These formerly anonymous Twins, Mariners, and Brewers have the potential to help me feel smart and maybe win some cash. Certain Mets can help with that, too. (That is, those on my fantasy teams.) Since I don't gamble on sports and am not someone who favors using the first-person plural when talking about my favorite team, the Mets' success or lack thereof this season won't make me feel much savvier. While it doesn't stop me from watching or caring, I know that I will have no influence on their season unless I learn to throw the knuckleball and make it to the bigs by September. I do have an impact on my fantasy teams, though, and my decisions on trades, waiver pickups, and lineup swaps can affect their fortune. It's a crass, zero-sum calculation, but as much as I love the Mets, those guys on the other channels—guys I didn't care much about until I randomly called their names during my fantasy draft—have a far larger impact on my self-image. That meant lots of White Sox games and many hours of ESPN's seizure-inducing, update-fest Baseball Tonight.
It started with simple flip-overs to WGN from Mets games. You know, an innocent, Oh, I wonder if Jermaine Dye is up—I could really use a two-run single and two stolen bases from him. Then it became a full-on addiction. I watched my fantasy players' at-bats with an intensity that I can't bring to Mets games until the weather starts getting cold. I watched them not only instead of Mets games, but also instead of whatever else I was supposed to be doing. I write "watched" instead of "watch" because, after hitting bottom a couple of weeks ago, I'm trying to change.
My moment of clarity came on a beautiful April afternoon at Shea Stadium. For the first time in my Mets-attending life, I was treated to the spectacle of the Mets putting a nice, easy walloping on the Atlanta Braves, their longtime divisional nemesis. But there was a complicating factor: One of my fantasy pitchers, Chuck James, was starting for the Braves. So, while I enjoyed watching the Mets pound him silly, I felt empty high-fiving my friends as runs five and six crossed the plate. My mouth said the right things, but my fantasy-sodden brain wondered why a nice 3-1 win (with, say, one of the runs being unearned and James registering eight or so strikeouts) couldn't have sufficed. It was then that I decided that I needed to get a handle on this.
For the Obsessive Fantasy Person, innings revolve around when or if OFP's players come to the plate. OFP pumps his or her fist in celebration of meaningless home runs in routs. OFP pulls for a strikeout-laden 1-0 pitchers duel when two members of his or her pitching staff face each other. OFP is a pretty pitiable figure, all things considered. But if you're seeking a truly pitiable figure, consider the person who has to watch baseball with OFP. This person listens to the half-frantic, half-embarrassed diatribes about how some midtier slugger is "due," endures the channel flips—away from whatever, and whenever—to WGN to check whether Ryan Theriot stole a base in the last 10 minutes. I'm not sure how my girlfriend bears it. I'm sure we'll be fine, though. At least until Chuck James faces the Mets again.