Notes From A Baseball Dilettante

In 2012 my son asked if I would join his friends in fantasy baseball. He told them I was interested in baseball. It was misleading. I am not a sports fan. Football seasons go by and, except for what accidentally falls out of the television, I am clueless about the NFL. Until, of course, the Super Bowl. Even then, I rarely get past the first half. I treated baseball seasons the same way. Occasionally, I enjoyed catching a buzz and watching pitchers pitch, batters at-bat, and the long ball glide into the stands. In that frame of mind, the 6, 4,3 double play was pure art. Still, I was mostly playoffs and World Series fan.
I named my fantasy team, the Diamond Dragons. Dragons of the baseball diamond. A creature of power that breathed fire. A symbol of success and prosperity. I imagined Dragons flying over the baseball diamond pouring fire from their mouths onto the opponents the way GIs in World War II poured fire on their enemies with flame throwers. I thought I was good to go with this game as if picking out a name was all that mattered. I had a lot to learn.
In the first year, the Dragons got pounded badly. They still hold the record for the second-longest losing streak in the league. My reaction was Nixonian. Not the foreign policy Nixon, but the paranoid- about- losing Nixon. The Nixon, who was driven not to be defeated. That was what I became in fantasy baseball. I began to listen to the experts, tried to get the jump on my competition, and started making heavy use of spreadsheets. I was remaking the Dragon’s coach the way Nixon transformed himself before the 1968 election.
Things got better. I have managed to get into the last round of the single-elimination finals on four occasions. I have not won a championship, but the Diamond Dragons have scored the most points in two of the eight seasons we have played. Coming in second in the last round of a season four times has produced a collection of rivals who I relish defeating whenever I can.
What did all this do to my viewing of baseball on TV? It created paranoia and a level of superstition that made watching the game challenging. If my ace pitcher got a single against him in the first inning, my baseball viewing for that night would end. As if my watching the game had somehow jinxed him. Nevertheless, I do watch a lot more baseball than I did before the era of the Diamond Dragons.
There have been some unusual seasons, but the strangest of them all is the one we are in now. Anyone paying even minimal attention to major league baseball knows the season almost did not happen. We have a season, but it is a drastically short one. We are used to games postponed by rain. This season we not only have that we have games delayed due to Covid-19. Low fan turnout during mid-week games is nothing new, but now we have no fan turnout all the time. We are used to teams off for a travel day. Now we have teams off for a quarantine week.
Our league decided this was an appropriate time to experiment. Traditionally we played head-to-head competition. Each week the Dragons had a different team to engage. This season we are using the rotisserie format, and total points at the end of the season will determine the champion. The scoring is different from the system used in head to head competition, so whatever I did to finish first in points in the past does not apply. As of this writing, the Diamond Dragons are in the middle of the pack, sliding back and forth between fifth and sixth place, like a horse that is a long shot to win, place or show. I miss having the chance to thrash those teams that denied the Dragons the championship.
I am hoping for a regular baseball next season next year. It will mean a full season without teams, and players quarantined. It will mean the sounds of the fans will be part of the ambiance of the games. Most importantly, it will mean the nasty virus is finally defeated.
My Dragons and I will be here on the computer. I will be pouring over spreadsheets with the statistics for pitchers and batters, comparing mine with my competitors, scanning the list of free agents for prospects, and then catching a buzz and watching for a long ball to sail into stands with people ready to catch it.

Steve Bailey is a retired middle school social studies teacher trying his hand at writing for publication. This is his first attempt at a sports essay. He lives in Richmond, Virginia, with his wife, Cindy. His two children and five grandchildren live nearby.

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