Some friends and I went to the movies last night to see Thor. We were all rather excited because the movies featuring the Avengers started off very well with Iron Man. To add to the excitement is a pretty strong cast around the relatively unknown titular character including Anthony Hopkins, Natalie Portman, Rene Russo, Kat Dennings, and Stellan Skarsgard. Throw in Kenneth Branaugh as the director and it was hard to believe that you wouldn’t at least get some strong dialog and acting performances even if the story ended up being a bit comic book formulaic.
What we ended up seeing was a real stinker of a movie. The acting was terrible. The story and character development were worse. The villain (Loki) who is probably one of the most interesting characters in all of ancient mythology was the worst thing a villain could be – uninteresting. Needless to say, we did not leave the theater happy.
The reason I bring this up is that there are some direct lessons for the final weekend of the fantasy season. There are situations that seem like they should work out but what we can never know is how motivated the players are. My overriding impression of Thor was that the “A list” actors who were there figured that their names, the Marvel brand, the success of recent comic book adaptations, and the special effects would guarantee a success. Knowing this, or at least assuming it, they pretty much mailed in their performances. Seriously, I think Natalie Portman should lose her Oscar for being almost unwatchable in this thing.
Applying the same logic to the matches on the final weekend of the season, we find that a great deal of the Premier League has exactly nothing to play for this weekend. This means we’re likely to know less about who will start, who will try hard, and who will be more focused on packing for vacation. If you want to know what I’m talking about, here is a real Tweet from @Ph1lj0nes “Picking up a few essentials for the summer breaks away. Flip flops are on the agenda at the moment.” And HIS team is facing a serious battle to survive relegation even if his future is in the Premier League regardless of where Rovers find themselves next season.
My point is that under the best of circumstances it is difficult to know who is going to perform and who isn’t. When you take away obvious motivation it gets even more difficult. Some of the guys you expect to do well week in and week out will do what you expect absent any real purpose because they have personal agendas like personal pride or boosting their statistics. Others will either be rotated unpredictably or just go through the motions on the way to the airport of first tee.
As a result, my strategy is to try to stack my teams with players who, at least presumably, have something to play for. Well, other than Mr. Jones for obvious reasons.