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A Fantasy Football Diary: Finding My Seat at the Table

Growing up, I never paid attention to sports, whether it be playing or watching. I just wasn’t interested. Circa the 2017 NFL season, I noticed the Minnesota Vikings were doing well. So, I decided to start watching and join the fandom, cheering on my home team’s success. It turns out my timing was perfect, as I became a self-proclaimed Vikings fan right before watching “Minneapolis Miracle.”

Fast forward to 2019. I overheard coworkers talking about the lab’s fantasy football league. Being the curious type, I asked them what they were talking about and then asked, “Can I join?” I remember one of the league members looking at me in confusion. It seemingly appeared that she didn’t want to include me. Despite that, one of the other members standing there said, “Sure.” And so, this journey began.

In my first draft, I had zero clue what I was doing. I drafted Adam Thielen way ahead of his ADP – in the 1st or 2nd round – because I stubbornly wanted him. This pick resulted in an “ugh, I wanted him” from that female league member who previously didn’t want me to join. So, even though I had no clue how to draft and didn’t know what ADP was, that reaction alone was enough satisfaction.

Early on in that season, I received a trade proposal from a league mate. Again, I didn’t really know what I was doing or how to analyze what was being offered. My gut told me to be suspicious, so I looked into the offer. It turns out that he was offering a player that would be on bye the next week. I believed he did that strategically, thinking I wouldn’t notice that and would blindly accept.

I did not. This served as a lesson – I didn’t like feeling that I was almost tricked. I decided to really pay attention to the details of fantasy football and was determined to prove myself as a competitor. In my first season, I was embarrassingly bad. Specifically, 11th place out of 12th.

As I was learning the ropes, I discovered Kate and Michelle Madgziuk on Twitter and their BallBlast brand. Unabashedly, I constantly tweeted them with my questions and soaked up all the knowledge I could from them. I looked up to them both. They knew this game of fantasy football inside and out, and they were females who didn’t buck to the predominantly male field.

Michelle’s style was driven by statistical analysis; she could rattle off the reasons why player A > player B based on the numbers. I loved how aggressive she was with her takes, and she held firm. That confidence! Then there was Kate. I was especially drawn to Kate’s delivery of her content. She also utilized data to support her takes, but the way she delivered really resonated with me.

Kate made everything relatable and understandable to the casual player. She made me feel like even I could learn how to play and become a competitor. Kate is the #1 reason that I am who I am as a fantasy football player. I participated in the BallBlast listener league during the 2020 and 2021 seasons. And thanks to the confidence Kate and Michelle helped me gain, I finished in 2nd place in the 2021 league! Hooray!

My involvement in fantasy Twitter grew and grew over time. I loved reading the hot takes, the articles that various groups put out, and listening to the podcasts. Even more, than that, I loved connecting with others in the community and building friendships. In 2022, I saw something on Twitter about the upcoming Fantasy Football Expo that would be taking place in Canton in August. I bought a ticket and made arrangements for the trip.

Welcome to Canton, OH.

Welcome to Canton, OH, home of the Fantasy Football Expo.

Still feeling like I didn’t belong in the space, I didn’t tell a lot of people where I was going and for what. I feared that I would be looked at like the female league member looked at me- What is Rachel doing? She’s not a sporty person. She has no business pretending she knows how to play fantasy football.

I had no clue what to expect going to the Expo. When I arrived the Thursday before the event, I checked into the hotel, got my expo swag bag, and quickly retreated to my room. There were some attendees congregating at the bar, and it appeared to me that everyone had their close-knit friends. Who am I? I can’t just walk up and introduce myself and start talking fantasy like I know what I am talking about.  Again, I felt like I had no business being there. I started feeling major regret that I wasted so much money on this trip and that I should never have come.

Later in the evening, I went to the lobby to pick up a pizza I had delivered. Upon returning to my room, the friendliest person in the world with the biggest smile said to me, “Hi! I’m JJ. What’s your name?” I introduced myself, and we exchanged our Twitter handles. There wasn’t much to the conversation, but his being approachable made the world of difference. I breathed a sigh of relief and thought, “Ok, I can get through this weekend.” This individual was JJ Wenner.

A picture of Rachel and J.J. Wenner at the 2022 Fantasy Football Expo in Canton, OH.

Me with JJ Wenner, host of the Ride or Dynasty podcast, at the 2022 Fantasy Football Expo in Canton, OH.

The next day, Friday, the Expo events weren’t starting until the party in the evening. I hung around the hotel and walked the nearby street, checking out Canton. At one point, I ran into a familiar face at the hotel elevators. Having a tiny bit more confidence due to the kindness of JJ the night before, I blurted out, “Hey, are you Joey Wright?” a person I recognized from Twitter interactions.

He acknowledged who he was, and I told him who I was. Again, here was another incredibly kind human being. I didn’t need to qualify my presence with specific fantasy football knowledge. I was just another person attending the same event for people that love fantasy football.

Rachel with Joey Wright, a content creator with Front Yard Fantasy and FootballGuys, at the 2022 Fantasy Football Expo in Canton, OH.

Me with Joey Wright, from Front Yard Fantasy and FootballGuys, at the Fantasy Football Expo in Canton, OH.

As I was on my way to the Friday night party, I met a woman outside the hotel. She was there at the Expo as the wife of someone attending. She asked me if I wanted to join her and another wife going shopping. I don’t know if she assumed I was another wife along for the ride, but I told her, “No thanks, I’m heading to the Expo party.”

Walking into Centennial Park, I once again felt nervous and like I didn’t belong. Early on at the party, I met two guys that weren’t content creators and were also attending as “fans” of fantasy football. Meeting them was significant, indicating that it was just fine being there as a “fan.” The rest of the evening at the party was amazing! I met a lot of people I knew and loved from Twitter. I also met a lot of new people! It was incredible how awesome everyone was. There were so many genuine smiles and people getting to know each other as people.

The next day, Saturday, I participated in “Draft Night Out,” which was a special experience. I live drafted with 11 other people I didn’t know previously. Funny enough, one of the guys was from a town very close to where I lived. Small world! A woman at a nearby table leaned over to me and was ecstatic there was another female there drafting. This was none other than the magnificent Gemma Martinez.

There were a lot of fun moments throughout that day and into the party at the Hall of Fame that night. I no longer stressed about how nervous I was, but focused only on making sure I met all the people that have become important to me on fantasy Twitter.

Rachel with Gemma Martinez, from NFL Fantasy en Español, at the 2022 Fantasy Football Expo in Canton, OH

Me and Gemma Martinez, from NFL Fantasy en Español, at the 2022 Fantasy Football Expo in Canton, OH.

Sunday was the Expo, with booths from various fantasy brands and numerous panel events. The one I made sure to attend was the Women of Fantasy Football panel. Words cannot describe how incredible this was. Kelly Singh hosted beautifully, asking a series of thought-provoking questions to the panelists. There was clearly a lot of interest in hearing what these female fantasy analysts had to say as people kept flooding into the room throughout the talk. This was encouraging to see for me as a female fantasy player. There IS a seat at the table for all of us. 

That evening there was more mingling and drinking at the hotel bar. I just want to highlight one conversation in particular that I had that night. I met Jorge Edwards, and he was telling me about the content he creates. He asked if I also create content. I started with my speech that I utilized most of the weekend, “I’m just a fan…” Then I had my lightbulb moment. I said, “Wait. NO. I’m a content consumer. I diligently find the right content to help me succeed with my fantasy football teams.” This became my identity as I went into the 2022 fantasy season. 

I am now heading into my fifth year playing fantasy football. Through my various connections and consuming a ton of content over these past years, I feel I have more of a handle on how to navigate this game of fantasy football.

The Women of Fantasy Football panel at the 2022 Fantasy Football Expo in Canton, OH. From left to right: Britt Flinn (Fantasy Alarm), Lauren Carpenter (FTN Fantasy), Madi Kroll (Heavy Sports), Kendall Valenzuela (Matthew Berry's Fantasy Life), Samantha Holt (Matthew Berry's Fantasy Life), Kacey Kasem (Get Real with Kacey Kasem podcast), Faith Enes (Women of Fantasy Football), and Kelly Singh (TrophySmack, Team Riseorfall, Women of Fantasy Football).

The Women of Fantasy Football panel at the 2022 Fantasy Football Expo was incredible. From left to right: Britt Flinn (Fantasy Alarm), Lauren Carpenter (FTN Fantasy), Madi Kroll (Heavy Sports), Kendall Valenzuela (Matthew Berry’s Fantasy Life), Samantha Holt (Matthew Berry’s Fantasy Life), Kacey Kasem (Get Real with Kacey Kasem podcast), Faith Enes (Women of Fantasy Football), and Kelly Singh (TrophySmack, Team Riseorfall, Women of Fantasy Football).

Besides the occasional Underdog best ball tournaments, I’ve only had experience with redraft leagues. So, I decided it was time to branch out and try other variations of fantasy football. I joined my first two dynasty start-ups this year; I drafted multiple Fantasy Cares Eliminator leagues; I’m planning to try an IDP league for the first time; and I’m also contemplating adding a guillotine and/or vampire league into the mix. And this week, I am live drafting in Minneapolis for #SFB13.

This diary series will document my experiences in these different types of fantasy leagues. Perhaps, this will encourage those who have never tried fantasy football to give it a whirl. Or even the more seasoned fantasy players to try out a new style.

This is fantasy football content. That isn’t content. But IS content 😉 

Welcome to my world.



Thanks for reading Rachel’s introductory article! If you want to follow along with her journey, you can do so here or on Twitter.

WOFF also has a podcast series called HERstory in the Making, hosted by Fantasy Alarm‘s Britt Flinn. Britt interviews women in the industry and lets them tell their stories, the highs and lows. Some of the women Rachel mentioned in this piece, including Kelly Singh and Gemma Martinez, had a chance to share their stories! You should check out those episodes here and here!