Playing the Field: From Fan to Fanatic

playing the field

After several years playing in a fantasy league, I’ve learned why baseball lends itself so well to metaphor. We may strike out at the bar or hit it out of the ballpark in the boardroom, but we can’t escape the game. These are my love letters to the sport.  

Dear Curtis Granderson,

Our love was never meant to be.

You became one of my Wayward Soldiers by chance, the result of a poorly-timed and unfortunately-long bathroom break during the second round of my fantasy baseball league’s 2012 online draft.

I took too long making my selection because of aforementioned indelicacies.  When my time ran out, the auto-draft function kicked in and you were, according to ESPN, the highest ranked player still available. Your offensive output for the next six months now belonged to me, whether I wanted it or not.

You’re talented, to be sure. But you’re a New York Yankee.

The boys in my league might scoff at my hesitation. They are all very good at choosing players that statistically offer them the greatest chance of success. They have spreadsheets and long lists of statistics and analysis. Of course, I do too. And they would never mock my fantasy transactions or blame my gender for poor decisions. They’re good people—better people than that.

Actually, in practice, I think I do make more choices based on emotion than they do. Maybe it really is a girl thing, or maybe it is just my personality or my relatively limited experience playing fantasy baseball, or maybe it just means I am a better, more loyal, and all-round superior baseball fan than they are (go Royals!).

There are simple truths you learn early in this life and one of the simplest is this—the New York Yankees exist so people can hate them.  People who don’t are Deluded, Fools, Assholes, or All Three.

I have some beloved, deluded friends and some un-beloved, asshole acquaintances—all of whom have regurgitated long-winded justifications for being Yankee fanatics. Good god, I don’t care.

Simply, it’s just way more fun to hate on the Yankees than it is to love them.  They make it easy.

Actually, you aren’t the first Yankee to be a Wayward Soldier. I had a passing fling with Javier Vasquez two years ago that very nearly ended in tears1.  Brett Gardner lasted a little longer last summer. His offensive numbers were steady, if a little lackluster.  But those guys were nobodies- insignificant blips that I picked up to fill holes in my roster when one of my trusted men went down2.

You—you’re different.

There are plenty of bloated metaphors to be made here about you and I. From the star-crossed, six-day, child-love of Romeo and Juliet to Elizabeth Bennett overcoming her stubborn prejudice—this last month has certainly changed the way I look at you.

Through Wednesday, April 18th, things were just ‘eh’.  But it’s been a season for slow starts in the league and as long as you were hitting better than Pujols3 I figured I might as well hold on until something more promising came along.

Apparently that something promising was Thursday. It was April 19th, exactly 237 years after a different set of Yankees fired “the shot heard round the world” on Lexington Common, starting the Revolutionary War4.

You made history during that game, becoming the first Yankee to go 5 for 5, while blasting 3 home runs in your first three at-bats.

You made little kids become baseball fans for life that night.

I can sort of imagine what was going through your mind when you first stepped up to the plate. But the time after that, and the time after that, and the time after that—when history was suddenly on the line and every person in that roaring stadium was looking to you to step up and be the star.

They wanted you to be their baseball story, the story they pull out in bars to explain to non-fans why the game can be so magical, so heart-stopping.

And even I, who stubbornly rails against the Yankees at every opportunity, who lives in the Bronx 20 blocks away from your stadium and yet refuses to acknowledge its presence, who didn’t even want to draft you because of the team you played for—even I was on the edge of my seat, wishing and hoping that your last at bat wouldn’t let me down.

I didn’t want to just look at my fantasy stats the next day and be happy that you had a great game. I wanted to obnoxiously brag5 about how you had the game of your life and that I was watching.

I’m still not going to be a Yankees fan, and you’re probably not going to be the offensive powerhouse that propels me to win my league this season. But for one night, you and I managed to work past our differences6.

Unfortunately for you, I’ve moved on. I literally, physically7 ran into Jude Law at work on Friday and now I’m pretty sure we’re in love8.

Until next time,

Anna

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1. Unfortunately, not exaggeration nor hyperbole.

2. Insert inappropriate joke about filling holes here.

3. That’s not saying much. Albert’s batting average is currently .263 with NO home runs.  I’m sure that will change soon enough, although the Cardinal fans in my family will enjoy watching him struggle in the meantime.

4. Also, coincidentally, the same day in 1946 that the NY Yankees honored their most famous slugger, Babe Ruth, with a plaque showing the world that he was, in fact, as awesome as he always thought himself to be.  Also, randomly, the same day that something called "4 Baboons Adoring the Sun" closed at the Beaumont Theatre in NYC after only 38 performances. I wonder why.

5. Obnoxiously bragging is a critical component of fantasy baseball.

6. I love footnotes almost as much as I love you, Curtis.

7. Read: awkwardly and kind of uncomfortably.

8. No we’re not.