Obsession, Thy Name is Fantasy Baseball

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I’ve heard that the role of the artist is to persuade his audience to share his obsessions. With the risk of elevating my measly blog to the level of “art”, let me tell you about my fantasy baseball team!

Intrigued? I didn’t think so. I’m well aware that besides my 11-year-old son (who HAS to listen because I don’t give him a choice) and my young adult stepson (who shares my baseball obsession and wants to play next year), I’m pretty sure NOBODY wants to hear about my damn fantasy team. Most people are like my wife: “Are you in first place? Good. No need to explain further.”

I AM in first place by about 10 points, which is a lot, and there are only two more days left in the season. Things are looking very, very good. So good. I won’t pop the champagne until the final out Sunday night, but suffice to say it will be very hard to catch me at this point.

This fills me with indescribable joy. How to explain?

I am a Mets fan. For those who don’t know what that means, let me safely say that it is not a good thing. I didn’t have many expectations of my crummy team this year, and they did not disappoint. Our best position player got hurt, our young star pitcher needs to get his elbow reconstructed, and the team was safely out of the pennant race by June. By far the most interesting thing about watching the Mets this year has been wondering what their insane broadcaster and former star Keith Hernandez was going to say next. Not a great year, although I’d rather be watching even bad baseball than go fishing or some other such nonsense.

So usually my baseball season is tied to the fate of my beloved but lousy Mets. If they are out of it early, which has been the case as of late, I’m stuck watching them be lousy.

Not this year!

This year I had my own team to examine every day, and examine them I did. All the time, with every spare minute. I turned over roster moves in my head for days, and would often wake up out of a dead sleep with the perfect idea about how to improve my team. I started examining pitching match-ups, looking up scouting reports on up-and-coming rookies, checking out lefty-righty splits for potential line-up changes. I even started to (gulp) listen to fantasy podcasts, hosted by guys who were even sadder than me.

Before you ask, no, there is no money on the line. There is no trophy, unless you count the pathetic little virtual one ESPN offers. I only know one other person in the ten person league, so there’s no trash-talking bragging rights. If I win, I won’t even get a handshake.

So why? Why spend all the time and energy? Why obsess over something so relatively meaningless?

I could answer that question existentially, I suppose. Why do we do anything, from seeing a movie to bowling? To stem the overwhelming dread that our lives are finite and we will all sooner than later be dead as a doornail and long forgotten within a generation. Happy, huh? But that would be too reasonable an explanation.

I could get all Freudian. That obsession in any form is just an avoidance of deep psychological issues that would invariably come bubbling to the surface if we stopped to think about them for more than a millisecond. I’m sure this is more than likely true of my situation, since I try never to miss an opportunity to suppress problems whenever I have half a chance to do so. That or it’s about my penis. Either or.

It might be writer’s block, that ridiculous, naval-gazing notion that somehow the stars need to be aligned with the moon in order to pick up a damn pen and write something already. What a perfect excuse! How can I possibly write the next Pulitzer Prize winner when I need to find a new closer?

It could be a distancing technique with my kids. Really, they’ve taken up an inordinate amount of my time so far in their relatively brief lives, and this is more important than your freaking homework, dammit!

It may be that my marriage is on the rocks, or that I am in the throes of deep depression, or that I’m a pathetic loser, or that I don’t drink so I have to do something, or that a butterfly flapped its wings and caused a tsunami, changing the usual barometric pressure in the northeast, causing all bald, pale, Irish-Italian disabled playwrights to spend all their time obsessing over fantasy baseball. Maybe it’s all of that.

Or maybe I just like it. I might have mentioned this before, but I remember seeing a talk show about obsessive-compulsives where this guy couldn’t close an envelope without checking 20-30 times to make sure he wasn’t sealing his daughter inside. They asked him if he suffered with his obsession, and he replied, no, actually, I quite enjoy it. Making ABSOLUTELY sure his daughter wasn’t going to Buffalo with the phone bill made him feel better. Unhealthy? Absolutely, no doubt about it, you bet. Did he feel better? Yeah, he did. The crazy lunatic obsessive nut-log did.

So, I don’t expect you, dear reader, or anyone else to really, really get this. And that’s OK. I don’t know why people watch the news. I don’t get gardening. I would rather be beat with kumquat than have to change the oil in my car. I don’t care who wins American Idol, nor do I really give a damn about ANY awards show, Oscars, Emmys, Tonys, Grammys, Golden Globes, what have you. I don’t understand why people take and post pictures of their food. There hasn’t been a movie released in the last ten years or so that I’ve felt the need to see in a theater rather than waiting for it to show up on basic cable. I think Jennifer Aniston’s personal life struggles are none of my damn business. Unless there’s nor’easter enveloping the eastern seaboard, I don’t know the weather until I look out the window. I don’t own a device that can take pictures besides my camera, and I have no desire to acquire one. I don’t play first-person war-based video games, and watching them gives me a bit of vertigo.

I do have a pretty good idea who next year’s St. Louis Cardinals closer is going to be. I fully support Paul Goldschmidt’s MVP candidacy, since he was instrumental to the success of my fantasy team this year. I followed the twists and turns of this year’s baseball season more closely than any season since the Mets won the World Series in 1986 when I was 16 and didn’t have a girlfriend. This is my thing.

Still don’t get it? That’s OK, you don’t have to. Just ask me on Sunday night if I’m in first place.

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