Living in a Fantasyland

I have a confession to make.

I don’t really watch a lot of sports on t.v.

I’m sure my wife would disagree, especially on Saturdays during football season, but it really is true. I don’t own NFL Sunday Ticket, a baseball game on t.v. is just background noise to me, and the last time I watched an NBA game from start to finish was probably when the Bulls won their last championship back in 1998. I’m well-rounded and actually have time for all kinds of non-sports things.

Not like Jed Latkin, the “star” of the new documentary, Fantasyland. For all those who believe that people who play fantasy sports are just geeks who never picked up a glove or shot a free throw, this movie won’t disappoint. Latkin is portrayed as competitive, delusional, and obnoxious, and at one point he nearly misses his wife giving birth to twins, preferring to stay in the waiting room where he can get cell phone reception, “just in case Sam calls” with a trade offer. He’s painful to watch at times, but I suppose all of the rest of the obsessives look good in comparison. Show this movie to your significant other the next time she thinks you take fantasy sports too seriously. At least, you can say, you’re not that guy. Then wordlessly do the dishes.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, I don’t really watch the NBA. I know quite a bit about the NBA because I read the stories, check out the highlights, and comb the boxscores, but I rarely watch the game. What does this make me? Am I really an NBA fan if I don’t actually watch the games? Many people would say I’m not, but I love the NBA. It’s weird.

What is a fan? Is it someone who roots, roots, roots for the home team, or is it someone who knows that Brandon Roy and Joe Johnson are similar players, at least statistically. I care more about those stats than I do about the Blazers or Hawks. The game is reduced to numbers. Is that wrong?

A common complaint people have for sportswriters is that they never played the game, so how could they understand? They were just the dorks in high school that got picked on by the jocks, and now they’re getting their revenge. It’s really the only explanation for Jay Mariotti’s entire career. Fantasy writers might have it even worse, because they’re not writing about the “real” sport (say that to good RotoWire writers like Dalton Del Don, Chris Liss, and Andre Snellings) and they’re really obsessed with numbers. One step above pocket protectors, Star Trek and Dungeons&Dragons? To a lot of people, yes.

I’m here to say it’s all baloney. There are many geeks among our ranks, but our understanding of the numbers and nuances of the game enhances our enjoyment. I may not know be able to pick Joe Johnson or Ricky Nolasco out of a lineup, but I know that Johnson should go for 20, 5, and 5 tonight and that Nolasco’s 2009 ERA was bloated by some of the worst luck in the league last year. That’s gotta be worth something.

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