Talking Fantasy Sports with Howard Bender of Fantasy Alarm

If you’re a sports fan, than you know just how popular and prevalent fantasy sports are.

There are tons of sites, podcasts, experts, and much more when it comes to the world of fantasy sports. One such expert is Howard Bender of Fantasy Alarm.

He was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to tell us how he got into fantasy sports, what sites/outlets he contributed to/is a part of, why fantasy sports are so popular, and much more.

PH: Growing up, how did you become a sports fan?
HB: When you grow up in New York, it’s pretty tough to not become a sports fan immediately. Two teams in almost every sport? It was all about taking sides. My Yankees vs your Mets, my Jets vs your Giants, my Rangers vs your Islanders.

I sided with the teams my father rooted for as it gave us something to bond over and my affiliations haven’t wavered regardless of where I currently reside.

PH: Who is your favorite team (s)? Who is your favorite player (s)?
HB:

Yankees – Thurman Munson (past), Gary Sanchez (current)

Jets – Lance Mehl (past), Sam Darnold (current because everyone else kinda stinks)

Rangers – Don Maloney (past), Henrik Lundqvist (current)

Knicks – Patrick Ewing (past), no one current

PH: At what point in your life did you realize that you wanted to be a part of the fantasy sports industry?
HB: I had grown up playing fantasy baseball thanks to a friend of mine’s father, but in the mid-to-late 90’s I had a regular poker game every Sunday night and one of the guys’ father was putting together a league and wanted to build a 16-teamer with really deep rosters. We all jumped onboard and the league was housed on CBS Sportsline, one of the few platforms available for customization at that time.

After reading all the content posted on the site and seeing what kind of success I was having with my own projections and rankings, I thought, “Man, I could write this stuff,” so I started a blog and just started sharing my thoughts.

I got some cool comments from people and realized I was building up a small following. As the following grew, I became more and more interested in making it a career rather than just a hobby.

PH: Please lest which outlets/websites/messages boards you have contributed fantasy sports content to.
HB: My original blog was on blogspot.com and from there I started writing for Addict Fantasy Sports. I also started a new website called Rotobuzzguy.com and along with that I freelanced for Rotowire, Fangraphs, RT Sports and Fantasy Alarm before finally joining Alarm full-time.

I was also working for SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio, first as a regular guest and then a part-time host.

PH: Tell us about how you got involved with Fantasy Alarm. How did you end up becoming the lead guy for the outlet?
HB: I was freelancing for Rotowire and FanGraphs and the FSTA had a function out in San Francisco at the bar where I was working. My boss knew what I was working towards and asked me if I wanted to work the party.

It was there that I met Jeff Mans who, at the time, was the head of content. He gave me his card and I sent him a few samples. He brought me on to the team where we worked together for a number of years.

The company brought me on full-time and I became the Managing Editor. Jeff, Ray Flowers and I were the three featured writers. When Jeff and Ray decided to embark on a new journey for themselves, the owner of Alarm approached me and asked if I would take over as Head of Content and take over the show on SiriusXM.

I guess you can look at it as a “next man up” situation. I established years of trust with them. They knew my work ethic, my ability to manage a team scattered across the country and having spent as much time on SiriusXM as I had, the following was much bigger than when I had first started with them.

PH: What do you look to provide users/viewers/readers on Fantasy Alarm’s website day in and day out?
HB: It’s all about teaching, in my opinion. We want to teach our subscribers to be better fantasy players. The writing is to help guide them, not just towards players or a particular strategy, but to get them to look at sports and fantasy sports the right way.

Some people just read the content on a web site and blindly choose players recommended. We teach you to not only look at those players but also how to view them with respect to their individual scoring and how they best fit their team.

With so many different styles of leagues and scoring, we want people to learn to think for themselves and learn to use us more as a sounding board. Will we dig super-deep to find players they may not have ever thought of? Sure. But we will eventually get all of our subscribers to learn how to find those players on their own.

You can give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day. Teach him to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime.

PH: You also host a few fantasy sports-related radio shows. Tell us what that is like and what you like to try and provide listeners on a daily basis.
HB: I host the Fantasy Alarm Show Monday through Friday 4-6pm ET with former MLB GM Jim Bowden on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio and also Fantasy Sports Tonight every Sunday from 11pm-1am ET with Lisa Ann.

For me, being on the radio is all about information and entertainment. We want to help people with their fantasy sports teams, but if you don’t make it fun for them and you sound like NPR, you’re not going to move the needle very much.

I use my sports research for the information and my background in theater and stand-up comedy to help keep people entertained and tuned in. In all honesty, and don’t let my bosses see this, but I don’t even consider the shows as work because I have so much fun doing them.

PH: Why do you think fantasy sports are so popular?
HB: For a lot of people, especially with the rise of Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS), it’s about the money. We see the high-stakes seasonal leagues in the NFBC and NFFC and we see all the contests in DFS – people want to make money while doing what they enjoy most which is watch sports.

I dig the camaraderie and the bragging rights. I play in a number of money leagues each year, but the leagues I care most about are the ones with close friends where the smack-talk is the most abundant.

Competition over compensation for me, but not everyone is like that. But in the end, I think it’s just a matter of sports being such a polarizing facet of our society and fantasy sports allows people to take their fandom to a whole other level.

PH: Lastly, do you have any advice for fantasy players out there?
HB: Never wager more than you can afford, remember that, in the end, it’s just a game, and if you’re thinking about a career in this industry, do not expect to be a millionaire and learn to pay your dues.

It’s a tough business to crack and the ones who are the most successful are the ones who have poured blood, sweat and tears into their work and have been willing to accept less in compensation in order to break in.

No one just walks into a full-time job in this business and no one just gets handed a radio show. It takes a long time to establish yourself, both with your followers and your colleagues.

Photo: FantasyAlarm.com

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