The sports world has many off-shoots for how fans celebrate and connect to their passion. Some people need to paint their face and go to a game, cheering as obnoxiously as they can; others need to play video games for endless hours, trying to put themselves in the simulated reality. Although there are many different ways of feeling a part of the sports world, I’m only going to cover one particular area: fantasy sports, in particular, the daily ritual of fantasy baseball.
In case you were unaware, there are some people in this world who only wake up before noon so that they can check their daily lineups, and they stay up past two a.m. just to watch a West Coast game go into extra innings because they have one active player on their fantasy team. To them, this is dedication.
There are many different kinds of fantasy sports on ESPN alone — from NASCAR and golf all the way to basketball and the most popular sport: football. They all have their merits and attractions, but baseball specifically has a quality that I feel reaches a religious quality. The biggest difference is that football only has games typically once a week, and so much is determined on that game-time decision for the injured player. Basketball has a few more games a week, but with only roughly five positions to cover, it’s quite easy to set the lineup and be done with it all year. Not much changes in professional basketball.
Baseball has the unique quality of games and matchups every single day. A true fantasy baseball fan will check their lineup at least once early in the morning to make sure that all the right players are starting and then again at night to recap how the team did and also set the lineups for the next day. This process continues every single day from April 4 all the way until October 1. Failure to set a lineup even one day could cost a much needed win.
Customization is very popular within fantasy baseball; I recommend going with the simplest form. Here is an overview of how it works. A league consists of ten players going head-to-head with an opponent for a week. Then are compared by who has the better statistics on their team. Typically, the categories are just Hits, Runs, Homeruns, Runs Batted In and Stolen Bases for batters. Pitchers are graded on Wins, Saves, ERA, WHIP and Ks. Before the regular season of baseball begins, a league will draft around twenty-five players, offense and defense combined, and then they have a team with players possibly from every single Major League team for every position possible. That’s how it begins, but it’s the act of owning and committing to a team that separates the dedicated fanatic from the average fan. The real fun actually begins a week after the season starts and team owners analyze the trends of players’ performances to add them off of free agency, or offer trades to other players for the undervalued talent. This can consume hours per day.
Some people might think that this passion is crazy and goes beyond a normal hobby. This is an understandable concern. But I say passion is something we all need in order to feel alive, and why not be passionate about something like baseball? It’s never going to disappoint, disappear, or hurt you in any way. It’s timeless and creates a universal community. Fantasy baseball players are just people with the interest, passion and time to be active in something that is harmless and purely for fun. Granted, some people take it to the extreme end, but they just have a lot of passion to lend to a hobby. It’s more of a gift than a fault. So if you are one, or know a fantasy baseball player, you need to understand that it’s just a hobby with no real benefit but for the fun of doing something interactive.
One last thought: it helps being in a league with friends; nothing is sweeter than bragging rights.
Michael is a Sports Writer for the 2011-2012 season of The Concordian.