Talking Baseball

Your weekday baseball fix. Some days.

Posted by Dave on Monday, March 08, 2004

The Obsession That Is Fantasy Sports

Every free moment of every day inevitably reverts back to one thing: Fantasy sports. I'm not proud of my obsession, but I can always comfort myself with the knowledge that at least I'm not doing crack or heroin. I'm not kidding either - it's definitely an obsession. In the morning, I'll get up and load up Internet Explorer and I'll go to http://fantasysports.yahoo.com (worry not, it's obviously my homepage). Generally, however, I don't even need to open Explorer because I already have a window open from the previous night of pouring over statistics. In the morning, my concern is that there were players acquired. I'm not worried about guys that slipped under my radar - that never happens - I'm worried about my carefully monitored help crew being swept away by fantasy owners less worthy than me. These less worthy owners are the ones who didn't notice that Doug Christie or Troy Hudson finally started getting minutes a week ago, only to put up big numbers just last night. In a perfect world, I'd have an infinitely long bench, and I could snag these players immediately. But, I'm allowed only 3 bench spots in basketball, so these guys need maximum potential in order that they might some-day crack my starting 10 (four guards, four forwards, two centers).

In the evening, after classes and dinner, I'll make sure none of my guys are injured and I'll make sure I have maximized the effectiveness of my lineup for the night. Bibby and his King copatriots are playing the defensively obsessed Pistons? Fine, he can sit for Damon Stoudamire and his three-hucking, ball-dishing ways vs. the defensively inept Mavs. Periodically thorughout the night I'll check box-scores. It doesn't matter what I'm doing, it's always an acceptable form of procrastination. What if I'm working in Pettengill (work area on campus) reading some boring Holocaust material? Well, the computer's just a few paces away. I'll inwardly curse when Andrei Kirilenko goes 2-19 (how can someone shoot so miserably?!) and I won't even be particularly pleased when Baron Davis lights it up with a stuffed stat line (33 points, 4 triples, 13 assists, 8 boards, 3 steals). He's supposed to do that - no sub-par nights are acceptable. I'm not quite Billy Beane - I won't throw chairs if my players underperform - but every time Hubie Brown, the flagrantly moronic coach of the Grizzlies, limits Pau Gasol (the best player on the Grizz) to less than 30 minutes, I get pretty infuriated. Why play your best player less than 60% of the game?! Better question: Why screw me out of so much fantasy production?!

Now for some appalling accompanying information. I still do this even though the season is 3/4 over and I have a 15 point lead in my fantasy basketball league. How big is 15 points? Well, let's just say that I lead the league with 50 points out of a possible 56 points. I own first place in 4 categories, 2nd in 3-pointers made (I can't help it if another guy's lineup includes Peja, Billups, Kidd, Houston, and Lenard), 3rd in rebounding (Maybe if Gasol wasn't SITTING SO MUCH!...), and 4th in FG% (good work Jamal Crawford, only for you is 6-22 from the floor the norm). Second place has 35 points, 7th place has 21 points. What I'm saying to you is this: I lead second place (one team away) by more than 2nd place leads 7th place (5 teams away). I'm reasonably certain that I could compose a team from just the waiver wire and play them the last month and a half and still win. That gives you an idea of how much I'm killing the competition. And I still fanatically check the boxscores and lineup even with the gigantic lead. This can only point to one thing: Addiction.

I haven't even gotten to the worst part: All this fantastic fanaticism, all this obsessive-compulsive checking and re-checking of the league homepage, all this I do with three different sports. Basketball, Baseball, and Football are the sports of choice. And multiple leagues for each sport! I was only discussing basketball above. This is what occurs with each and every sport. It's worse with baseball though. As if I need more incentive (I can't let those other clowns beat me!), there's money on our fantasy baseball league. The past two years, first place has won the entire purse. The past two years, I've finished 2nd.

I don't like losing.

This year, I refuse to lose. The draft is in t-minus three weeks and I have yet to begin researching. I want an objectively awesome master list. No stone will be left unturned. I forgot, that's something that I didn't mention with basketball. With each league comes a compulsory draft. Our basketball one lasted about 2 hours. That's about 6 minutes per round for 8 teams of 15 players. Our baseball league has more teams (10) and more players (28). That means that our baseball draft will take approximately 3.5 hours - and I'll relish every second of it. Let me tell you something, there's nothing that's more disheartening than not being able to select your guy. There's always someone you target prior to the draft as someone who's extremely underrated. Someone who's avoided all the draft page hoopla, someone who you know is going to outperform expectations. A few years ago in fantasy basketball my guy was seven-foot Jermaine O'Neal. He had just been signed by the Pacers long-term and was ensured big minutes. He hadn't logged them yet, however. I needed a center, and I knew I needed Jermaine could put up some big numbers. So I took him in the fourth round, a little early by most people's standards. Immediately, however, I was lauded by my fellow owners. That's not usually the case, however. I got a lot of flack when I took Andrei Kirilenko in the 4th round this year. He's a fairly unathletic Russian who put up good numbers off the bench last year. He projected well as a starter, but not as the 4th best fantasy basketballer! When you catch your guy though, the excitement is unparalleled.

I've only told you about the obsession thusfar, but fantasy sports is tremendously fun as well. For me, fantasy sports is yet another great competition. You must be informed (is Rich Harden available in our league yet?), you must be knowledgable (are herniated discs likely to produce recurrent injuries or lingering effects? How will ARod's shift to New York bode for his fantasy value), and you must be savvy (can you convince your buddy that your Barry Zito is worth his Edgar Renteria?). Winning a game that lasts six months is especially rewarding. Imagine winning a game of cards one time. Winning a league in fantasy sports is like winning a card game, every day, for six months, all at once. It's pretty awesome. Seeing the players you picked perform well is almost as rewarding. Keith Foulke hadn't closed in awhile, but he looked great in Chicago and was closing the spacious Coliseum, so you selected him. Kudos to you, he was incredible last year - and each save he recorded confirmed your insight and excited you.

...Oh...who's my guy this year? I can't tell you, of course! You'll find out in about three weeks, when I write some post-draft analysis and discussion. Until then, sign up for a fantasy league and get immersed. It'll be the best decision you've ever made.

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