Around the Bases

Tariq Engineer

My initial introduction to fantasy sports was a confusing one. Why play fantasy sports I thought, when you could play the real thing? I couldn’t understand what many people found so addicting.
How things have changed.
I am currently a member of three fantasy baseball leagues, and until last week I was a member of a fantasy basketball league as well. I find myself checking statistics and game scores obsessively, sometimes until two or three in the morning.
And it was during one my late-night/early-morning vigils that the cause of the addiction dawned on me. I was now personally involved in the events on the field. A player’s performance was no longer just tied to his team’s performance. His performance was now tied to my team’s performance, which increases the stakes substantially.
Now one’s emotional investment goes beyond one’s hometown (or home state) team. Now practically every game has personal consequences, which makes the games in themselves all the more compelling.
Of course the combination of having the same players on one’s hometown team and one’s fantasy team is sometimes too much for people to take.
A friend of mine, who shall remain nameless, agonized over drafting a pitcher from his hometown team because he did not think he would be able to watch the games in person if he did. He thought the stress from being personally invested twice over would be too much for him to take.
There is, I think, also a second reason why fantasy sports are so compelling. Having a fantasy team means you get to have some control over events. You get to decide who the starting pitcher is, and who sits on the bench. In other words, fantasy sports allow the sports fan to play manager. And every sports fan loves to play manager.
So I will continue to obsess over my teams, constantly checking the day’s statistics to find ways to improve them. And if lose a few hours sleep over it, so be it. I feel emotionally involved and invested, which is all any sports fan could possibly want … aside from winning, of course.