| The first beautiful spring day arrives. It's 70-something degrees on a Saturday, sunshine, tweeting birds, etc. And where are we?
Enjoying a walk in the bright arboreal splendor?
Earnestly monitoring the unfolding war?
We're in a dark and windowless room participating in our fantasy baseball draft, naturally. And it moves like tectonic shifting. Fourteen teams, twenty-one rounds. A minute goes by, ninety seconds go by, and then... "Miguel Batista." Ugh.
In fact, this is our second draft. We're roto-gluttons. Yesterday was a wet, grey day and we didn't mind sitting in fetid seclusion assessing the relative merits of Shannon Stewart and Vernon Wells.
Today we do mind, but only a little. It's not really a day for slow self-destruction through baseball. At some level it's nice, however, that our fantasy draft mimics the killer tedium of baseball itself; the dreary process readies us for the months of five-hour, twelve-pitcher, 14-9 slugfests ahead.
And at the day's end, we have a team of our own. Twenty-one players, forty-two delicate hamstrings to fret over like nervous Cashmans and Epsteins. We have a baseball nexus, a connection. We're happy with this creation of our baseball geek-dom, too. This year's strategy was to draft top-tier pitchers early (Mulder, Colon, Koch, Rivera) and rising maybe-stars late (Matsui, Crede, Clement, Fossum.) We added a slipping veteran, Frank Thomas, who, despite the thousand silly things he's said that made us cringe...well, we cheer for him. Big Hurt once laughed while we were heckling Brady Anderson, see, and that was kind of cool. We're fans, pulling for a resurgence.
But if he hits .252 again, screw him.
You don't care about any of this, of course. A fantasy team is personal, something to wrap your head around and hope for, privately. It's a link between you and a game you think you know.
A sportswriter we like, ESPN.com's Eric Neel (regular readers will now clutch their chests in mock Fred Sanford arrhythmia: "'Lizabeth, I'm comin' to go join you, honey...SportsHole's likin' somebody!"), recently authored a piece on how to properly enjoy the baseball season. He wrote, "Do not buy a fantasy team. Eye twitches, late-night phone calls, a cold, callous way of sizing up your friends and neighbors, assigning them little dollar signs in your mind. Nasty stuff."
That's well written but deeply wrong. Neel, a $3 middle reliever if ever we saw one, misses a critical point: fantasy baseball informs us, and makes us better fans. Before fantasy sports entered our lives, we might've watched C.C. Sabathia trundle out to the mound and, sitting in the anonymity of Comiskey's 500-section, drunkenly yelled something like this:
"Hey, C.C.! Can I buy you a corn dog? I'm talking to you, Sabathiaaaa! How 'bout some Twizzlers?"
Today we would yell...okay, we'd yell pretty much the same thing, but then we'd turn to the guy next to us and say, "Y'know, he might be a big round slob, but opponents are hitting only .210 against him. Good control for a 22-year old."
We drafted Sabathia, sure, but it doesn't interfere with our home team loyalties. Having a personal stake in C.C.'s performance (and girth) is just a hedge against disappointment. He might shutout our Sox---which stinks---but at least it lowers the fantasy team's ERA.
Big Foam Finger