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“No, I don’t think so,” he replied.
“I was caught off guard by the question,” Albertson said later. “What I wished I had said was that it’s been a lot of work and a lot of risk to be in a successful position, and that winning validates that all of this hard work is paying off.”
Reflecting back, Albertson said the question is unfair. After all, no one asks Brian Kelly if he feels bad about beating Rice. “It’s competition. Even if you are in a more favorable position in terms of probability of beating a competitor, you’re still accepting the risk that the outcome could go the other way,” he said. “That generally applies to any competitive market, whether it’s sports or business or politics. The only reason a sense of guilt should be associated with winning is if you were cheating.”
Albertson also wished that he’d had the opportunity to discuss the rest of his life — the many interests and endeavors outside fantasy sports that provide deep meaning and a desire to give back, which Notre Dame had a lot to do with.
It started with his girlfriend, MBA classmate Kimberly Greenberg. They met at a Notre Dame admitted-students dinner in New York. She was a native French speaker with international development experience in Africa. With their shared dreams of bettering the world through business, they clicked.
“We look through a different lens, because he’s more quant-linear thinking than I am, but we’re both committed to directing our talents to improving the world, whether in the U.S. or abroad,” Greenberg said. “We’re interested in empowering people who already have ideas and might just need access to capital or knowledge.”
To begin that social-entrepreneurship work, Albertson has capitalized on some of Notre Dame’s key global opportunities. Last summer, he mentored small-business founders in Haiti through the Gigot Center for Entrepreneurship. Having started his own company, he was well-positioned to conduct entrepreneur boot camps in the evening and train farmers, doctors, sandal-makers and others by day.
Both Albertson and Greenberg devoted this past spring break to volunteer consulting projects through Business on the Frontlines. Albertson worked on a solar panel project in Uganda, while Greenberg investigated how to foster entrepreneurship in the KwaZulu-Natal region of South Africa.
Outside the classroom, the health-conscious Albertson brews antioxidant-packed tea by the potful. He avoids gluten and practices yoga. Last year, he and Greenberg competed in the Chicago Triathlon together. They’re considering even tougher swim-bike-run combo races ahead.
For now, daily fantasy is still a viable business for Albertson, but he’s looking past it. The Brooklyn Nets have shown interest in whether he could run some Moneyball-esque stats for them. Hedge funds have called, too, but he’s not interested in traditional Wall Street. Albertson dreams of developing an economic model, maybe tracking global currencies that could help governments or commerce. “I want to leave a positive mark on the world through business,” he said.
But he’s not quite there yet. Before graduating from Notre Dame’s MBA program, Cory Albertson had something to prove.
The night in Chile was a pivotal one. On that date, Oct. 20, 2014, the DraftKings payout was bigger than usual. It all came down to Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell. Albertson needed Bell to score more than 19 fantasy points for touchdowns or other key plays. Every time Bell got the ball, Albertson’s nerves ticked. If Bell got injured, Albertson would lose. Bell had already made a 43-yard reception. Now the Steelers were two yards from a touchdown.
To Albertson, if Bell scored, it would prove that all the time he’d spent on the algorithm had been worth it. It would also help him do well enough financially to help fund his MBA costs, and to pursue his dreams of bettering the world. He tugged his glasses, which had slid down his sweating nose. He rested his chin on Greenberg’s head.
Of all the players on the field, the Steelers quarterback found Bell in motion and open. Bell caught the pass and charged over the goal line. Touchdown. Like that, he was over 19 fantasy points.
“Yes! Yes!” Albertson shouted, punching the air. Greenberg had never seen him more excited. He grabbed her in a hug, then high-fived his cheering classmates.
The camaraderie stayed high as they all snapped photos with Albertson. They knew this was a big night for him. After all, that Living the Fantasy camera crew was there. Albertson was just too modest to say how big the night was.
Finally, his most financially focused classmate pulled him aside. Exactly how much had he won?
“Um, it was a million,” Albertson said.
“That’s what I thought!” his classmate hollered. That night’s dinner tab — and unlimited future potential for his use of Big Data — would be on Albertson.