(In my efforts to bring additional voices and perspectives to fantasy baseball on COSFBA, I present to you another guest writer. This article was written by William J. Tasker of The Flagrant Fan and gives a unique perspective on his struggles of being a baseball fan and a fantasy baseball player.)
I envy you folks that can still play fantasy sports. Growing up with an advanced love of baseball statistics, playing fantasy baseball was the bomb. It was also the natural progression from growing up with Strat-O-Matic baseball, a game that reached its fiftieth anniversary this season. Pouring over the statistics every day along with the box scores fit right in with my lifestyle and that’s what made fantasy baseball very exciting and a passion. It was fun to compete against friends and also anonymous people on the Net and the victories made me feel like a genius. Of course, the losses were always blamed on luck.
But a funny thing happened. I noticed that I was developing a mental disorder the more I played the fantasy game. I’ll have to admit that I am a lifelong Yankee fan. Before you hate me for that, my love for the team began in the 1960s when the team was absolutely terrible. So I was a Fan even before they became the Evil Empire. When I root for a team, it goes down to the roots of my being. In essence, a part of my life force is wrapped up in my desire for the team to win. Being a Fan of any team has its shares of heartbreak. No team is going to win all the time and failure is built into the system. Even the best teams are going to lose 35% of the time. Now add to this passion the element of fantasy baseball.
Here is how the mental problems came about. Say my fantasy team included Miguel Cabrera and his Tigers were playing my Yankees. But Cabrera is a big dog on my fantasy team and earns me a lot of points. Say the Yankees are fighting the Red Sox or the Bay Rays for the pennant and there are only a game or so separating all the teams. Naturally, I am pulling hard for the Yankees, but now, in a scoreless game with a man on, Cabrera crushes an A. J. Burnett pitch into the left field grandstand. Immediately, I jump up and start pumping my fists and scream, “Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!”
But then, just as suddenly, my head catches up with my fantasy baseball glee and says, “Whuh?” The guy hit a two run homer…against the Yankees…who are fighting for a division title. Why are you cheering you idiot!?
Say the next day is Sunday and the ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball is on and the featured game is the Red Sox against the Rangers. Absolutely, I have to admit that I HATE the Red Sox. Not only do they compete head to head with my team, but a lot of their fans have become this obsessive, obnoxious group they call, “The Red Sox Nation,” which is a direct rip off of the “Cardinal Nation” which has been around a whole lot longer.
Anyway, the game is the Red Sox against the Rangers. The Rangers are probably my second favorite team in the AL because of Josh Hamilton and because they finally got the Angels out of the playoffs. But it just so happens that I have Dustin Pedroia as my fantasy second baseman and Jonathan Papelbon as my closer. The fan again has to admit that Papelbon is pretty close to my least favorite major league baseball player. But I needed a closer for my fantasy team and he was the best name left on the board during the draft. Pedroia doesn’t bother me. He’s kind of a cute little elf anyway. But both are on my fantasy team. And the game progresses.
Everything about me would root against the Red Sox and for the Rangers. The Red Sox losing would be good for my team, the Yankees. The Rangers winning would be good for them to stay ahead of the Angels. But again, Pedroia hits a double that plates two runs and then steals third and scores on a wild pitch. I’m delirious with glee as my fantasy team just got the Holy Grail. And then, at the end of the game with the Red Sox ahead, Papelbon comes in with men on base and closes the door with every out being a strikeout. Score! Yeah! Cool! Bonus!
And so you can see how this was ruining me. I started twitching during games as the duality of my desires fought constantly. It got to a point where I was having open arguments…out loud…with myself.
“You CAN’T root for him.”
“Oh yes I can and I will!”
And so I had to put it away and give it up. That’s the big difference between Strat-O-Matic and Fantasy. If you win in Strat-O-Matic, at least it doesn’t really affect your favorite team. I don’t play Strat-O-Matic anymore though.
And thus order is restored to my baseball viewing habits. My wife no longer looks at me with fear in her eyes and the phone at the ready to call 911. My passion is fully directed toward one cause and not split. My blood pressure is down. And the game is fun again.
But I do miss it. I miss looking for the sleeper picks. If I was still playing fantasy baseball, my two sleeper picks for 2011 would be Curtis Granderson and Aaron Harang. They would have been great picks too.
William J. Tasker writes about baseball and his passion for the game on his own blog, The Flagrant Fan, and should also be followed on Twitter. He's also a fellow member of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance.