Monday, April 5, 2010

20,000 Fantasy Leagues Under The Sea

Fantasy is a part of my everyday life. I fantasize I write professionally by posting on this blog every day. I fantasize that I really am a super hero when my sons and I chase each other around my house during battles. I’ve always enjoyed the science-fiction/fantasy category of video games. Fantasy is all about imagination. I pride myself in still having a vivid imagination.

The type of fantasy I’m lacking is a dose of fantasy sports. I’ve never participated in a fantasy league. In fact, I’ve avoided it. I’ve always thought that something involving the word fantasy should be fun and care free, like a day dream. Fantasy sports, however, seem to force the team owner (there’s the fantasy of it I suppose) to plunge headlong into a frigid pool of minutia, focusing too much on statistics and raw numbers and not on the enjoyment of the game.

About ten years ago, when I first noticed the craze among my co-workers, I swore I’d never participate. I listened to bickering and arguments about individual athletes, not teams. There was no evidence of any loyalty. Local teams had no bearing on the discussion. If Joe’s catcher was playing against the home town team, he hoped that catcher killed them.

“Where’s the fun in this?” I thought. “How does rooting for a guy I normally hate make me enjoy a sport more?”

To me, half the fun is that innocent optimism in one’s team at the beginning of a season. No matter how badly your team sucks, you think that the team might gel and pull it off this year. The magic there is lost if the focus is on individuals.

On top of that, there seemed to be far too many games to keep track of. After all, more than I am loyal to any team, I am lazy. If something involves too much work, I’ll take a pass. I’m not the type of guy who could enter one of these leagues and then sit back and casually make adjustments. Once I was in, I was all the way in. I saw a great potential in being consumed by the numbers of it all, like a ship at the mercy of the Kraken. Each great tentacle would represent a statistical column. Batting average and total bases would hold me in place while hits and errors would break me in two so that on base percentage and average with runners in scoring position could drag me down to the briny deep. I would then mull over my foolishness at disregarding RBIs for the rest of eternity in Davy Jones’ locker.

These problems I had with fantasy sports led me to believe that I would have a terrible time with it. I wouldn’t want to pick players who were playing against the teams I root for and I would spend way too much time pouring over statistics. Lots of stress for little reward.

So, it was with great skepticism that I took a look at the fantasy baseball contest my brother posed to me. The system he suggested we play in is much simpler. All the data is there at your fingertips, you make a few simple picks each week. You don’t need to draft at the beginning of the year. All the players in the majors are available to you and you just need to pick them when they have a good week. Yet, there is still the need to hope for a handful of specific players to do well instead of any team. This is my fundamental problem with fantasy sports.

I sold out anyway.

Learn from me. The important thing here is that I am doing this to see how it will turn out. If anyone out there has felt like me about fantasy sports, refusing to participate despite tremendous peer pressure, being labeled an outcast around the water cooler because you cared how the teams were faring more than the individuals (in a team sport? how silly of you), I am doing this for you. I will go down this dark and dangerous path. I will play fantasy baseball. Should it ruin my love for the game and suck the enjoyment out of sport, I shall warn you. You need not compromise your principles. I will compromise mine for you. And if this fantasy craze is not everything that it’s cracked up to be, I will report back to you and warn you to stay away. Be prepared to run.

Here’s to Opening Day. Let’s hope I still enjoy it.

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