March to Sea: It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year
The time is coming. It's just a week or two more until the commencement of the most enjoyable annual phase in a sports fan's existence.
"What are you talking about?" you scream at the newspaper.
Calm down, I reply. It's just a silly sports column. Yes, baseball hasn't begun yet. Yes, we can find Brett Favre and Jerry Rice on the golf course rather than the football field (and if you've ever seen Rice play, it's not aesthetically pleasing). Yes, the NBA is in its boring regular season, and the NHL is just plain boring.
And, if you're waiting for the MARCH MADNESS punch line, you ain't gonna get it.
No, I'm talking about fantasy baseball. Specifically, the fantasy baseball draft. It is the highlight of every true sports fan's year and perhaps the most exciting three hours God grants us humble mortals as a reward for our humanity.
"What are you talking about?" you scream at the newspaper, having terrible amnesia. "You obviously weren't there Saturday night when I was banging the girl next door. Now, that was real. Boo-yah! Where my dogs at?"
Chill out there, Shaggy. Perhaps I was slightly exaggerating. Nevertheless, do not underestimate the power of a live fantasy baseball draft until you've been there, done that. I don't mean a new-age, live draft over the Internet. I'm talking about an in-person, face-to-face, no-holds-barred draft with ten dedicated baseball fans in attendance. Each player sits around a table with notes, fantasy-guide publications, and phone contacts for possible trades or late-breaking news flashes. An elected commissioner announces each pick when a yellow-index card is handed to him.
This will be my fifth year participating in a fantasy league with primarily the same group of guys--holdovers from high school. We set up a date to return home from school last August, and, midterms shmidterms, we're all sticking to it. Though the brief meeting will be the first time we've seen each other since the end of winter break, the salutations will be cursory and detached.
Fantasy baseball is not a game. It's a business. If you don't possess a no-mercy attitude at the draft table, chances are you're in for a miserable three hours.
The first round of the draft is always the most awaited and intense, but never the most important. It's the fifth and sixth rounds that separate the men from the boys. Who will come away with the steal? Who will choose the oft-injured player with mammoth potential? Who will pick the sleeper? Who will select the bust?
I am not ashamed to say that last year's draft was a nightmarish experience for me. Three times, the player I wanted was selected one pick ahead of me. Sometimes I admit it on the spot. Other times, my pride gets in the way of my drafting error. "I should have traded up. I should have picked him last round." The questions fly through my head, and I begin to feel dizzy. Time is running out on my selection. I have to regroup and make a pick before the allotted three minutes is over.
You must be prepared, and, in hindsight, three mishaps doomed my fantasy team before the season even began. When Barry Bonds was selected, I took Craig Biggio. Instead of Raul Mondesi, I was relegated to Jeremy Burnitz. And when I thought I had planned everything right, waiting on Troy Glaus until the thirteenth round, only to hear his name called one pick ahead of mine, I could only muster Florida Marlins shortstop Alex Gonzales as a back-up. Glaus hit 47 homers last year. I think Gonzales ended his season in the minor leagues. He should have, at least. When you draft a player who underachieves during the season, you develop a personal hatred for him. But, I'm over last year. Let's just say my boys made Gonzales an offer he couldn't refuse.
Finally, I leave you with a true story that portrays the true authenticity and emotion of fantasy baseball. When I was 16-years old, I had the opportunity to interview Brady Anderson, the Baltimore Orioles' center fielder, on a local kids' sports television show. I began my interview with Anderson with an anecdote that I had traded for him in my fantasy league only to see him get injured the next day. The move ruined my season, I informed him, and I expected an apology.
Mr. Anderson was none too amused. He gave no answer at all, except for a slight raise of his eyebrows. The lack of reaction shocked me to the degree that I became visibly flustered (this conversation was being recorded by a network cameraman) and forgot my designed opening question.
Struggling to regain my composure, I asked Anderson the first question that popped into my head. "Why was it that one year, you hit 50 homeruns, and the next year only 17, while last year your batting average was low, compared to this season's higher productivity?"
Well, in hindsight, I now realize that Anderson thought I was referring to his supposed steroid use that had been suggested for numerous months in Baltimore newspapers. I did not think of this connotation at the time.
Therefore, when he turned to the camera and yelled, "I don't have to take this [expletive]. [Expletive] you, you little [expletive]. Come back and interview me when you get some talent," I was caught a bit off guard. Mind you, I was 16-years old. For all I know, I may have a current lifetime ban in the Orioles' organization. So much for my dream to become Baltimore's second baseman of the future.
If I hadn't led with my fantasy baseball joke, my reason for living would not have been shattered at an early age. So play wisely, my friends. Victory will grant you a joy matched by no other (I heard you, Shaggy). But defeat can make you feel like a little [expletive]. As Tina from Survivor said, let the games begin.
Oh yeah, and needless to say, for as long as he's still playing baseball, I will never select Brady Anderson in a rotisserie draft. I can only hope you will boycott him too.