Fantasy as a Reality

Fantasy as a Reality

Friday, April 30, 2010
4:43 PM

As I am once again consumed by the monster that is my rotisserie baseball team, I sometimes wonder, Am I alone? Do others have this incurable disease? Or, Who on Gods earth unleashed this evil virus on the unsuspecting masses? Well some of those questions were answered for me when I watched the revealing 30 for 30 on the W.W.L. titled, Silly Little Game. The one hour show featured the Founding Fathers of Fantasy Sports, the original members of the Rotisserie Baseball League. I found it to be funny, sad, enlightening and downright scary, all at the same time. Having a sports affliction is never an easy thing. There is always heartbreak waiting for you around every turn. What these visionaries were able to do was to offer things that we never had before, among them, control and choice, while taking a geeks love of numbers to a different level. The numbers part is at the heart of this. For as anyone who has played any game knows, playing is the real joy of it. When, for any reason, we cant play, there is still a connection by understanding what we see in a game as it is played by others. For us observers, the ability to see what happened and truly be able connect the dots on what has transpired becomes a new type of competition. In fact, it becomes the root of just about all bar arguments. Now, in a measurable way, we can test our abilities against other couch-bound warriors in a match of wits. Instead of the old, Those who cant, teach, its, Those who cant, play fantasy games!

In a truly inspired moment, Daniel Okrent was able to take his obsession with baseball and take it to another level. Actually its a little beyond that, I liken it to someone who plays the guitar hearing, or seeing, Hendrix for the first time. You can hear Jimmy, but can you HEAR Jimmy? Fascination with the numbers of baseball was not something new. This was part of its allure. But to be able to use these numbers in a way that was not as a historical reference was what was revolutionary: Using past performance, to predict future results and to quantify them in a way that you could measure your predictions against others. Well, maybe it wasnt revolutionary, bookies have been doing it since the beginning of time, but it sure was different, and fun.

By being able to select your team, is where the control and choice comes in. For fans constantly clamoring about the ability of the G.M. of their favorite team to be able to construct a roster, this was their chance to do so. The fact that you do it against a group of individuals as sick as you are ensures that there is competitive balance and also means that you have to prioritize and make choices on what is important and how you can get more of it. Just like the big boys!

But an interesting thing happened on the way to baseball nirvana and this is the part that hit close to home for me. It also amused my wife, who happened to be in the room pretending not to notice, while I watched. (Her snickers and eye roles belied her indifference!) It was the psychosis that started even before the league had formally begun. The process of selecting league members and their merit was eerily familiar. The intense preparation for the draft and then the impending sense of ineptitude and doom as it occurred would have been funny if it wasnt so true. That most of them called it the greatest and worst day is something I can truly relate to. Then the real fun begins. As I listened to one member refer to her league mates as seemingly normal, I laughed out loud. Because as I know, there is nothing normal for anyone who is involved in any sort of fantasy sport. It takes over. No, you dont understand, I mean it climbs in your head, kicks of its shoes, hops on the sofa, and announces, Im going to be here a while and theres nothing you can do about it. Oh, and by the way, Im in charge! Am I married to fantasy sports?!

My ability to watch any game has been skewed as much as it has been enhanced and when you do what I do for a living, there is no escape. For instance, I walk into the bar on Wednesday for my night shift and the Phillies-Giants game is on. My Phillies! Only they had been dominated by the Freaky Franchise all afternoon and were down in the ninth 4-1. Of course, they proceed to start a rally and San Fran closer Brian Wilson is brought in. My closer! So as I walk into the bar Wilson is pitching to Jayson Werth, still with the three run lead, but the bases are loaded with two outs. What have we here? Not only that, two of my guys are on base and I can use the runs, but I need the save more. Not to mention, the Phils are scuffling right now and are behind the Mets. Theyre out of 1st place in the division for the first time in over a year, and as manager Charlie Manual says, I like being in 1st place. Well Charlie, I do to, with the Phils and Roto, but if Werth gets a hit, my WHIP and ERA are going to take a beating. Talk about conflicted. As Werth fouls of ANOTHER pitch, I actually ask myself, What am I rooting for here? Honestly! So when he bloops a double down the right-field line to clear the bases and tie the game, I think, Cool, maybe one of the relievers I have in the game, can get a win, provided by one of my hitters, since I have a total of 8 players combined from both teams in the game. Am I scaring you yet? I could go on!

But Ill spare both of us because as Im typing this little scenario, which seems to be played out many, many times, every night. Im reminded of something Okrent said about this: Theres nothing more interesting than your own team, and nothing more boring than stories about someone elses. He said this in relation to the fact that to capitalize on the growth of the game that he and his mates had founded, they organized a convention for Rotisserie Baseball players, where the Founding Fathers would be the featured speakers. The way he described their horror at being stalked by these geeks is hilarious.

So for me, I found the show to be a mirror for myself to gaze in. As I looked at the reflection and wanted to recoil, I could not. As the show depicts how the new game grew to the point that it could not be controlled by its original masters, neither can I. Fantasy sports now are as much of the sports culture and experience as the smell of the hot dogs and the long lines for the restrooms at the game. They enable a connection and understanding that I feel enhances the rooting interest, even for a stuffy purist. That they can make you crazy and obsessive only adds to the fun, and cant be avoided, because to win you have to be in and once youre in, theres no way out! A Silly Little

Game indeed!

Fast Break Morning Update: Blackhawks beat Avalanche; Bulls lose to Mavericks

Fast Break Morning Update: Blackhawks beat Avalanche; Bulls lose to Mavericks

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After loss to Mavs, Wade says Bulls 'keep putting (their) hand on the hot stove every day'

After loss to Mavs, Wade says Bulls 'keep putting (their) hand on the hot stove every day'

Dwyane Wade sounded every bit like a frustrated 35-year old father when talking about the repeated ills and so-called growing pains of his Bulls, as they surrendered yet another game against a sub-.500 team.

Sometimes it's the New York Knicks whom the Bulls are offering temporary refuge. Or maybe the Minnesota Timberwolves as they are all-too-generous to roll out the welcome mat for returning figures to Chicago.

Tuesday it was the Dallas Mavericks, the second-worst team in the Western Conference, who stormed into the United Center and escaped with a 99-98 win, courtesy of Wesley Matthews' triple with 11.7 seconds left followed by him locking down Jimmy Butler on the ensuing possession.

Wade was forced to take a contested 21-footer that went awry, but the Bulls' ills went far beyond the last two possessions, when the Mavericks exploited their strategy yet again.

"Either you learn the lesson or figure out," Wade said. "Keep putting your hand on the hot stove every day.

"We just gotta figure out not to put our hands on that stove. And understand when we come in the kitchen, that stove is hot, don't touch it. As I continue to say, this is a very young team and they have to play in these games and have to go through these moments. The one thing you want, whether it's this year or next year, is to not make the same mistakes."

The Bulls are apparently insistent on touching the stove and keep burning themselves, the most recent time with the confusion or the bad strategy in defending the Mavericks' final offensive possession.

Deron Williams found himself with Nikola Mirotic defending him off a switch from Jimmy Butler. Not the quickest afoot, Mirotic gave Williams an easy path to the basket and Wade was the backside help, not wanting to leave Matthews on the wing for a triple.

But with the bench commanding Wade to help, Williams easily found Matthews for an open 3 as Wade had no help for his man. With the Bulls up two, one could see how Wade didn't want to leave Matthews.

"I'll have to go back and watch, but it looks like Deron got downcourt, Wade went over to help and we didn’t rotate accordingly," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "We obviously need to do a better job of staying in front of the other end."

Mirotic was supposed to be brought back slowly in his return from strep throat, but he played the entire fourth quarter and 22 minutes overall, having lost eight pounds with his illness that had him miss four games.

[SHOP BULLS: Get your Bulls gear right here]

Their issues were game-long and have been seasonlong as the Mavericks were supposed to absorb a shellacking from a Bulls team that felt a 25-point beatdown in Texas last month.

Instead, they would've been happy with settling for an escape when Butler rose up over his college teammate Matthews for a 20-foot wing jumper with 22.8 seconds left.

Butler nearly added a triple-double and clutch moment to his growing resume with 24 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds but was dogged by Matthews all night, the defender who wouldn't give him airspace, went chest-to-chest and even earned a technical foul when he felt Butler exaggerated some contact in the third quarter.

"He took away my space, wouldn't let me get to my spot," Butler said of Matthews. "Good for him. I should've did something different."

Wade missed 13 of his 21 shots, scoring 17 with five rebounds on his 35th birthday

With scoring at a premium, Robin Lopez had a season-high 21 points being guarded by Dirk Nowitzki — and they were necessary considering the Bulls were without Taj Gibson (ankle injury) and Doug McDermott couldn't repeat his 30-point showing from Sunday in Memphis.

Rick Carlisle has long been regarded as one of the top strategic coaches, and though he doesn't have the usual personnel from the Mavericks' salad days, he had enough tricks up his sleeve to throw the Bulls off.

Six Mavericks scored in double figures, led by Harrison Barnes' 20 points and Seth Curry's 18, as Barnes, Matthews and Curry combined for eight triples — spreading the Bulls out and picking them apart defensively.

The Mavericks started Nowitzki at center, going to an almost all-small lineup. And though Lopez scored 14 points in the first half, trying to feed him seemed to take the Bulls out of it in the second half.

The energy was tardy to the party, as they shot just 41 percent in the first half but woke up a little in the third quarter — continuing their all-too familiar trend of half-hearted efforts against lesser teams.

And it looks like the ever-optimistic Wade is dishing out some realism, probably something that comes with the perspective of turning 35.

"You can't keep getting stressed out or frustrated. We've been going through this all year. We'll get back in in the morning.

"Once you realize who you are, you're better off. I sleep better at night. Once we want to be a better team and start winning games, we will. I'm not mad, I'm not frustrated, I'm not stressed. Just taking the hits."