Mitch Albom more of an idiot than I already knew him to be
In this Parade article from yesterday, Albom ‘takes on’ fantasy baseball (and really, by proxy, any fantasy sports). My dad forwarded this to me and I responded with only one word: “terrible,” but upon reflection I do have more to say.
Take in a Real Game
The title of this piece should be read in the most obnoxious dude bro turned old voice you can muster: “why don’t you take in a REAL game, you little nerd?!?”
Spring is here, and throughout the land, baseball fans don their caps and root, root, root in the glowing warmth of…
It’s true. Baseball’s magic has been hijacked. On any given day, far more people now check their fantasy-league statistics, perhaps as many as 15 million, than sit in the stands watching Major League action.
Yes, because 15 million people could totally fit in all of the Major League parks combined. Oh wait. Also, Mitch completely ignores the fact that ticket prices for a major league ballgame have soared since he was a kid, a little fact you might consider mentioning when you’re writing an article contrasting today’s fandom with your own. Ignoring the passage of time! Next, he’ll be lamenting the fact that people watch games on TV rather than listening to them on the radio.
Fantasy folks have their own teams and their own standings—all based on real players’ statistics—in a shadow world of make-believe games often played on a computer, games that never see a ball or hear a cheer.
I have to admit, Mitch really made me laugh with the line “in a shadow world of make-believe games.” Way to make friendly gambling sound like an ominous sci-fi movie. I really hope someone makes that movie actually. It could be kind of like “The Fan” with DeNiro except instead of being obsessed with a real baseball player, DeNiro is obsessed with an imaginary “make believe” player in his “shadow world” of crime and corruption.
It’s as if you took the best lines from Shakespeare and formed your own play. Or took rock’s best guitar solos and strung them into “your” song. Fantasy baseball uses the talents but loses the stage. And in so doing, it loses much more.
Or, it’s as if you betted on a group of baseball players.
Now, don’t misunderstand. Fans have a right to their fun. Some collect trading cards. Some record every at-bat with a colored pencil. Heck, as a kid, I sold programs for the Philadelphia Phillies. I trudged up and down the stadium steps, a bag over my shoulder, reminding the crowd, “You can’t tell the players without a scorecard!”
"Fans have a right to their fun," but only if I, Mitch Albom, understand and can relate to it.
But those fans had come to see the game. To cheer a dramatic home run or an inning-ending strikeout. They wanted their team to win. And if it lost, the fact that one player had three hits was of no consolation.
The biggest problem with Albom’s thesis begins here. He assumes that no one that play fantasy baseball likes or watches or cares about real baseball. That theory is more than wrong: it’s totally stupid. Why in the world would I even consider playing fantasy baseball if I had no interest in baseball? The reason I don’t play fantasy football is simple: I don’t want to watch football. The reason I do play fantasy baseball is also simple: I watch baseball constantly, and having a couple fantasy teams add a little bit of fun to the mix when I’m watching any MLB game. I’d be willing to venture a guess that I’ve probably watched twice as much baseball this year — two games (Astros-Giants and a AAA game in Round Rock) in person and at least a dozen on TV — as Mitch Albom has.
In fantasy baseball, it’s the opposite. The real outcome doesn’t matter. Every other player in the lineup can whiff, as long as the one guy on your fantasy team has a good day.
Again, assuming that one rules out the other. Every single person in each of my fantasy leagues has a major league team that they cheer for.
And this is where sports dies and statistics take over. In the real game, a player may bunt the ball to help his team win. He’s a hero. But in the fantasy world, he’s a zero.
Wrong. This part reads like he is still mad over Moneyball.
Which may be why most big-league players I know aren’t wild about fantasy leagues. And why most managers roll their eyes at the trend.
"Most big league players I know”
"I never pay attention to it," says the Detroit Tigers’ Jim Leyland, who’s been managing the real thing for more than 20 years. "It’s amazing when you hear fans say, ‘Hey, I had your guy on my fantasy team.’ That doesn’t mean anything to us.
Because I was sure that the fact that Rick Porcello is on my fantasy team really meant something to Jim Leyland.
"Maybe people do it to feel like they’re in charge of a real team. But it’s nothing like a real team, believe me. A real team has personal problems, injuries, the long grind of the season. You plug in fantasy players, it’s like robots. You’re missing the human pulse."
Thank you, Leyland, for letting me know that setting the lineup of my fantasy team online isn’t really like managing a real team. My dreams are shattered.
The human pulse. Exactly. If you program a computer correctly, it can play an entire fantasy season without you. Try winning a real game without a human being on the mound.
"If you program a computer correctly, it can play an entire fantasy season without you." — not very successfully, Mitch. Do some research, silly.
Fantasy leagues—which first surged in the 1980s—are big in football and basketball, too. They’re part of an enhanced sports experience that includes video games which let you run, move, and even celebrate as real players—so you can feel like the star. It’s as if we want more and more to “own” the sports thing, even if we’re not a bit athletic. If that Avatar movie ever becomes reality, kids will slip into NBA bodies rather than blue skin.
Oh no! People are making the best out of the fact that most of them can’t afford to ever attend professional sporting events by making the best of what they have at home? It’s possible that the era of ridiculously overpaid superstar athletes could end? What in heavens will we do then! We won’t have any real heroes to take PEDs, cheat on their wives, and shoot up the clubhouse! Athletes will be just athletes, judged on their ability to play the game rather than their example to mankind! The world will collapse!
I worry for this growing fantasy-sports world, not for what its followers are experiencing, but for what they’re not. If you’re so busy computing stats, you miss the real-life drama, you miss the physical artistry, you miss the electricity of a stadium and the unity of your neighbors cheering alongside you. Remember, no one does the wave alone in his basement.
With the basement line, Albom really pissed me off. That’s where it becomes clear that he was no real tangible concept of who plays fantasy baseball (I really hope he receives some wrath from some folks he knows who probably engage in this dangerous activity), and in his mind he’s picturing millions of skinny, glasses-wearing, ‘NERDS’ who did better than him in school but couldn’t qualify for the varsity baseball team. And the truth is, those guys DO play fantasy sports. But it’s because they are fans and they want another way to enjoy and appreciate the game. Mitch seems to want sports fandom to be an all frat-boys club of big date raping dudes who vomit on kids at a Phillies game. What makes it extra funny though, is that he doesn’t even realize that at this point in time, half those frat-boys play fantasy sports too.
The human pulse. A base runner’s straining face as he chugs from third to home. A pitcher’s glare on a full count. The thud of a strike hitting a catcher’s mitt. The smacking sound of a sure home run.
Baseball minus such things is just math. And let’s be honest. Wasn’t math class when we snuck the earphone from the transistor radio and enjoyed our original fantasies about the game?
Hahahahahaha, math sucks! I’m not a nerd!