Maybe someone should fill me in on current events. Because, you see, for the past four years, I’ve been a little occupied.

Four years ago, I discovered something that would change my life forever fantasy sports. Since my rookie season as a fantasy manager, I have competed in almost every type of fantasy league out there.

At first, it was just fantasy baseball with a bunch of my college buddies.

Then came fantasy football. And the next thing I know, I’m skipping classes to check on how my fantasy stock market portfolio is looking and look for new players to add to my fantasy golf team.

Now I have four fantasy baseball teams, my fantasy NBA basketball league is in the playoffs, I just got my fantasy NASCAR team setup, and I’m immersed over whether Tiger will pick up his third green jacket in Augusta next weekend.

Yup, I am a full-fledged fantasy jock. I watch baseball and root for a no-name third baseman to stretch a single into a double for a team I couldn’t care less about so that I can pick up a few extra points. I can tell who’s leading golf’s Bell South Classic and who I am pulling for to end up in the money so that I can move from third to second in that league (Dudley Hart and David Toms, respectively).

I’m in public leagues with complete strangers I’ll probably never meet. I play fantasy world cup soccer with people from Italy, Ireland and Germany.

I’m in private leagues with some of my best friends and co-workers. I sat around for three hours on St. Patrick’s Day drafting a fantasy baseball team in Las Cruces with nine of my closest friends.

I’m the commissioner of the office baseball league, and, when football kicks off again, I’m in charge of that league too.

I don’t always win my leagues. Heck, I don’t even always compete. But every time I play a different fantasy sport, I learn about a new athlete and more about the game, and, most importantly, I have fun.

Fantasy sports have taught me almost as much about sports as video games have. Don’t even get me started on video games. I learned more about football from EA Sports Madden ’99 than I would have learned if I had played football in high school.

ESPN has become a lifeline to me. I feel like I know H.R. (Harold Reynolds of Baseball Tonight) and Stuart Scott (Sportscenter). I stay up until two in the morning so that I can catch the last showing of Baseball tonight or Edge NFL matchup with Ron Jaworski.

Fantasy sports are not just another way for lazy, fat, out-of-shape sports fans to live vicariously through their heroes on the field of their choice. These games give normal people, like myself, the opportunity to, almost, live out one of their oldest dreams managing in the big leagues. Whether it’s fantasy baseball or fantasy stock car racing, the fantasy manager gets that feeling of being in control.

Knowledge of the game, and increased interest in a sport, where there may not have been any interest before, are other perks.

One of my best friends, who really had no interest and very little knowledge of the game of baseball, decided to join our fantasy league in its inaugural season. Since then, he has not only developed an undying love of the game, but a much broader understanding of the game.

Also, fantasy games are not just for guys and sports geeks like myself. Anyone can get into the action with the wide range of fantasy tools available on the Internet today. I have a friend in one of my leagues who only pick players for their looks, and she is a perennial contender for the league baseball crown.

So don’t think of it as living in a fantasy world or as spending too much time in front of a computer. Fantasy leagues do entail worrying about things like clutch dingers and the WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitched) of a No. 3 rotation pitcher. However, they also allow the fantasy manager to forget for a moment all the other stresses that come along in his or her life. Fantasy sports fulfilling dreams and diverting stress in my life for over four years and counting.

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Tony McClary