March 26, 2015


FANTASY BASEBALL: BETTER WITH AGE (Will Leitch, 3/26/15, Sports on Earth)

[T]he one thing in my life that I can say, with 100 percent certainty, has gotten nothing but better every single year since it began to exist ... is fantasy baseball.

Everybody has his or her fantasy baseball origin story. I'm old enough to have played my first league in college, and like many people back then, we had one poor soul spending every Monday morning poring through the pages of USA Today and manually tabulating our stats to give us our standings. We had to call him with trades. (Phones back then were attached to birds: It would often take several weeks to get a response to my Tim Naehring-and-Greg Vaughn-for-Albert Belle trade offers, and the response typically accompanied by an egg, twigs and the avian flu.) Later, we subscribed to a stats service that would fax us our stats for the past week every Sunday night: I remember asking my mom at the hospital she worked at, the only place this college student home for the summer knew had a fax machine, to let me use the Emergency Room's fax number for the weekly reports. (Back then, medicine was practiced exclusively by the application of leeches and the recitation of various Latin incantations directed at the part of the body suffering the current malady.) There was no such thing as a "fantasy baseball expert"; such a profession would have seemed absurd. (The only advice available to humanity back then was what you could decipher from cave drawings and whatever visions might appear after drinking cactus water and staring into the fire.)

Fantasy baseball was the purview of obsessives and a few dorky writers in Manhattan no one ever heard from again. It was terrible -- and it was fun. It was immediately exhilarating to have control over baseball players in a way you'd never had before, to put together the team you would if you had the opportunity, to predict the future. It's easy to forget now, but fantasy baseball really did feel revolutionary back then, and even, to some, as a threat to the actual game. Baseball has always been a sport you can take apart and reassemble to resemble something close to what you had before, and fantasy baseball allowed you to do this in any fashion that you desired. I just wished I had more people to play with, and that I could do it faster.

And thus: Every single year since I started playing fantasy baseball in 1994 -- a horrible year to start, by the way: I'm pretty sure we lost three-quarters of our league after that season -- fantasy baseball has gotten better. The means of playing it has gotten better, the connections we make with old friends have gotten easier, the research into it has gotten deeper and more nuanced. Everything about fantasy baseball has improved. This stands in the way of what we generally consider human progress. Most innovations come with downsides that are inextricable from their positives. Sure, you now have automated maps in your car so you never get lost. But there's the offshoot of never knowing, away from the map, where the heck you are. Fantasy baseball has none of this. Fantasy baseball is only better.

In 1988, my partner and I called the Kingdome to see if Mike Schooler had gotten a save the night before.  Now you can see how your team is doing live online.

Posted by at March 26, 2015 4:53 PM

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