Rationalizing Fantasy Baseball

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Escape from Reality or Brain Exercise?

Of course, fantasy baseball is both escape and exercise – and to some degree both are good for you. The question we should ask ourselves is whether there is a brain exercise that would be better for us and how much escaping from reality is too much. Without lying to ourselves, what percentage of our lives do we really devout to this pass time? Should we call it wasted time? If you could dissect my brain and see what portion of it is devoted to each and every player in the American League, the crosss-overs, the NL stars, ex-American Leaguers I read about just for fun, the numerous top AL prospects at all levels, the management styles of the American League managers and organizations, health reports, Scoresheet playing strategies, incorporating all those strategies into my teams’ line-ups almost every week, drafting strategies and the preparation for each of my teams’ drafts and trades, the results, e-newsletters about those results, independent research studies about baseball and Scoresheet baseball, these Scoresheetwiz articles . . . now multiply that by year after year . . . you would see a brain stuffed with this useless baseball concerns squeezing out the more cherished region which concerns itself music and moments with my wife, and a small section leftover for my daughter, son, other family and friends, and the occasional movie or cultural event. Being the principle wrapper and card producer, I now hate time consuming repetitive Christmas. Don’t even ask about the career section. My wife is the one who makes sure our family is comfortable and stimulated. I take breaks to feed us, keep the garden alive, and the house and its gadgets operating, and the finances flowing. In other words, I get by with my life outside of Scoresheet & baseball, but my priorities seem quite skewed.


How do I rationalize this? In order to remain stimulating and affable to my family and the outside world, I need to provide an intelligent perspective on general matters and at the same time feel pleasantly stimulated myself. I do this by reading a couple of daily newspapers, The New Yorker magazine, try to catch the Daily Show, and keep my brain sharpened with all this baseball writing and analysis. I play minesweeper once in awhile, too, for quickness training. Yes, given the dominance of baseball in my life, that is clearly a rationalization. Surely, I’d be more stimulating to more people who I encounter in this highly educated neighborhood I live in, if I could talk about the latest management strategies, personnel conflict resolutions, or scientific applications rather than who is playing shortstop for Tampa Bay. However, I think I can find a valuable lesson from my baseball knowledge that can be applied to almost any discussion.


The other rationalization is that this baseball addiction is actually preparation for the optimal career change. I don’t know how many of you share that absurd fantasy. Just where could this lead? A few Baseball Prospectus writers have been hired by major league organizations. To get hired otherwise requires a Masters Degree in statistical analysis from Harvard or such. However, I’m way too old to start a career path to General Managership. I’d happily settle to get my name on the BP marquee. Although, I receive many compliments on my letter writing, a career of writing baseball essays is a stretch. Good writing does not flow out of me easily. Even it its final product, it does not flow across as beautifully as Roger Angel’s or other great writers. How far below that level it is, I’m not sure, but I know it takes a few proofreads just to get it to a professional level.  Sometimes I don’t do enough. As for the content, I’d place my analysis and commentary ahead of some web sites and newspapers I’ve come across, but, probably not quite that BP level of detail and integrity. I would certainly have to cut out even more of my non-baseball life to study both leagues and bring my essays up to that level – if I had the potential to do so.


Rephrasing the question, do those of us consumed by Scoresheet and everything else related to sports – other than physically playing them – constitute an unhealthy behavior? If so, can we be fixed? Dr. Michael Evans had an interesting Health column  in The Globe and Mail this morning (May 30, 2007) summarizing a recent study on how to fix someone’s bad behavior. Appealing to logic just doesn’t work. You have to lead them with questions which get them to think about the actual step they might need to make change in their behavior. If you have never thought about giving up baseball, an effective motivational interviewer would not try to get you to give it up, he/she would just try to get them to consider the task. Once done, the next step would be to set a date – make a commitment to stopping. The final step would be finding how to maintain staying away from baseball. You can apply this to nicotine and drug addictions or any habitual undesirable behavior. The examples of questions asked were:

● What worries you about your current behavior?

● What would be a small change that you could start with?

● What would it take to make you feel more confident about changing?

● Or even, sounds like your not really interested in help right now.


Of course, it is self-defeating for a “fantasy baseball writer” to declare his and his readers’ hobby a destructive obsession – and propose the start of a remedy for it. Let this then be a guide to how our loved ones might try to manipulate us away from our favorite pass time, so we can be stronger about resisting it. Repeat after me:

● No, I’m not worried about my behavior. You want me to be happy and my mind to be fit all the way into old age, don’t you?


As if to follow up on my June article Rationalizing Fantasy Baseball, author, play-write, and “serious” Globe & Mail columnist Rick Salutin opened Friday’s column with:


It’s demeaning to claim that people follow spectator sports in order to be distracted from or to avoid the grotty realities they find on the news or in the streets. I’ve always felt people love sports for better reasons.


Salutin lists three major reasons. The “aesthetic element” – seeing the potential of what a human body can do with split second improvisation. The “moral component” – where only merit is rewarded. Third, the “utopian factor” – life enjoyed as best it could be without having to strive to “put food on the table, pay bills, etc.”


I am sure Rick does not play Scoresheet or even Rotisserie. (I used to live two houses up from him and am still in the neighborhood. Trust me. He is not the type. Or wasn’t. He does seem to have loosened up quite a bit, though, since his son was born.) Otherwise, he would have sited the valuable wisdom acquired such as mathematical knowledge gained from discerning variations of chance from real differences in ability, or appreciating how small differences can add up over time, and learning lessons in team building and forecasting, or how some skills complement other skills better than others. There are psychological lessons as well. For example, baseball fans know that trash talking usually has the opposite effect as a trash talker intends.

John Carter