Tonight I attended my first-ever game at Shea Stadium as a member of the working media. Ironically, I sat alone. Yes, apparently XM Radio (despite having 'radio' in its name) has a private seat in the press area. I am sure that others agree that watching a baseball game can be awfully lonely. You go to these games for the sporadic big plays that take about 30 seconds, only to talk about them with those around you for the next 20 to 30 minutes.
As I sat alone watching John Maine masterfully shut down the Minnesota Twins, I glanced over the scoreboard and noticed that the Red Sox were losing to the Braves and the Phillies were losing to the Indians. To a normal human being this is just an out of town score noting that the Mets (by now leading the Twins four-nothing) would maintain their one-and-a-half game lead over the the Braves and gain a game on the Phils.
To me however, I think to my fantasy baseball team. The "Guns of Navarone" had sent out Curt Schilling and Cole Hamels on this night to pitch against the team that had topped us in the championship last September. In other words, this is a huge week. Seven game winning streak on the line against my team's most bitter rival, this game has all the makings of an ESPN Sunday Night Baseball Prime time match up.
By the 5th Inning, both scores read six to one in favor of both the Braves and Indians. I have never hated Native Americans more in my life. Both Schilling and Hamels were being destroyed by the red man and I need to talk about it. My girlfriend tolerates my fantasy griping for the most part, but this was going to take a while I couldn't bring myself to put her through it. Next in line: the big guy, Dad.
I noticed that he too would have things to talk about tonight. Josh Johnson, just getting over elbow problems, was losing to the White Sox two-nothing for his team this week. For the majority of the 2007 season, his pitching staff has struggled mightily. His first selections for starting pitching this year (Brett Myers and Jeremy Sowers) have been converted into the bullpen and demoted to the minor leagues respectively.
With my Dad's "New York Dynasty" experiencing similar problems this evening I knew that he would be my go-to-guy this evening. As I said earlier, I made this call during the 5th Inning and was on the phone until the 8th griping about how horrible my pitching was and how I was going to get owned this week in embarrassing fashion. I only cut the call short because this was my first game at Shea and I wasn't sure about the etiquette for post-game procedures and the like. Not off the phone for all of five minutes, WFAN's Mike Mancuso shouts from the broadcast reports press box asking "what girl I was talking to for so long?"
Isn't that hysterical? Ironically, I felt like a total tool because I was talking about fantasy baseball (not even the real thing) to my Dad instead of my beautiful girlfriend about anything except fantasy baseball. However, that feeling came and went almost immediately as I decided that fantasy baseball is that important to me. I would gripe about my starter's bad outings, my slumping bats, and my poor decisions as a GM for hours at a time if I could. Trades, line up adjustments, and add/drops are a part of my everyday life during baseball season. I've had teleconferences in the press box at Yankee Stadium discussing a necessary trade of Brad Hawpe for Bill Hall at the end of last season (the deal would help me but blow up in my face the last week of the season as Hall went about 1-30 during the early part of September).
So here's the point of this post: it is stupid to ever be embarrassed about something you care about. I love fantasy baseball. I don't know what my summer would be like if I couldn't complain about Carlos Beltran, Cole Hamels, and Curt Schilling. Being a Yankee fan can only get me so far; the hybrid of stats and scouting fills my days and nights.
When I got a chance to talk to Mike after venturing down to the Mets' locker room, we talked about fantasy baseball (which is code for talking about individual players) and how guys my age focus too much on the player than the team. He pointed out that so many people can recite what Derek Jeter, Albert Pujols, and David Ortiz did on a given night but could never tell you what the Yanks, Cards, and Sox did.
"I'll tell you one thing," I said, "the Sox and Philles definitely lost tonight, and it's because of Curt Schilling and Cole Hamels." I had another go-to-guy.