league. It will be like hunting wildebeests with a bazooka.