Every spring, as other New Yorkers head out to enjoy the sun, find new love, and conquer a world renewed, I hunker down to engage in an indefensible waste of time: I play fantasy baseball. For those who aren’t familiar with this hobby, fantasy baseball involves assembling make-believe teams out of real-life players (Jose Reyes, Derek Jeter), then using their real statistics (home runs, stolen bases) to compete against other make-believe teams in a make-believe league. What fun! The only way it could be more pointless is if we found a way to incorporate half-orcs and unicorns.
In many ways, fantasy baseball is kind of like day-trading, except with stats instead of stocks: You scour trends, analyze data, and evaluate assets, all while operating roughly two steps away from the real world. The main difference, of course, is that instead of potentially amassing a life-altering fortune, your best hope in fantasy baseball is to win bragging rights among a bunch of other nerds, while maybe snagging a bobblehead-doll trophy. (I have two.)
As such, fantasy baseball has always made me feel both giddy and guilty. New York, after all, is a city obsessed with productivity. And for much of the past decade, the news was full of ambitious people hitting boom-time jackpots, like a casino noisy with the sound of slot-machine bells. When everyone around you is flipping brownstones for 300 percent profits, or starting viral Tumblr blogs that snag them seven-figure movie options, the idea of deploying your spare hours analyzing the fly-ball tendencies of Carlos Delgado is something you don’t do proudly. It’s more like a dark, embarrassing addiction, like heroin or online porn.
At least, that’s how I used to feel. But this spring is gloriously different. I’m not so worried about being productive now. Because the day-traders all got busted. Flipping brownstones turned out to be a flop. Enormous fortunes have dissipated like daydreams, and the 100-hour-a-week go-getters are busy being laid off.
As for me, I’m excited to start tracking slugging percentages and projected strikeouts rather than stock indices. In fact, hyperactive boom New York—the one I watched guiltily from the sidelines—turned out to be the fantasy wonderland, its good times as mythical as any unicorn. Now I’m more than willing to pin my emotional well-being to a Carlos Delgado moon shot.