The flash and the slow burn: the oceans and tide pools of fantasy baseball

Stare long enough at the fantasy baseball draft window on your widescreen monitor and it starts to look like a roster of high school crushes; people that you used to know or should’ve known better but were quickly forgotten in favor of the latest. The names scroll by, picked by others, gathered up as quickly as you could think of them and the only way to think of them is “ah well, he’s probably not what I was looking for anyhow,” or “it wouldn’t have worked out anyhow,” or  “all the better that he’s gone before I could go and screw it up.”

In fantasy baseball, worlds are made and destroyed

In fantasy baseball, worlds are made and destroyed

Stare even longer at the board, with no breaks and a headful of Diet Coke and the big board reads like a tragic death toll, the engravings of a memorial. You’ve been given the chance to save a choice few of these passed-over souls, to pluck them from an obscure demise, to resurrect them from another player’s distant attentions, but it’s a deflated power because you can only hold on to a few of the sorry dead-to-be.

The fantasy baseball draft is an intense and fleeting pleasure that ends in a fizzle and leaves you wishing it was still the second round and not the slummy 24th, wishing life was always in the second round. After a few blurry hours–the draft of a thousand mouse clicks–the season is set, your team is in place; you’ve made something out of nothing but, like any artist, you can’t be sure the reception, the selling price. A good team looks bad right after the draft, what’s really a shitty team looks gold-lacquered. What was a whirling mass of personality and data and insight now looks still and dead, just a list of baseball players and some columns and numbers. Good teams look bad, bad ones look superb. Regret lingers over the bad decisions made in a flurry.

Milk not the only bad choice on fantasy draft day

Milk not the only bad choice on fantasy draft day

The only solution, it often feels: Draft Again! Start another Yahoo! team, it’s so easy! Again, again! Doesn’t matter that you’ll let that last drafted team, the one with no ties that will hang around only as a totem to your impulsive need to draft, die halfway through the season when it’s crouched in the cellar.

The range of vision shift from pre-draft to post-draft is a dizzying transfer of perspectives. The approach goes from the Great Overview before the draft–tracing the ebbs and flows of the whole ocean of players and their tendencies–to the Great Underview after the draft, when the rest of the ocean fades from view and the fantasy team owner stares only at his own little tide pool, shifting starfish from one corner to the other, peering cautiously out into the expanse only when he needs something.

Fantasy baseball is similar in its rhythms to the game of love. The initial stages of each are thrilling, overwhelming, and full of decisions whose implications will stretch long into the future. After that euphoric beginning, each string out into a long courtship of small encounters, disappointments, surprises, losses and gains. The fantasy draft, like the first sexual liaison with a lover, is on paper the most exciting aspect. What follows in each is the slow burn into failure or the slow burn that glows warm and bright forever or until next season.

Very loosely related:

Google “fantasy.” Fantasy sports have bounced unicorns, druids and warriors, except in Wikipedia.
MLB Network to air fantasy draft show, Sunday March 29. If you haven’t already drafted seven teams, check in. If you have, learn all about what you effed up.
Go for the slow burn.
Fantasy baseball draft is worth the stress to this Nanaimo Daily News writer.
Check in with Fake Teams.

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