Ahead of the Game: Reality: Fantasy can be cruel - The Explorer: Import

Ahead of the Game: Reality: Fantasy can be cruel

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Posted: Wednesday, October 4, 2006 11:00 pm | Updated: 7:52 am, Thu Mar 24, 2011.

If you're anything like me, you have plenty of fantasies. Hitting the game winning homerun to win the World Series, winning a Pulitzer Prize or getting to take a trip on the Oscar Mayer Weiner Mobile are among mine.

When it comes to the world of sports, however, the definition of the word "fantasy" is much different than it was, say, 10 years ago. No longer are fantasies reserved for children in the backyards, gyms and outdoor courts.

These days, the very utterance of the word fantasy is an open invitation for someone to bore you to death with the details of who their backup tight end is in their office league.

Such is the life of fantasy sports, the rotisserie-style game where you are the owner, manager and, to some degree, publicist of your very own Internet-based team. And it's not just football. Fantasy sports run the gamut from football and baseball to NASCAR and golf. In football, as in most fantasy sports, people draft players and earn points based on the player's performances.

No longer are we Monday morning quarterbacks around the water cooler. Now, we're Tuesday morning general managers - and to some, Tuesday morning second-guessers.

It's impossible to know exactly how many people are actually playing fantasy sports but the consensus number seems to fall somewhere between 15 million to 18 million or roughly one in every 15 Americans. All the money changing hands makes fantasy sports more than a billion dollar-a-year industry.

But are fantasy sports aiding or ruining professional sports as we know it?

On one hand, you find yourself rooting and watching players you wouldn't normally pay attention to. Diversity can be a good thing. On the other hand, what happens to team loyalty? You should never rationalize that a loss is good for your favorite team because you had the opposing running back and he got you major points.

What happens when fantasy sports begins to become the reality? When it starts affecting your performance at work? Or relationships with loved ones?

There's no way of escaping the crush of fantasy sports that has deluged this country. From regularly airing fantasy-specific shows on ESPN to weekly inserts in Sports Illustrated, people are demanding up-to-date information pertinent to their teams.

Me? I've had a fantasy epiphany. I've struck fantasy rock bottom.

Yahoo! Sports has a feature that tracks every fantasy team you've ever had through its site. By Yahoo!'s count, I've had 22 teams in the four major sports (me being one of the few people who still call hockey a major sport) since 2003. Of those 22, only three of them (one is baseball, one football and one basketball) won the league championship.

The lure of fantasy sports is a strong one, especially for a sports egghead like myself. Plus getting a chance to prove my vast sports knowledge at the expense of my friends was too alluring to pass up. But now, it's gone too far - too many teams in too many leagues.

Where do you go when you need fantasy help? And by fantasy help I mean real help, when enough is way too much.

First off, how do you classify fantasy addiction? Does it fall under Internet addiction? Gambling addiction? Is it its own entity?

One thing is for sure; don't rely on the Internet to save you. Type in "help for fantasy sports addiction" into a Google search and you get just the opposite - sites promoting fantasy sports and Letterman/Foxworthy-esque top-10 lists.

Example:

If you fake a pee break at your kid's recital to check on your player's stats on your cell phone, you might be a fantasy addict.

If you've ever put off romantic time with your significant other because Peyton Manning has led the Colts into the Red Zone, you might be a fantasy addict.

It should be obvious that the Internet isn't the best place to look for help. Gambling addicts don't go to the dog track in search of salvation. Just like boozehounds don't solicit advice to quit drinking at their local liquor store.

It's easy to find help online for whatever ails you other than a fantasy sports addiction. A simple click and you find people and organizations willing to fix your gambling, sexual, drug, alcohol, shopping, eating, Internet, video games and smoking vices.

One of the only joys I have left in fantasy sports is coming up with clever team names. Once you start tagging your team with monikers such as Warlords you've probably gone too far and take yourself and your GM capabilities too seriously. A fantasy team name should be fun.

Some favorites: "Free Maurice!" (football), TERxRxELL OWENS (football) "ÀQuien es su Papa?" (baseball), "Sweat Favre" (football) and "Put 'Em On The Glass" (hockey).

Perhaps in the years to come, fantasy sports addiction will become a recognizable affliction. We just need more people to join me at rock bottom.

On Sunday night, while pondering my fantasy sports fate on the drive home from Phoenix along Interstate 10, I stumbled across one of my other fantasies as the Weiner Mobile shot by me doing 80-mph. At least I caught a glimpse before it disappeared into the Papago Freeway Tunnel. Sometimes fantasies can be cruel.

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