Sunday, April 6, 2008

Fantasy versus fandom

If you're a fantasy geek, you'll hear it eventually: "You're not a real fan." You may get it from a buddy when you root for an arch rival's slugger just because he's on your squad. Or maybe from the local radio host who hates all thing related to computers.

I pretty much summed up my feelings on how fantasy baseball warps your ability to enjoy Major League Baseball last year. Here's what I thought then:

I still root for the Dodgers and Angels (I'm an O.C. transplant), but not like I once did. I root for me, and "me" in this case is an amalgation of a twenty-five man roster cherry picked from all of Major League Baseball. Pundits across the land cry out in despair that "fantasy baseball has ruined fandom." Pishtosh, I say. What ruined fandom is greedy, selfish, dumb as mud players, and greedy, selfish, sneaky as all hell owners. Who is going to root for any of these franchises under these circumstances? Not me, and probably not you. At least, not like we used to before the cynicism of the modern era descended upon us.

I'll root for my players, though. And, by osmosis, I become interested in all of baseball. I think fantasy baseball is saving baseball, not vice versa. I'd bet that fantasy baseball players register more often as independents, identify less with the corporation they work for, and are not as attached to the area in which they happen to have been born then other folk.

Well, if anything, I've grown even more cynical. I still root for my college's teams (go Bears!), but I now wonder how in this day and age of mercenaries and subsidized stadiums anyone can root, year after year, for just about any professional franchise. It seems really, really tough. Maybe you like a certain set of players or a certain ownership group, but as the decades roll by and mud gets splattered on the faces of the faithful, how do they stomach it? I still remember where I was when I found out Mike Piazza was traded. Doubt anything like that would happen again. Unless my first-round draft pick goes down. Then I'll weep like a little girl.


Steve said...

Great post Mike. Where I'm from (New Zealand) rugby is No.1 and professional sport s still in its (relative) infancy. But the same thing has happened - I don't feel like a fan any more (although I still love the All Blacks).
The teams have turned into franchises and players are scouted (to use baseball parlance) from the time they are at high school and so have no conception of what the real world is like and as a result are , by and large, characterless dumbasses.
It used to kill me when my team lost (was known to cry as a kid!) but not any more.
Maybe it comes form getting older and having a family and all that kind of stuff, but sport to me ain't what it used to be - and that's a shame.
That said, I do understand why sport is the way it is now. For example, professional rugby down here is financed by TV money and if it wasn't for all that cash the sport would probably struggle to survive.
Interestingly enough, I find a lot to admire in a lot of baseball players. Sure, there are the players you refer to who have turned you off the game to some extent, but I see a lot of guys who put in and grind it out for 162 games, spending all that time away from home, clearly love the game etc etc. To me, that shows character.

Kind of how it used to be...

Mike Bock said...

Steve, thanks for the post, and I know how you feel. As I mentioned, I still root for individual players (regardless of where they play, frankly) but it's close to impossible to root consistently for the franchises.