ANY GIVEN SUNDAY
The week of August 30, 2015

 A week in the life of one of fantasy football’s most trusted experts

By Josh Katzowitz

Dave Richard’s rise from living with his parents to being among fantasy football’s most trusted experts began with a girl.

It was 1999, and Richard, 23, had just graduated from the University of Miami and was back in his parents’ Chicago-area home, running an online sports memorabilia business and trying to figure out his life.

Then he met this girl from suburban Highland Park. She changed everything. “I fell for her real fast,” Richard said this month, pacing in his living room in front of his wife. “It was something unlike I’d ever had before.” But she was headed to Spain to study abroad, so Richard made her a deal. “Have fun,” he said. “Be single in Spain, and when you come back, we’ll be together.”

But before she left, she had one final piece of practical advice: “Why don’t you find a real job, so you can move out of your parents’ house?”

So he did. And that’s when the true love story began.

Monday, Nov. 17, 2014: Richard wakes early and heads to the gym for his 6am workout. Two hours later, he returns to his south Florida home and begins writing his weekly fantasy football rankings for CBSSports.com. As a break from the tedium, he watches film from the previous day’s games—rarely the whole game, just what’s relevant to his stories. Soon he needs to begin working on his weekly fantasy trade value chart. He swears he’s not tired: “I get seven months off a year where I’m not watching games. I have those seven months where I can sleep.” After a 12-hour day, he watches the Monday Night Football game at home, where a furious fourth-quarter comeback carries the Steelers past a terrible Titans. Richard is 1/7th of the way through his work week.

Richard looked for copy writing and technical writing jobs in Chicago. He didn’t find many, but one day he found an online listing for an entry-level editing job at SportsLine.com. He noted on his resume that in college he’d been a columnist for a pro wrestling website called The People’s Wrestling Website. A few days later, he got a call from SportsLine. The website, which would later become CBSSports.com, had a better job offer: Web producer for the CBS-owned wrestleline.com. He’d earn more money and work normal hours. The gig was in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, but he took it and prepared to move.

The two had a quick connection on their blind date, but Richard remembers himself as a perfect gentleman at dinner.

For a 23-year-old who loved wrestling and who needed a job, it was a dream opportunity. “But,” Richard said later, “my girl was still away in Spain.”

Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014: Back to the gym, home in time to get his kids to school, into CBSSports.com’s Fort Lauderdale headquarters by about 8am. He has to finish his trade chart in the next hour, because that’s when his week of public speaking begins. He’s got to record a fantasy football podcast at 9am with host Adam Aizer and fellow fantasy football expert Jamey Eisenberg. They talk for an hour, and afterward, Richard has 90 minutes to study more film or to start writing. At 11:20, he walks to the makeup room. Ten minutes later, he has a microphone on his lapel and an earpiece in his right ear, and he’s ready for the daily live show exclusive to the website. He’s already declaring that fantasy players should not start Oakland Raiders running back Latavius Murray during the Thursday night game.

The live show lasts about an hour and then he and Eisenberg record a number of on-demand videos in the studio. Richard is off the set by 2pm, and for the next four hours he’s researching and writing his weekly matchups column. After a radio spot in Cleveland, Ohio, he’s out the office door by 6:20 for dinner with his family and time with his kids until they climb into their beds between 8 and 9. He works for another two hours.

Richard liked Fort Lauderdale, liked his job and his friends. But he was only hanging out with young men, so when friends of his parents tried setting him up with a girl, he said yes. She was also from Chicago’s Highland Park, attending college in south Florida.The two had a quick connection on their blind date, but Richard remembers himself as a perfect gentleman at dinner. He invited her back to his place afterward to watch a movie. It seemed all so very innocent. Richard had decided it was more important to be friends with her rather than try to get physical.  

Then, in the apartment parking lot next to her car, Richard and Karen kissed. And with that, the girl who’d gone to Spain had instantly become a distant memory. This kiss with this girl had changed everything.

Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014: Different day, same routine. Richard goes to the gym, heads to the office by 8, talks on the podcast, does the live show, and records on-demand video. He’ll try his best to finish his matchups column by 6, but “it never happens. I get too wrapped up in other stats or double-checking film. Or news breaks and I have to change something.” What doesn’t change, though, is that the people who rely on him every week should avoid inserting Latavius Murray in their lineups. The Chiefs haven’t allowed a rushing touchdown by a running back all year, and there’s no chance Murray, who had exactly 10 carries for 54 yards previously in his career, will be the first. Says Richard throughout the day, “I would not start him against Kansas City.”

“I was the guy everybody wanted in their league. Because I picked the wrong players, started the wrong guys. I was totally uninformed and totally clueless.”

One year after they met, Richard and Karen were engaged. A year after that, in 2002, they were married. Today they have a family of four, and she doesn’t seem to mind reminiscences to a reporter about the girl in Spain. This story started with a girl. A girl who indirectly led Richard to his wife, who loves football and travels to Las Vegas with him every year, where they’ll stay at a fancy hotel, eat at nice restaurants, check out a couple shows, and lay down money in the sportsbook on NFL team win totals. “Some people, when they sit down for dinner, they talk about their kids or work or nothing at all,” Richard said. “We talk about how John DeFilippo’s offense is going to work in Cleveland.”

Thursday, Nov. 20, 2014: Today is different, because today’s the day the Chiefs will face the Raiders and Murray. A Boston radio station calls at 8:18 am. Richard is on the air at 8:20 to talk fantasy football. He’s done by 8:35. Three minutes later, a Chicago radio station calls. He educates the citizens of his hometown for another 15 minutes before hanging up. The station from Washington, D.C. calls at 8:58, and from 9:02-9:20, he’s helping the fantasy players in our nation’s capital figure out how to set their lineups. By 5pm, he’s finished with his film study for the week, and he has to prepare for the CBSSports.com Thursday night pregame show, which leads into the game shown on the NFL Network. This is where the analysts let off their steam. They stuff their faces with food on air. They have fun.

The game, though, is a disaster for anybody who took Richard’s advice. In four carries, Latavius Murray has gained 112 yards and scored two touchdowns. He leaves in the second quarter because of a concussion, but the damage has been done to the Chiefs—who lose the game to a terrible team—and to Richard’s psyche.

Richard didn’t play fantasy football until 1997. He’d always loved football, so he joined a league, picked third in the league draft that year, selected Detroit Lions running back Barry Sanders, and proceeded to become a terrible fantasy player for the next four years.

“I was the guy everybody wanted in their league,” he said. “Because I picked the wrong players, started the wrong guys. I was totally uninformed and totally clueless.”

But before the 2001 season, he made a new plan. Still a producer for the wrestling website, he would study extra hard in the offseason. He would keep up with the NFL’s news and memorize team depth charts. He would do everything he could to win his league, because if he didn’t triumph in 2001, he would walk away from fantasy football for good.

That year, Richard finally won.

“Back then, you were kind of a dork if you played fantasy football. Now, you’re a dork if you don’t.”

Friday, Nov. 21, 2014: Richard knows today is going to be rough, thanks to Murray’s brief brilliance. His Twitter mentions are a disaster, and Karen tries to calm him by saying, “You’re taking it too hard. You make mistakes every week.” Before the 9am podcast, Jeff Tobin, Richard’s editor, pulls him aside and says, “Own it, and if you don’t really think Murray is that good, say that.” So, Richard doubles down on the podcast. And you know what? Murray doesn’t score a touchdown for the rest of the season (though that fact hardly helps Richard on this day). Richard has the live show and the on-demand videos, and after a live online chat, he leaves the office at about 4:30. He’s ready for his weekend.

In 2001, SportsLine—which had become CBS SportsLine—paid for the right to produce the NFL’s official website. The first person SportsLine sent to NFL.com was Richard; he edited columns from the likes of Gil Brandt and Cris Collinsworth, built cover pages, and conducted Q&As with players and coaches. That’s where Richard got his true football education. In 2003, Richard began writing a weekly fantasy football column, and two years later, CBS SportsLine—which by then had become CBSSports.com—moved him back home to become a full-time fantasy writer. Richard had found his true calling.

Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014: Richard’s weekend lasts from 8am to 9pm, and it’s time to spend time with his family. But by 9, he’s at the office preparing for his two-hour CBS Sports Radio show with Aizer and Eisenberg. They take calls, and they shoot the breeze. It’s some of the most fun Richard has all week. He begins to move on from the Murray debacle.

Back when Richard first became a fantasy football writer, this wasn’t a cool job. “Back then, you were kind of a dork if you played fantasy football, “ Richard said. “Now, you’re a dork if you don’t. In 2005, we would do three videos a week. Now we have a live show every day, a two-hour Sunday show, a podcast five days a week, a live radio show Saturday nights, video on demand. And it’s not even close to slowing down.”

Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014: It’s football Sunday, and Richard arrives at the office at 9am, two hours before the live online pregame show. By 1pm, he and his colleagues retire to the green room where they eat catered food and watch the TVs that show every single game. After the 4pm contests are complete, Richard shoots a few on-demand videos, just in time for the beginning of the Sunday night game. He listens to the first quarter of the game on the radio during his drive from the office to his house.

Week 12 is nearly complete. Week 13 is nearly about to begin. He arrives at home, walks inside, and sees the girl he found because another girl left for Spain a long time ago. Karen is sitting on the couch, watching the football game. She’s ready for him to join her.

Photo by SD Dirk/Flickr (CC BY 2.0) | Remix by Jason Reed