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San Francisco, California
One of my hobbies is to visit ballparks. I have visited about half of the major league fields in the USA, Wrigley Field and Fenway, of course, the favorites. But it isn't just a love of baseball that lures me, but the fact that I suffer from The Disease.
It's a terrible thing. A recent phenomenon, it's fast become second only to alcohol in destroying marriages, crippling the effectiveness of the American work force, and lowering the self-esteem of those afflicted. Symptoms include but are not limited to insomnia, anxiety, and a penchant for making late night phone calls to 900 numbers. Self-denial is rampant, as well as an irrational, lingering mistrust of friends and family you once held near and dear.
Yes, I'm talking about the dreaded Fantasy Baseball.
I caught it from my brother Ken, who was a charter member and initial winner of the Morse Shoe Rotisserie Baseball League. In other words, one of the sickest. It began innocently with a passing remark, and then, after a family dinner in front of the TV watching the Red Sox, the sinister offer appeared. "Don, we've got a vacancy in our Fantasy Baseball League, would you like to join?" Never suspecting such treachery from a brother, I naturally agreed.
Since that moment my life has been all downhill. The months of February and March are a blur to me now, spent in a relentless preparation for The Draft. April and May are lost to a peculiar Fear and Loathing - fear of every trade offer made to me, and loathing my draft picks. June and July fade into actual bitterness and disgust - bitterness at the friend who offered me Reggie Sanders, and disgust for my accepting him. September is now given to complete depression as the truth slowly dawns that, once again, I will not win this season.
October and November are hangover months, a slow healing process when you try to see the light. I've made strides, I've purchased my 'Friends Don't Let Friends Play Fantasy Baseball' and 'One Game at a Time' bumper stickers. I've purchased the new bestseller, 'I'm OK - You're OK Except Your Fantasy Baseball Team Sucks.'
My wife Terry insists I get help. I tell her I'm trying, but no one's got any extra pitching.
Pathetic, isn't it? Yet despite my warning, there will be others following my sordid footsteps. It's so easy to get started. From personal experience I can tell you this: figure on spending roughly $100 on the entry fee, $50 on Fantasy Baseball guide books, $37 on subscriptions to various magazines and USA Today, another $20-30 on Baseball Weekly, $31 a month for cable to get ESPN and Baseball Tonight, another $5000 for the divorce lawyer, $40-50,000 lost equity in the house your wife will get, $200-600 per week in child support, $450 a month for your new hole-in-the-wall, and, say, $5000 more for any miscellaneous items I may have missed. Given this, you can expect to lay out approximately $95,000 to get going. The good news being, of course, that much of this is a one time expense. Yes, $95,000 and a decent strategy - and a little luck - will almost certainly assure you of finishing in the money, which in our league brings in at least 60 bucks.
So there you have it. No one said it would be easy. This isn't a dress rehearsal, this is life. I find myself seated down the right field line, watching two teams I have absolutely no interest in. I'm alone, sitting in the wind of Candlestick Park, three thousand miles from home. I'm with 30,000 people I don't know. But Barry Bonds is on my team. With one out and a man on third, Bonds hits a long fly ball caught by the centerfielder, and gives my team a run with his sacrifice fly. I jump to my feet, shouting "YES!"
Pathetic, isn't it?