Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Why fantasy baseball is ruining my spring

by Jeremy Bird

As a kid I named my pet cats “Ozzie” and “Herzog” after the St. Louis Cardinals shortstop and manager at the time. I saw 10 of McGwire’s 70 from the bleachers at Busch stadium. I used to skip high school, sneak down to the good seats (while paying for the cheap ones) to watch Ozzie Smith in his final games.

One of my first memories is of Willie McGee climbing the center field wall to rob a would-be Brewer homer in one of the most amazing catches in World Series history. I celebrated Bruce Sutter’s saves and Vince Coleman’s steals.

Yes, I am obsessed with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Last year, I spent the winter cursing Roy Oswalt and Roger Clemens. The winter before I spent wishing the Red Sox were still under the curse.

As a Cardinals fan, I am also obligated to despise the Chicago Cubs. Feeling sorry for them is not an option. I want them to lose and lose badly. I was socialized this way I suppose.

So, I found myself in a weird spot this past Sunday. The Cardinals were playing the Cubs in the final game of a rough three game series. Jason Isringhausen was on the mound in the eighth inning of a 4-4 game. The Cubs loaded the bases (i.e. Izzy walked three in row with his best Rick Ankiel impression). Michael Barrett, the Cubs catcher, walked to the plate…

Barrett ended up belting a grand slam that led to a Cubs sweep. Instead of feeling defeated and miserable, I found myself sort of ambivalent … Ambivalent? Yes, maybe even a little happy. You see, Barrett is the catcher on my fantasy baseball team. Four RBIs for my catcher – now, that is a good day at the plate in fantasy land.

What the hell is wrong with me?

A day earlier I found myself rooting for Roy Oswalt in a game against the Nationals (my new home team who I cheer for for as long as it is not the Cardinals in the other dugout). The Nationals staged an impressive comeback rally after falling behind Oswalt 5-0. Instead of elation, I was angry. Oswalt is my fantasy ace. There went my fantasy ERA with my ace giving up 5 runs.

Something is definitely wrong with me.

I have never done this whole fantasy sports thing before. When Pete, my co-worker, told me about the league he has been running for 13 years, I decided to give it a try. I sacrificed a beautiful Saturday to sit in a room with 18 other baseball fanatics picking my team.

Don’t get me wrong, I love baseball statistics. There is something beautiful about calculating a player's OBP or SLG%. Something spellbinding about the sub-2 ERA. Something mesmerizing about the quest for .400.

But, the game of baseball is about more than stats. I love the way David Eckstein runs onto the field with the passion and enthusiasm of a little leauger. I loved watching Rex Hudler come off the bench to pinch hit, head-first slides into first and all. I loved sitting in the stands hoping LaRussa would put Joe McEwing in the game when he played in St. Louis. I love seeing real heart among all of the ego-driven megastars who have forgotten how to run out a pop-up.

I find my newfound entrance into fantasy land getting in the way of real baseball. Even though I try to avoid it, I find myself averting my eyes from the Sportscenter highlights to check the bottom line stats. Did my closer Turnbow get a save for the Brewers? Did Adam Dunn hit a homer for the Reds? They play for my division rivals- I should be rooting against them!

Most importantly, I am supposed to be watching the highlights and enjoying the game of baseball.

But, I can’t help myself. I skip the articles and head straight for the box scores. I check the score of my real-life team only after the stats of my fantasy players.

This fantasy baseball thing is starting to ruin my spring. That is unless I win the fantasy league. Then, it might all be worth it.

"Bird's Eye View" appears alternate Tuesday


Blogger Patrick said...

Awwwww, welcome to the world of fantasy sports my friend. I have been doing this since the mid 80's and wouldn't go a season without it. I have been comissioner of my league for all these years and remember every Tuesday typing in stats manually, there was no sites to do this....what a treat that was. Good luck

Tuesday, April 11, 2006  
Blogger j-bird said...

Patrick: i am currently 16th out of 18th in the league. not a great start. they say wait 3 weeks before getting too worried. my main problem is a rough pitching start. we will see.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006  
Anonymous Isho said...

I understand and appreciate your point of view. However, I found that fantasy sports has actually invigorated my interest in the daily games. Especially in baseball, over a 162 game season, I find myself not caring so much about every individual game... until I started having to check daily for fantasy reasons.

Also, I was a disgruntled NFL fan, favoring college football until I played my first fantasy football season a few years back and now, can't imagine life without the NFL or fantasy games!

Monday, April 17, 2006  
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Monday, October 09, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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Sunday, November 19, 2006  

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