Perfecting My Lineups: Diabetes and Fantasy Football

The first Thursday night in September is one of my favorite nights of the year. Not only does football season begin, but the Glooko Fantasy Football league also kicked off!

At Glooko, we have a fun– yet competitive– league of 14 active team members across several departments, including our CEO! The league has become a small part of our fall and winter culture, giving our team something to root for – from California to Boston.

This year, I was asked to be the commissioner of the league. When I was younger, I dreamed of being a commissioner for a major sports league; I even spent multiple summers at sports–related internships in college! As our fantasy football commissioner this year, I’m living out my dream…in a much smaller fashion.

For those who don’t know about fantasy football, it works like this: (pulled from from NFL.com)

You acquire a roster of players through a draft then set/modify your lineup each week during the season and watch as touchdowns, field goals, yards gained, sacks, interceptions and much, much more generate fantasy points for or against your team.

What I’ve come to realize through working in sports, playing a lot of fantasy football, living with diabetes for 6 years (my “diaversary” is October 20th), and working in diabetes is that there are actually some similarities between fantasy sports and diabetes.

Both have been revolutionized by tech over the past 50 years

I always thought fantasy football started sometime after 2000. I was first introduced to it in 2006 and always played online. However, that is actually not the case.

Fantasy football was founded in 1962 and the first league was held in 1963, all done on pen and paper. They required a brave volunteer who would spend a few hours every Tuesday calculating every statistic from the past weekend’s NFL games, as well as obtaining lineup submissions prior to Sunday. Being part of a fantasy football league wasn’t easy and it wasn’t commonplace as a result.

This all changed in 1997 when the greatest fantasy football innovation of all time occurred: an online fantasy football league was launched by CBS! Within 3 year, every major sports website had a fantasy football league and each site has continued to drastically innovate. An article in 2015 by the New York Post predicted nearly 75 million people play fantasy football each year and an article in Forbes claimed it to be a $40-70 billion industry today.

When I learned the history of fantasy football, I couldn’t stop thinking how it is quite similar to innovation in diabetes management over the last 50 years.

Fifty year ago, the first single use syringe was just coming to market. Blood glucose was tested using urine sticks.

In 1981, the first home blood glucose meter called the “glucometer” was launched. This was the first time a person with diabetes could gauge their blood glucose levels and truly keep track of their diabetes management. This innovation was the birth of diabetes data and it lead to the creation of the logbook, built-in data within meters, and ultimately diabetes software — like Glooko.

Data Drives Decisions

The technology revolution in each industry has led to better diabetes management and more competitive fantasy football leagues. Each week, I have to prepare the optimal lineup to defeat my opponent–whether it’s another football team or the daily burdens of diabetes.

Through years of playing fantasy football, I have developed a basic “formula” I use to construct my fantasy football team.

Football Selections

  • Player typical statistics/what has happened in similar situations
  • Opponent they are playing/how their competition typically performs against similar opposition
  • Recent events (e.g. injuries, weather, or outlier performances)
  • My gut instinct

Here’s an example of how this works:

  • QB A: He averages 300 yards a game and 3 TDs. He sprained his ankle last week but is suppose to be okay. He is playing the best defense in the league against the pass. The game is suppose to be in a blizzard.
  • QB B: He averages 200 yards a game and 2 TDs. He is playing the worst defense in the league against the pass and they are missing two starters in their secondary. The game is held in an indoor stadium.

In this situation, I would likely select to start player B, even though player A would typically be be considered the superior player. To be successful in fantasy football, it is important to recognize the situation that occurs for that specific day and make the appropriate adjustments, much like managing diabetes.

Diabetes Selections

In fantasy football, I make my team player selections once a week. In diabetes, I make my food (and consequent insulin and exercise) selections multiple times a day– we’ll call those the main players in diabetes. I have a similar formula I use to decide what food to eat:

  • My personal enjoyment
  • Past situations/how I’ve fared during previous times eating the item
  • Others’ experience eating the specific item
  • Recent events (e.g. sickness, exercise, insulin on board)

The formula is a lot more complex than the one I use for fantasy football, but it works for me. Most important of all the criteria is what happened the last time I ate that specific item. I’ve learned if I want to eat a bagel, for instance, it requires a different approach than if I want to eat an omelet. I also take a different approach if I drink a beer with carbs listed compared to if I risk drinking a local craft beer with no listed carbs.

Sometimes the risk works…..other times it royally screws up.

Replicating Success

In fantasy football, I am a member of a website called Fantasy Guru. This website serves as my go-to-resource for everything relating to trends and analysis for fantasy football. I can also see all of my past decisions through the Yahoo Fantasy Sports. The combination of these two platforms has lead to a winning combination (I won the league last year, which is proof!)

For my diabetes, that resource is Glooko. With Glooko, I can simply look at the previous times I’ve eaten a certain food and see what my pre-meal blood glucose was, how much insulin I gave myself, and what was the result afterward. I can also look at our Pump and CGM insights and simply see a history of all of my temporary basal rates and every set/site change. Soon, we will have Glooko Advise that will make identifying these trends even easier.

Something the Glooko Team Cares About

At Glooko, my colleagues do care about fantasy football. We enjoy the inter-company competition, love the idea we have the chance to beat our CEO, Rick (I beat him in the playoffs last year!), and it gives us a reason to be football fans even when both of the company’s local teams (49ers and Bears — now that we have a Chicago office!) are – well, let’s just say – disappointments.

And as much as we enjoy fantasy football, we all truly have a unified passion for making life with diabetes easier.

Scott Bissinger

Scott is a Customer Success Manager at Glooko. He’s passionate about improving life for people with diabetes through simple solutions. Scott is a T1D, fantasy football fanatic, and loves to go skiing.