The garland briefer than a girl’s, part 1

Carlos Boozer.

Quick, what comes to your mind when you read that name?

Off the top of my head, I’d tell you that he’s a power forward for the Utah Jazz who averaged an incredible 24 points and 12 rebounds a game in the playoffs last year. That he’s an injury prone bum whose malingering potentially cost me a title a couple of years ago. That his young son is ill and that he has missed preseason games to be at the hospital for the bone marrow transplants. This is heartbreaking for the man and his family but also for the way that I will factor this all-too-real event in his life into my fantasy evaluation of him as a producer of statistics. That he’s from the basketball mean streets of Alaska and played for Duke only to be drafted by the Cavaliers in the 2nd round. He looked like a budding star, the inside presence to grow alongside LeBron James, only to leave for Salt Lake City as a free agent after apparently breaking an oral agreement to resign with Cleveland. That he doesn’t get enough blocks or shoot very well from the free throw line but that he plays with a good young point guard in an offensive system designed to showcase his skills. That he is among the league leaders in field goals made, field goal percentage, points, and rebounds. That he rented his Los Angeles home out to Prince last summer and sued the singer over unauthorized changes to the décor, including painting much of the house purple. That he was the best center-eligible player left when my third round selection came along, and so I picked him and will live and die with him. He is a key building block of my team; I will track his numbers after every game and read every injury report or trade rumor that includes his name. Carlos Boozer is my guy, he wears the White Suit…until I trade him or cut him if he gets a serious injury.

My relationship to fantasy basketball (I hesitate using the verb “play” to describe it) will be almost all-consuming for the next six months. Yahoo fantasy sports and the juego bonito site contained therein will be the nutshell where I will create infinite space. Is there a kind of moral hierarchy related to computer-based entertainments? I might sneer at someone who would wander around as a virtual elf all day or pay cash for some poor kid’s digital gold, but are my fellow players and I any better because we link our aggregate points, rebounds, and assists to living, breathing athletes and a globally recognized sport? I’ll admit to dismissing those who play fantasy football as dilettantes who only play games once a week for sixteen weeks while thinking that fantasy baseball managers must be social misfits due to the time demands of a 162-game season.

Most of the guys I play with, including two TGW contributors, rent out a gym for a weekly game of real basketball. I wonder how much of this game played over the internet is a substitute for our faded/fading skills? And is there a correlation between our games and our fantasy selves? Will the player who is fundamentally sound want to create a team in his own image, or are our teams reflections of what we would want to be? How much does fantasy basketball pervert our true appreciation of the sport? I know it has affected me as a fan. I felt lucky, despite his being a soap opera unto himself, to draft Kobe Bryant this season because as a Lakers fan it hurts too much to see him put up numbers for my league rivals. When players on my fantasy team play against the Lakers, I always say that a perfect scenario is that they score 50 points but the Lakers win by one but an off balance shot that banks in off the backboard in garbage time counts just as much over the course of the entire season as a perfect game winner hit under pressure, and this can’t help but devalue the meaning of the game in the long run.

It is not as sport but as narrative that I most enjoy fantasy basketball. I like talking about and competing in something that I like watching and doing myself, but it is the stories that really hook me. The most addicted of us truly do create an alternate world of characters which we control but which also reach out into our world to control us. I’ve checked my fantasy site numerous times while writing this piece. I prefer not to travel during fantasy season because I will have to spend time ensuring constant internet access. teamwolf! famously sat through a dinner with his eyes fixed to the TV over his date’s shoulder trying to make sense of what the fight between Indiana and Detroit was going to mean for his star small forward whom he just witnessed running into the stands to hit a fan. Thanks to SportsCenter, he was able to watch his season crumble before his very eyes over and over again, in slow motion no less. I spent that very same evening rushing to the computer to pick up the one decent player on the Pacers who wasn’t going to get a lengthy suspension that year. And I still came in second place.

Let me briefly share with you some of the characters and incidents that are more compelling to me than most of the fiction I could find. Zach Randolph’s high school coach once said that every day he wakes up and reads in the paper that Zach hasn’t shot someone or been shot himself is a good day. While still in Portland he cut short one of his many traffic stops by simply rolling up his windows and refusing to exit the smoke filled car. Randolph and his entourage were then towed to the police station in the car. This, ladies and gentleman, is my starting power forward.

teamwolf!, the current champ with a trophy to prove it, reverted to form this year and drafted a team full of extremely talented, and equally selfish, gunners. Ricky Davis exemplifies the “stats are all that matters” fantasy ethic—he once purposefully misfired a ball AT HIS OWN BASKET in order to gather the rebound and get a triple-double. The lone defensive specialist on teamwolf! is a Mohawk-wearing Russian who plays his home games in Salt Lake City; it is reported that his pop star wife allows him one ‘free” night with another woman every year.

Hop Skip and Jump, in his second season, matches us both with Stephen Jackson; he followed up his arrest last season for discharging a firearm outside a strip club with an offseason tattoo on his chest featuring praying hands…holding a gun. I don’t think this is exactly what Durer had in mind. No word on if Benjamin Franklin is up next.

We just finished our draft, and our league begins with the NBA’s opening night games on October 29th, ending the last day of the regular season on April 16th

draft

That’s 82 games x 10 fantasy positions = 820 obsessive-compulsive opportunities. Wish us luck. Prayers are welcome too.

29 responses to “The garland briefer than a girl’s, part 1”

  1. H. Skip Jump says:

    I love your opportunism here: “I spent that very same evening rushing to the computer to pick up the one decent player on the Pacers who wasn’t going to get a lengthy suspension that year.”

    Given that this was a (sort of) cataclysmic, watershed moment for the NBA, your actions are like day-traders running from the collapsing WTC while selling off US dollars and buying gold. Effing cutthroat you are! What did I get myself into? I should’ve stayed with my cozy elfin existence in World of Warcraft.

  2. Dave says:

    I second Bryan’s comment.

  3. Tim Wager says:

    Thirded.

  4. teamwolf! says:

    Of all the nerdy things I do, fantasy basketball is, of course, the nerdiest; and while I try to maintain an aloof, ironically distanced posture, as if I didn’t really care that much, I too could rattle off Boozer’s stats from memory, as well as Rick Davis’ or, better yet, the stats of some nobody, like, say, Nenad Krstic. My secret shame… sigh…

  5. cynthia says:

    a double wow from me

  6. H. Skip Jump says:

    I don’t know that it’s as much “nerdy” as it is dude-ish, which, by the way, is much more shameful.

  7. stephanie sportshater says:

    Although my initial gut instinct might have been to join them given the topic, I sort of object to the cooler-than-thou responses this post is generating. Here’s why. I can’t think of a topic less interesting to me that fantasy basketball, and was not at all excited to read about it. However, any piece of writing that can take a topic that’s half jocky and half D&D—two creepy extremes for me—and turn it into a philosophical musing about narrative, identity, and character development, mixed in with well crafted sentences, interesting questions, and engaging anecdotes, is a feat of authorship, more difficult than writing about something that’s already inherently interesting and cool. This may sound like a backhanded compliment, but I really don’t intend it that way. I think this is great.

  8. Ruben Mancillas says:

    Wow means good…right?

    I left out the part about our league site having its own comment board. teamwolf! put up a message there about this site. Feel free to weigh in my fellow juegans.

    teamwolf! (surprised no one has asked him about that team name yet), have you heard Ricky Davis is going to be traded to the Miami Heat. Your thoughts?

  9. stephanie sportshater says:

    Okay, now I WILL object to you actually talking about trades and stuff on this site, where I come to escape things like fantasy basketball UNLESS they are the vehicle for questions more philosophical. You got your own site for that–ask him there.

  10. Ruben Mancillas says:

    that’s mah bad.

    will we keep up with these new pseudonyms? I actually thought steph’s was some kind of scatological comment involving her relationship to sports.

    thanks for the original comment though-other people’s obsessions are exactly that and I appreciate all of your indulgence but I do wonder what makes some of the other subjects discussed on this site inherently interesting and cool?

  11. Dave says:

    No, I don’t think I’m too cool for fantasy basketball. It’s clear I’m just not smart enough for it.

  12. fantasy widow says:

    You best not go down that slippery slope if Part II is on it’s way.

  13. fantasy widow says:

    umm… that was directed to Ruben not Dave

  14. Bryan says:

    i wasn’t intending “wow” to be cooler-than-thou at all. nor do i think of this as nerdy. i think steph gets it right on by nailing the nerdiness/d&d side to the athletic obsession/sporto thing. i think this kind of obsession is just plain fascinating — much more interesting than simple fandom. my “wow” was more like: wow, how do you hold all that in your head? and where do you find the time? it was almost as if i’d come out of the closet as a civil war reenactment dude or something.

    i thought the fantasy baseball bit was a great part of “knocked up” — apparently it’s a carryover from the actor’s real life.

  15. Dave says:

    True fact: my roommate was in a fantasy baseball league with Paul Rudd.

  16. Tim says:

    Sorry if my thirding of the “wow” seemed snide. I was just kinda blown away by the level of obsessiveness. I have had my obsessions in life, but largely they have fallen to the wayside with age. (Note I didn’t say maturity.) I still have my bouts with obsession and admire obsessives, certainly, but its a question of energy. I couldn’t possibly muster enough to reach this level. Plus, where do you find the time, oh, father of triplets?

    Plus, Paul Rudd — hott or nott?

  17. Miller says:

    paul rudd = the hotttttest. he’s my #1 crush.

  18. bryan says:

    tell the truth, miller — is that crush left over from his role in _clueless_?

  19. Miller says:

    yes!!!! wow, i didn’t know it was that transparent… josh is dreamy. it started there, but i must say i’ve seen him play a fantastic macbeth and orsino. that gives my crush some credibility, right?

  20. well, the fact that _clueless_ was based on _emma_ gives it enough cred of its own.

    i don’t know what to do with the fact that this puts you in a category with my daughter, though …

    am i that old?

  21. ruben —

    now would be an appropriate time to ask you:

    on your “about” page listing, you disclose that your fbball team is called “steffswhitesuit.” knowing you, that could be a reference to just about anything, from houseman to hughes. but i’ve always thought it might refer simultaneously to a) a white suit owned by stephanie wells (and god knows she must own at least one), and b) “the great whatsit,” which sort of sounds like “steffswhitesuit.”

    will you finally provide answers to let the conspiracy theorists sleep at night?

  22. Tim says:

    Bryan, I think Ruben tipped us off to the answer to this earlier, because I wouldn’t have known it on my own. It’s from _Pretty in Pink_: Steff (James Spader), aka The Bad Guy, always wears a white suit. What exactly it signifies in that funky Mancillas mind, however, I’m not really sure.

  23. stephanie sportshater says:

    Bryan, thank you for many things: for the above compliment, for clarifying that “Steff” on the fbb draft board is NOT me (though I do know what Steffswhitesuit is, I’ll let the Commish explain it), and finally, for this superdelightful and appropriate analogy, not to mention image: “it was almost as if i’d come out of the closet as a civil war reenactment dude or something.”

  24. at least i got the hughes part right …

  25. #24 — do you have something against civil war reenactors?

    “steffswhitesuit” will always mean swells’s well-stocked closets to me.

  26. stephanie sportshater says:

    oops. what tim said.

  27. stephanie sportshater says:

    and bryan–um, no, i don’t? i mean, they’re not at all jocky *or * D&Dish? dang, hard to be convincing here . . .

    and by the way, when you were staying at our house (which must have given you the full view of the closet, gazing in from the bed), i hope you freely availed yourself of the wardrobe. i’d like to imagine a week-long dress-up party. if not, it’s time to come back and remedy that.

  28. d’oh! why didn’t i think of that!

    i mean … imagine away!