When was the last time you went into a hospital, looked through a list of nurses working in the ER, and said to yourself: "Wow, Melissa is 24 of 25 on catheters this week and she hasn't missed a shift since the ice storm of 2010 ... I'm taking her in the 5th round?!"
Let's face it ... you probably haven't. But, if you had statistics like that available to you, you'd probably pay a lot more attention when selecting your medical staff. Or at least have a lot more fun sitting in the waiting room while grandpa is going through a triple bypass surgery.
Today's Americans are living in a world where no information is too much information and it can't possibly get to us fast enough. We want to consume more and more and there's no way we'll be happy until our heads literally evolve into a 360 degree mega-sphere that can take in every little detail around us. Back in the day (aka when my parents were kids) the sports experience involved listening to a commentator on a small, static-filled radio and picturing the athletes and action in your mind. Can you imagine hearing Babe Ruth hit home run number 714 without ever seeing the ball leave the bat?
Now it's 2013. You have 80" high definition televisions with 3,487 channels (did you catch the underwater basket weaving medley on the knitting channel last night?) ... you have an internet that can pretty much stream any event in the world live, if you're willing to pay for it ... and in most cases you can watch sporting events right on your cell phone at the touch of a button (how different would Saved by the Bell have been if 20 minutes every episode was Zack Morris watching the collegiate sand volleyball championships on his handheld?). Yet with all this technology, it's still not enough! We need more interaction, more information, more stress!!!
Enter the world of Fantasy Sports. For those of you who are not familiar with this breed of game, it has nothing to do with a team of centaurs battling for victory with a gang of aliens on a floating island somewhere. Rather, fantasy sports allows real people to take fake ownership of their favorite athletes. In an effort to further enhance the sports experience, fanatical viewers (like myself) "draft" real sports stars on to an imaginary team in order to put together a squad with the most talent and production. Then, each week, owners compete against other owners to see who's group can compile the most impressive statistics. This goes on throughout the season until finally one person reigns victorious. Which sport you ask? Well, pretty much all of them when there's an interest ... the most popular are football, baseball, and basketball ... but go ahead and check out Fantasy Golf. I wish I could say I was making that up.
I'll be the first to admit, it can be a lot of fun to partake in the fantasy games. It's like Dungeons and Dragons for the kids who used to beat up anyone playing Dungeons and Dragons. It adds a unique aspect to watching sports and actually further engages the casual fan in the action on the field. I've got to imagine the real athletes and teams love it too because the more a fan knows about the game, the more likely they are to buy tickets, jerseys, and the used tissue Albert Pujols is selling on Ebay with proceeds going to at-risk youth at the corner of 4th street and Smith Avenue in downtown LA.
Here's my problem ... some people take this stuff WAY too seriously. And I'm not just talking about the people who play in leagues that actually collect and distribute money as a way of upping the anti. I'm referring to people who think that they really own these teams and make decisions as though their future is on the line. Let me give you an example ...
I'm currently in a fantasy baseball league with some friends and family who enjoy watching baseball but aren't spending $50,000/year for season tickets to the Braves. One person had to drop out of the league before the season even started and he was replaced by a friend of our league commissioner. The new guy comes in and immediately isn't thrilled with his team because we had already drafted our players. He decides he's going to make the best of it though and through the first 1/4 of the season he's in around 9th place out of 10 teams. Well, at this point he decides the season is lost (really, already?) and goes on a fire-sale with his roster. He tells the team owners in the league that all of his players are available for trading and he's looking for draft picks for next season.
Seriously??? Besides the fact it's a little early to be throwing in the towel, he's looking for draft picks for next season?! I can barely figure out what I'm going to have for lunch next HOUR and this guy wants fake draft picks to use in an imaginary game that won't start again until March 2014. Think about this for a minute. When was the last time you were sitting around playing a game of Monopoly with friends and after 20 minutes shout out "Well, I'm off to a crappy start. I'll trade you Boardwalk, Baltic, and the Reading Railround for a bite of your chicken sandwich, an extra rook in October's chess tournament, and 30 minutes of DVR space for the season premiere of American Idol in January."?!?!
What's my point? Fantasy Sports are intended to be fun. This isn't real life, we aren't actually playing for a world championship, and I promise you that victory in your league isn't going to land you the hot blonde that just moved in to the apartment next door. So, my fellow sports fans, take a deep breath and enjoy the game for exactly what it is ... a cool enhancement to something many of us love already.
Unless of course you're really into chess, in which case I'll trade you Mike Trout and Justin Verlander for a queen and two knights ...