By Greg Price
I’m thinking if I had spent as much time in my studies in high school as a child as I currently do in my adult life researching sport and fantasy sports, I’d be a neurosurgeon right now. Or, in the case of George Costanza, a marine biologist or architect.
That was abundantly clear to me this past week when I purchased not one, not two, but three fantasy baseball magazines. I used the winnings I received from buying some score squares at a Superbowl party I attended at a friend’s to further payroll my obsession of the next sports season. And for those keeping track — three is a low number for my preparation for the Cattle Country Cornbelt Confederacy that I have been part of for more than a decade as the general manager of the Springfield Upahs. It’s the Circle of Life for financing my fantasy sports obsessions.
I’ve been part of fantasy baseball, fantasy football and fantasy hockey leagues and won multiple league championships in each of them. Do the cash winnings from these championships having me sipping champagne, smoking cigars, and flinging dollar bills at the camera, surrounded by bikini-clad babes like the rap videos? Nope. Rather, I just invest the money back into the hobby.
One thing I have learned is I have to appreciate real sport and fantasy sport on two completely different levels. That heady backcheck you see in hockey that breaks up a scoring opportunity going the other way appeals greatly to the purist hockey fan out there, but means little to the fantasy hockey player. That gritty veteran leadership you hear about in the locker room —irrelevant to the fantasy hockey sports guy, along with the bonecrushing hits, or sacrificing ones body for blocked shots. Those are not statistics unless it’s the deepest of fantasy hockey leagues that have obscure categories. Many hockey fans have wanted to see fighting phased out of hockey, but if penalty minutes are a part of your fantasy hockey league, having a goon on your roster can help you win the category single-handedly.
Enjoying a cold beer and some crackerjacks at the ball diamond, you can appreciate that outfielder with the rocket arm who guns out a baserunner trying to making it to home plate, but you’ll be hard pressed to find a fantasy baseball league that credits outfielders with assists. Those defensive catchers, where framing pitches is an artform, making pitchers better than they are can help a team on the field win, but those catchers don’t help you on your fantasy team. It doesn’t matter if the catcher has a noodle arm and can’t throw out basestealers, as long as that catcher mashes at the plate, that is the one you want on your fantasy team.
I remember winning back-to-back titles in fantasy football in a touchdown-only league I played in years back, and no one could figure out how I did that. I drew number 10 out of the hat in a 10-team league both times, giving me the 10 and 11th pick overall in the snake format. Running backs would go flying off the board in front of me where I would just shake my head as a rushing or receiving touchdown was awarded six points and a passing one was awarded four points. Kickers were awarded their three points for field goals and one point for extra points.
Who cares if a running back rushes for 1,500 yards (something a regular fan appreciates), if they don’t cross the goal line to score a touchdown. And even if they did, they would need to cross the goal line 20 times (120 points, and near impossible) to equal a gunslinger quarter who throws 30 touchdowns (120 points and a lot more common). Running backs also have a higher risk of injury with the pounding they take. Both times I drew No. 10 out of the hat before the draft, I was able to get quarterback Peyton Manning and wide receiver Marvin Harrison in their prime with the Indianapolis Colts with my No. 10 and No. 11 picks. Each time Manning threw a touchdown to Harrison, and he did it a lot, that was 10 points for me in the scoring system. A situation were the purist football fan and the fantasy footballer views collide. The league I was in at the time was different from other fantasy football leagues where top kickers would get drafted way earlier given the scoring system. As I said, if only I had put as much research in the my high school studies.
You will probably not have many sports fan pursuits speak too highly of the fantasy sports fan. And fair enough, there are so many intangibles in the real game that do not show up in fantasy that help propel a team to victory. If a general manager treated his real-life team like a fantasy team, the team would likely struggle with little attention to defence.
But I’d argue fantasy sports has brought more attention to sports in general. I have my teams that I watch regularly as a purist with the Dallas Cowboys, Pittsburgh Penguins and Los Angeles Dodgers, but my entry into fantasy sports has made me follow other teams as well.
Even a rancid match up of the Cleveland Browns and Jacksonville Jaguars for the NFL may have you tuning in if you have a couple of players on your team from their rosters.
There can be something drawn from a 10-1 blowout of the Cincinnati Reds over the Atlanta Braves if you had the Braves’ first baseman Freddie Freeman finish 1-for-1 with three walks and a solo home run.
It makes any game interesting for the player and allows for the smack talk along the way for fantasy sport players, even when it’s not the real team they cheer for. The one no-no I draw the line at is if one is happier that their fantasy team did well after their real team as a fan suffered than vice a versa. If there’s ever conflict between the two with how your players line up with your opposition, cheer for your real team first before your fantasy team. I’ll take a string of last-place finishes in fantasy leagues if it means the Dallas Cowboys, Pittsburgh Penguins and Los Angeles Dodgers win multiple championships.
That is reality, but now I must return to my world of fantasy, leafing through my baseball magazines and forming a fool proof strategy to take the Springfield Upahs out of the basement to loftier heights….who am I kidding, I’ve already changed my mind a half-dozen times on who I am going to pick with my first pick.
Time to hit the books once again and probably outthink myself. As much as I love my Dodgers though, I’ve been burned by Yasiel Puig too much to ever have him on my fantasy roster again…maybe.