The first thing I ever wrote at my high school newspaper was a missive about my high school fantasy baseball league.
Well, that’s not entirely correct: the first thing was a piece about a friend’s interest in photography, which looking back was (surprisingly) something that could be characterized as “actual reporting.”
However, spiritually, the real first thing I wrote was something ridiculous about fantasy baseball. I think it involved me mocking my friend Jamie about a dumb trade he made (although it was a defensible opinion in hindsight, which is something that most thirteen-year-olds can’t necessarily claim).
Now, you have to get in the business somehow, and in any case the school newspaper was always in need of more copy to fill space. So in that sense, needlessly insulting a friend in print actually served a purpose. But why I should have cared to mock Jamie there, I don’t quite know. It wasn’t mean-spirited — I know Jamie and myself well enough for that. It was more because I just wanted to talk about fantasy baseball, and on a public forum to boot.
This short factoid encapsulates so much about the absurdity that has been my four years of fantasy baseball — an intensely alive interest in something that, by definition, does not really exist and is shamelessly irrelevant. I cannot imagine why I should care about anything that happens to the Astros, for example — although Yu Darvish did destroy them yesterday, which was entertaining — but I really don’t have a choice in the matter, unless I’m okay with losing, and I am not.
In any case, regardless of the absurdity, I kicked off a fifth year last night with the first fantasy draft of our post-high school career. Yes, it was past Opening Day, but when you have league members scattered on three continents, certain sacrifices must be made to scheduling concerns. I suppose that says something else about us too; it’s not really about the game at all. It was more about us.
To that extent, we were definitely far too obsessed with fantasy in high school; our cult-like devotion definitely got silly at times. I’d like to think that we were self-aware about it, to the point where our silliness was intentional — before you point out that you have a great fantasy baseball league too (and I’m sure you do), I will point out that we produced an hour-long documentary about the league in our senior year, which is about as dorky as you can get.
Fantasy baseball symbolizes something special to me; that much is obvious. At the very least, the camaraderie is always there, and as I watch Shaq crack jokes about Jack Nicholson at his LA Lakers jersey retirement ceremony, all the cheering fans in the stadium seem to join with me in celebration, and even though Shaq definitely left the team on fairly bad terms, it serves to remind me that celebration and community have a tendency to wipe clean the slate and give us a fresh start on something new.
It occurs to me that MLB Opening Day is the exact symbol of this — the boys of summer, of carefree youth and of endless beauty — and perhaps fantasy baseball is not so different from actual baseball as I had previously thought.
Am I going to remember the fact that during the draft, the Internet failed again and again; that I spent the damnable enterprise in a constant state of paranoia (because not being able to make your own draft picks is clearly the end of the world); that, by itself, the draft was not particularly fun? I don’t think so. Even so, I’m exhilarated, if only because I’ve guaranteed that my bonds with my closest friends will persist for another year and hopefully another and another and another. And even right now I keep on kicking myself, realizing that I can’t do justice to what just being with friends meant to me — but I know that they wouldn’t mind. They know perfectly well how I feel, and I suppose that is enough.
Winston Shi fears that one day, once he graduates and joins the real world, he may have to retire his fantasy baseball jersey. In the meantime, though, cheer him on at wshi94 ‘at’ stanford.edu.