Saturday, June 03, 2006

How Fantasy Sports Have Made me Into a Better Fan

A while back I wrote an entry detailing the shortcomings of fantasy sports, baseball in particular. I said to myself “how can I bash something I find so amazingly entertaining?” So the following was born: why fantasy sports are God’s gift to the modern sports fan.

One cannot, I repeat cannot, be a real sports fan without some fascination with numbers. 50 home run seasons, .300 averages, 40 touchdown seasons, 30 point-per-game averages, these are all numbers regular fans at least know about. Fantasy sports takes numbers to a whole new level. Until I played fantasy sports I had no clue what OPS, SLG, and WHIP meant in baseball. Or player efficiency rating and assist to turnover ratio for basketball. Now I find myself looking at ground ball to fly ball ratios, K and BB/9 innings, VOPR ratings, and other insanely comprehensive stats cooked-up by the guys over at If I was 1/10 as interested in high school math as I was in Coco Crisp’s outfield range rating I wouldn’t be the basic college math class.

In my previous entry on this topic I spoke of how in extreme cases you one can find oneself rooting for a sworn enemy. There is of course a flipside to that coin, and that is knowledge of other teams. In the “real” sports world you root for your team, whether it be home or former home, and maybe a few others at most. You check the paper for the scores of your games and maybe the standings to see who’s good. The fantasy world is much deeper.

Three years ago if you asked me to name 5 players on the Colorado Rockies there is no way I could do it. This year, I know the whole lineup and the crucial stats of the top 3-4 guys on the team (Brad Hawpe is a beast). Being an east coaster I had zero interest in those crazy left coast teams playing at 10:30pm. Now Brandon Webb of the Arizona Diamondbacks is my ace starter and probably the reason the Grundle Kickers are in 4th. Everyday I have a vested interest in the box scores of every game, seeing who is heating up, slumping, who got shelled, and who threw a complete game. A few weeks ago I found myself watching the Yankees/Rangers game, despite the fact I hate the Yankees and could really care less about the Rangers. But I had Damon, A-Rod, and Teixera starting that game and had a legitimate reason to watch. When a Red Sox fan like me can cheer for guys like Dan Uggla, Jason Bay, Justin Verlander, and Carlos Lee that is something truly wonderful.

A lot of people have the image that all fantasy sports players are gamblers and the only reason they are so interested is that they can win money. I mean honestly why else would anyone like horse racing? My friends and I don’t put a single penny down and yet we still talk about how each other are doing on a daily basis, make fun of unfortunate injuries, mull over trades for days, and curse good performances by players we don’t have. It makes for great sport conversation, outside of the “did you see the Sox game last night?”

If you are on the fence about fantasy sports, talk to your crazy fantasy sports friends and join up some season. You’ll learn more about the game(s) you love, broaden your fandom, and have a lot of fun while doing it.

No comments: