Monday, December 17, 2007

Un-Athletic Addiction

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(Editor's Note: All this fantasy sports talk reminds me of an article from my past. For self serving purposes, judge away...and enjoy)

Steps to Overcoming Addiction (Names changed to protect the innocent and ashamed.)

Step 1- Admit you are powerless over your addiction.

“Come on, man. I know you have something for me.”

“No, I don’t do that stuff anymore. I told you.”

“Come on. You’re a pro at this, just give me something, I need help badly.”

“Okay, but this is it, no more after this, understand? I’m done with wasting away with all this. Just this and no more, okay?”

“Yeah, yeah, give it to me.”

“Two words: Jorge Garbajosa.”

Spending the wee hours of a Thursday morning discussing the breakout potential of an un-drafted Spanish forward for the Toronto Raptors is something that should be relegated to professional general managers,scouts, or play-by-play experts, not twenty-somethings leaving after last call. Yet that is the plight of a fantasy sports addict, a life altering atrocity that currently grips the lives of almost 18 million Americans according to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association.

According to the FSTA, the number of fantasy sports players has grown steadily by nearly ten percent each year for the past three years, and with the explosion of websites, magazine columns and television shows such as ESPN’s “The Fantasy Show” and Fox Sports Net’s “Fantasy Fix” dedicated to this malignantly manipulative maelstrom of mankind, it does not look to be losing any ground. But it must be stopped.

Step 4- Make a thorough and honest inventory of yourself

Fantasy sports are looked down upon by many sports purists. “It takes away from the game”; “Becomes too much about the numbers”; “Makes you root for individuals instead of teams,” are the usual explanations for their disdain. As a longtime sports fan, I shared these same beliefs, until I saw the professional benefits.

It’s a Monday morning at TVT Records, an independent record label home to the likes of Lil’ Jon and the Eastside Boyz, the Ying Yang Twins, and Jimmy Page. Publicity Assistant J.C., 28, is busying organizing press kits and planning out junkets for an upcoming album release. Scratching his shaved head and peering over his Buddy Holly-eque glasses, he asks his intern in the copy room an important question.

“Johan for Chavez and Roberts, should I do it?”

“Who’s your number two?” I ask.

“Dontrelle.”

“Ouch. No, you can’t. Johan’s just too money right now. Besides, Roberts could be a fluke and Chavez will kill your BA.”

“You’re right. Did you call the booking agent? We need the Ying Yang Twins performing in a Georgia prison before the release date.”

J.C., a Hoboken native, has worked at TVT for two years and along with some friends has developed a fantasy sports company, Hot Box Sports, a venture he foresees as being the ultimate fantasy sport venue. J.C. and his 2nd place Donkey Punchers embody the spirit of fantasy sports. Within the halls of TVT, much like many offices and other jobs, fantasy sports has become a means of networking, generating conversations, friendships, and uniting lowly and belittled interns with established executives all in the name of fantasy sport glory. This is where the addiction began.

Step 8- Make a list of all the people you have harmed.

L.G., 24, is a warm, personable employee of the Apple Store at Roosevelt Field Mall on Long Island. L.G. has a tall, powerful presence were it not for his childlike face, something he uses to his advantage. Suddenly his Blackberry alert goes off.

“Channing Frye’s hurt? Damn it, I wasted a mid round draft pick on him!”

L.G. constantly has his sports update alert on, contemplating trades and possible match up scenarios down the road, all while balancing a workload of college classes, part time jobs, and failed relationships.

“She really didn’t get it, it might have been a year or so, but I wasn’t going to miss my draft for some dinner with her parents,” L.G. says. “Besides, it all worked out in the end; Reyes and Beltran stayed healthy all season and I ran away with it.”

Looking at his computer screen, L.G. eyes his Yahoo Sports Stat Tracker and smiles at the latest page reload.

“It’s funny; sometimes I think I have more fun watching the stats change than the actual game,” L.G. says.

The BlackBerry goes off several times but he ignores it.

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“Just some stupid girl,” he says with his back to the ringing, a reflection of his 1st place Impact Playaz’s homepage shining on his glasses.

Step 9- Make direct amends to people whenever possible.

Fantasy sports, like any degenerative affliction, can be treated. It can be stopped if discovered in the early stages of addiction.

A.J., is a skinny 22 year-old newbie to the fantasy sports world. A.J. recently joined a fantasy football league with family and friends, a league comprised primarily of former high school football players living vicariously through the box scores. Even his team name, “He Hate Me” in honor of former Carolina Panthers kick return specialist Rod Smart is a bit dated, another sure sign of a newbie.

“I never played it before, so I figured, why not?” A.J. says. “It’s not like I was going to end up like one of those pathetic fantasy nut jobs.”

Newbies usually fall into two categories: Those who quickly lose interest after a poor draft or weak showing in the first month, and those that find the success of an 8-0 start equal to the irrepressible dictatorial demand for more. A.J. tragically fell into the latter. A.J. himself would never claim to be a mathematical genius, but tell him Rex Grossman’s stat line in Week 12, and in a split second...

“Minus five fantasy points,” says A.J. without pause. “Horrible line, he kills me just as often as Jake Delhomme has for the past month.”

As marijuana has been considered among medical professionals as a “gateway drug,” an initial introduction to deadlier narcotics, so too has fantasy football. Although the origins of this game lie within NYT writer Daniel Okrent’s first rotisserie baseball league,fantasy football has pushed the sport to its current heights. Though gambling is as much to blame as fanatical competition for the game’s popularity, people like A.J. (whose claim to the $200 winning take all pot is all but his) have sought unusual sources for their fantasy fix. In some cases, you don’t even have to be a sports fan.

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SoapNet’s Fantasy Soap League is a venture by Disney targeted towards hardcore daytime soap fans who share an unhealthy urge to draft and score actors and characters according to every argument, cat fight, and back-from-the-dead storyline that involves them. Susan Lucci’s Erica Kane can now be quantitatively equated to Peyton Manning, putting up big numbers in the season, but always coming up short, whether it’s at the Daytime Emmys or in the NFL playoffs. (Editor's Note: This was written months before the Colts run. Crow has already been eaten and digested accordingly.)

The monstrosity of fantasy has also reared its ugly head in the already despicable world of politics, on Fantasy Congress, with the tagline, “Where People Play Politics.” Political junkies can now get their fix competing on a scoring system based on how effective a congressman is able to push legislation, pass bills, and policies approved. Who knew Arkansas Representative Don Young could be as prolific a scorer as LaDainian Tomlinson?

Step 12-Having experienced a spiritual awakening, carry this message to other addicts and practice these principles in your everyday life. Be wary of relapses during this process.

It’s been an entire year since I’ve gone near a draft board, quitting all the major fantasy sports cold turkey in the name of peace and normalcy. No more tossing and turning over whether or not I should have started Andre Iguodala over Gerald Wallace. No more killing myself over drafting Donovan McNabb a year ago despite knowing he was on the cover of Madden 06. Tonight, I’m out having drinks with friends at a bar in the East Village. Out of sight, out of mind.

“Wow Kirilenko got hurt again? There goes my matchup this week,” a surprisingly cute friend of a friend says to my left, watching a SportsCenter update.

“You play fantasy?” I ask.

“Yeah, my girlfriends think it’s stupid,” she says. “I dunno, I’m just hooked. It’s the only good thing my ex-boyfriend ever got me into. What about you?”

Relapse be damned. I think I’m in love.

0 painful displays of affection:

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