I have been in the same head-to-head, sixteen-team fantasy league for eleven years now. Over that span keepers have come and gone, rules have changed, franchises have arrived and folded. My original four keepers were Ray Durham, Mark Mulder, Barry Zito, and Barry Bonds. My first season, I drafted both Richard Hidalgo and Daryle Ward. My best draft pick that year was Odalis Perez in the 17th round.
These are interesting things, right? They are not interesting. As soon as you read the word “fantasy” in the title, your brain had already sent orders to your eyes to glaze. It is a truth universally acknowledged that everyone loves to talk about their fantasy team and everyone hates to listen to people talk about their fantasy team. It’s one of life’s bitterest ironies, ranking just below Malthus’ theory that increased food production leads to starvation.
I once had a friend in college with whom I would discuss baseball. He was in a deep dynasty league, where teams were made and destroyed in AA. He described his latest trades in earnest, and I enjoyed listening to his superior expertise. The moment I would mention my own team, however, his smile would sag at the corners, the kindness leaving his eyes. He would make that face, and then quickly, he’d excuse himself from the conversation. I caught on fairly quickly, but it still struck me as unfair. We were talking about baseball: something that Billy Crystal had once promised would form an instant bond between all males! Something was wrong.
Fantasy sports are the culmination of what the existentialists first warned us of: a future rich in comfort, where everyone is utterly disconnected from each other. Our own happiness has become meaningless to those around us. As we craft our little life stories through the careful, calculated observation of baseball players, they’re stories that no one else particularly wants to read. We match our wits against the elements, an increasingly faceless online presence. We play the stock market. It’s rarely about the money; it’s rarely even about the bragging rights. I’d be surprised if the majority of players remember who won their league last season. Instead, it’s about the ability to predict the outside world, a world that no longer has anything to do with us. We’re made to feel ashamed for our pride, to lock it away.
I want to change that. I want to bring us together again. I want to rally us to a common cause. Specifically, I want to rally us around my fantasy baseball team, the Aurora Ajummas.
After all, why not? Your own fantasy teams have, more than likely, long since abandoned their own playoff glory. Your real team is under .500, and has already started confusing “rebuilding” with “starting Greg Dobbs at third”. Meanwhile, my team has lovable talents you were probably already rooting for: Mike Trout, Andrew McCutchen, and to a lesser extent, Kendrys Morales.
And as you root, faithful NotGraphs denizens, you can do so knowing that your fellow men and women will be rooting alongside you. The cause may seem arbitrary, but then, isn’t all baseball arbitrary at some level?
I have been in the same fantasy league for eleven years now. The franchises and players have come and gone. And in that eleventh year, for the first time, I will spend the next two weeks playing for the championship. Join the Aurora bandwagon. I will share the glory with all of you. And perhaps we can create a society that is a little more empathetic, and someday when you feel proud of your own fantasy team, the other guy won’t make the face at you. We can dream.