Friday, March 21, 2008

On Fantasy

This is my brain on hockey:

Joe Sakic is my hero.

This is my brain on fantasy hockey:

Daniel Carcillo is my hero.

If you are like me and have at least one fantasy hockey league that you are involved with, "school" began some time last August when I cracked open the Hockey News Pool Guide and reintroduced myself to Dobber Hockey and a number of other fantasy and rumor oriented websites.

Time passed. New players emerged, old ones fell into darkness and BAM! Here I am in the semi-finals in my league. Predictably egos are going through the roof, the smack talk is getting interesting, and every move is getting reviewed like the Zapruder film. In fact, if the top 4 in my league gets any tighter relationships might be affected.

This is because the winner of the league goes home with a significant amount of money and a miniature Stanley Cup, which like the real one gets rotated every season to be displayed somewhere prominent, and become as revered as any other worldly possession including spouses, kids, houses, cars and the Nintendo Wii.

To the members of the Jimbo Jones Activity Workshop, this is an example of what we've become. To clarify: we suck.

As commissioner of the "leeg" (the spelling is intended to conjure up Canadian toughness) I spend somewhere in the area of 5 hours a day scouting hockey, putting out fires, and dealing with the occasional accusation of corruption.

This can be a good thing (I'm almost always in contention) and it can be a bad thing (it leaves little time for things like fixing the country and developing meaningful relationships that don't involve discussing things like ramifications of Alex Ovechkin acting as his own agent, or when exactly Sid Crosby is going to return from injury.)

My how reality becomes blurred by the devotion to managing a team of players whom you have absolutely no control over. This game that revolves around a game, which in the end is just a game. And to think, only ten years ago Dennis Miller was channeling George Carlin from the 60's and ranting about how television had eaten us alive.

Certainly all hard core hockey fans shared this affliction before the dominance of the internet (which fostered easy online fantasy games). We are addicted. But these days I have to wonder if all this fantasy and escapism is making reality worse.

I came to this revelation last night as I was discussing with Hippie Nate a chess-like move that my brother made which was intended to choke off the supply of goalies to two of the final four teams. Basically he picked up a now healthy and red hot Nik Khabibulin, and for all intents will sit on him because he doesn't need another goalie. I thought this move was brilliant and gutsy.

But later, when Hippie Nate was ranting to me about how stupid the move was, and how stupid my brother was, I had a sort of "come to God" moment. In an instant I realized that on their best week, most of the people in my hockey leeg might watch one actual game, possibly two. We live in a state (Colorado) where the Altitude network provides every Avs game on top of the Mondays and Tuesdays provided by Versus (and yeah NBC drops in the token Sunday game too). But in general few people in my hockey leeg actually watch hockey.

Yet some of those people ended up with good teams, giving them the impression that they "knew" hockey. For example, the idea that Daniel Carcillo is more important than Joe Sakic.

And that's the problem. Has fantasy been elevated to a point where it has become reality for many people? Where for all intents and purposes, staring at numbers has displaced watching the actual game?

If I took it beyond that, I could possibly make a link between the rise of fantasy pools in general and the allowance of corruption in government. We have come to the point where our daily distractions are so important that they are trumping our actual responsibilities.

To me that is sad. Are we nothing more than stupid box-watching monkeys? How did it get to this point? Why did we allow it to get to this point?

Something needs to change. We, the people, must take a new direction.

So to you, loyal reader, take a moment this weekend when you are diving through Dobber's, Hockeybuzz, and a myriad of "insider" blogs in an effort to win your pool, and step outside. Read a book. Help out sibling. Go count general assembly ballots at your political headquarters. And if you can find the time, sit down and actually watch hockey.

In the end I think you will gain a little perspective, and you might just enrich your life.

Once when I was a kid on summer break I walked up to the tv at my friend's house and flipped on Nickelodeon. Surprisingly there was no "You Can't Do That On Television". Instead, there was a black screen and white text which read: "It is a beautiful day outside. Go play. We'll be here when you get back."

It's something to think about, especially if you've watched the last couple of Avs games.

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