Fantasy Baseball Boyfriend creators: 'Meant to be taken as seriously as a romance novel'

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On Tuesday (Feb. 7), we wrote an opinion piece lambasting an app available through CBS Sports that lets women (we're assuming men are allowed to play too, but it is explicitly marketed towards "girls") draft a "fantasy baseball boyfriend" every day during the regular fantasy season.

The creators contacted us about our "made up a sensational story" so that we could find out the "real deal" on the app, which they describe as not simplifying the game for girls, but adding " an additional layer of complexity to your current teams ... To win, you have to know who's on a hot streak, who isn't and deal with stats that aren't normally counted in fantasy baseball. You need to be an intelligent, die-hard fan."

We would like to take this moment to apologize to CBS Sports, which we mistakenly identified as the creator of the app. The creators are in fact Frank and Missy.

And here is our interview, conducted over email, with the creators. We began our email interview with a header of "
If this app is for the intelligent, die-hard baseball fan, then:," which the creators interpreted as being part of the first question alone and it was not. Just a point of clarification. Other than that, this is the interview in its entirety.

[If this app is for the intelligent, die-hard baseball fan, then: (this is where the interview subjects thought that line applied)]

Why is it only marketed towards women?


"I'm insulted that you don't think women can be die-hard baseball fans. My wife created the game for her and her girlfriends. It was a game they would play while watching baseball games, they started about three years ago. They called it Phillies Boyfriend and it was all about her and her girlfriends. Last year, my wife and I made the alpha version of the site, started keeping track of stats and came up with the algorithms that power the current app. We even started last season with a draft night potluck where all the ladies and their dates got together to pick their BBBFs for the season.  When we had the opportunity to build the Baseball Boyfriend app, we catered it to the women that were already playing.

As niche marketing becomes more essential, many business thought leaders encourage hyper-target marketing. For example, Seth Godin ( www.sethgodin.com) in his book purple cow, explained how in order to succeed in business you have to come up with a unique idea.  Further he says brown cows are boring and purple cows are exciting. We put our own spin on fantasy baseball."


Why do you sexualize the interest in sports and fantasy sports by making it a baseball "boyfriend" and using phrases like "little black book" and innuendos like "the more boys you can have"?

"If you did a search for 'baseball boyfriend', you'll find thousands of post and tweets from female baseball fans referring to their favorite players as their 'baseball boyfriend'. We were having fun and yes being a bit sassy with the text.  It's a fantasy game and is meant to be taken as seriously as a romance novel.

When the idea of internet dating came into being the general conscientious was that the suitors where objectifying their potential dates.  Starting as a taboo, it grew into one of the most prolific ways to find a partner."


Why do you continually refer to the target audience as "girls" and design the graphics to look like the notebook of a young girl?

"We used the term girls twice in the initial app description. When we set up the site, we didn't use it at all. We don't know any man that is offended by the word boy, and didn't think women would find the word girl offensive, like in the vernacular 'girls night out'.

When we first saw the controversy we contacted CBSSports and asked them to implement our changes to the description. Our apologies, we never meant to offend female players.

As for the notebook look, until recently, we've kept track of everything the old fashion way, in our heads and on notebook paper. Instead of making the app look like everything else that is already out there, we decided to try something different and not be boring. By opening day, there will be other themes to choose from as well."


If you wanted to design an app for people to play in tandem with regular fantasy baseball, why not target it toward all fantasy players and make it a serious thing?

"It is only available to serious players. The first step to playing is to create or join a normal fantasy baseball league. The second step is to draft your team.  Then you can purchase this app, and play on the side. It does not replace the current experience in any way.

A note about this first theme; With this being the first version beyond Missy's group of girlfriends, we felt it was more important to work on one segment of the fantasy market to find all the bugs, make improvements, and take suggestions from players. We saw the 2012 baseball season as a test to find out how we could make it a better mass-market experience.

When you investigate the app, you will find that the full time fantasy player was in mind, while designing this app.  In the two weeks since the API was made available we have two features designed specifically with the full-time fantasy player in mind and a more in the works.  It would not have been necessary to develop these features, at the beginning of the beta version, if the app was not geared toward the serious fantasy player. 

The first feature shows which players on your team roster are on the disabled list.  If this were some puff piece of technology it would not be necessary to alert the league player of their roster's playing status. 

The second feature is the "Your Leagues" tab.  This feature lets you quickly toggle between any of your leagues. So the players that have more than one fantasy team can easily go between their teams to set their boyfriend for the day. 

A third feature, still in development, is a hover box that appears over your roster members.  This will allow the head-to-head style player make a more informed decision about who to start that day. The box will show stats like ERA, RBIs, and SBs. 

If this app were not a serious thing, why would we need to go to the trouble of building in all these features so that a successful season can be played by everyone from the casual to hardcore player."

 
Why condescend to your target audience by talking to them like they are 7th graders?

"We don't promote dating before high school with the exception of proms and social events. We do promote having fun, being sassy and enjoying your youth.

This an ever evolving project. We are making changes left and right as stated above, and like our features our text and design are also evolving.  Let's take the word 'Girls':  being as how Missy started this with her girlfriends and many times the league resulted in a girls night out we thought it only logical to use the word girls.  Changing the word girl to women would not have been in line with theme of the app." 

 
Pretty much every female baseball fan's reaction to this app (that I saw) was one of disgust and anger - did you really think female fantasy baseball players would take this seriously and be interested in it? Why?

"Most of the angry tweets we saw were based on your ill-informed article headline, and the misconception you created that CBSSports was trying to dumb down fantasy baseball for women.

Real reporters do fact checking and interviews. They take the time to ask questions learn the true story. You apparently felt it was more important to break your own story fast.

The facts are this:
- To play this mini-game, you have to be serious enough of a player to join a fantasy baseball league on CBSSports
- You must draft your normal team for the season
- Then you can pick your favorite player to be your 'Baseball Boyfriend' on the side

During the fantasy season you can only pick one starter per day from your current team's roster. You can then change him daily.  Some of the reasons why you would want to change your Boyfriend is because he's in a slump, he is injured, his team is traveling that day or the game gets rained out. Based on your starters game that night you earn points.  Is it better to pick a new pitcher every day or stick with an incredible batter all season? Think about it, it's not easy.

CBSSports simply provides a way for developers to add applications to fantasy sports. You can read more about it in Techcrunch. http://techcrunch.com/2012/01/16/a-fantasy-app-store-cbs-sports-to-launch-first-open-platform-for-fantasy-sports/"


Also, in your email you say the app is going to keep track of stats "not normally counted in fantasy baseball." What stats are you referring to? Because of the ones listed on your site, the only one I've never encountered in my years of playing fantasy baseball is hitting for the cycle.

"We would like to thank who ever gave you this question. It is obviously not yours because it's not front loaded.

The stats, mentioned are usually not part of your 12-14 stat leagues, though they are accounted for, at times, in your more expansive leagues.  Extra points for Hit For Cycle, Grand Slams, Perfect Games, and No Hitters were originally added to the scoring system because Missy and her friends decided that their boyfriends should be rewarded for extraordinary feats.  Thus, there are two special categories for both pitchers and fielders. No matter who you start that night, you have a chance to win big."

[ Ed's note: The stats we were referring to on their site are listed as Complete Games, Innings Pitched, Strikes, No Hitters, Strike Outs, Perfect Games, Quality Starts, Saves & Wins, Singles, Doubles, Triples, Home Runs, Runs Batted In, Hits, Stolen Bases, Hit For Cycle & Grand Slam Home Runs. We don't know any 12-14 stat leagues where these are not generally the stats used.]


We stand by our original piece. We're sure the actual application is a fine piece of technology and the idea of picking one player to follow each day as not a bad idea to have in tandem with a regular fantasy team. But this interview did not change our minds about the manner in which the app is presented and marketed.

What do you think, readers?

Photo/Video credit: Fantasy Baseball Boyfriend
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