As I’ve mentioned here in the past, I’m not the biggest fan of anything labeled “fantasy.” Epic fantasy, Final Fantasy, the Mariah Carey song “Fantasy”— all of it turns me off. It’s not that I’m some coal-hearted Republican with no imagination. I just prefer entertainment that explores or reflects the world I live in. And I don’t live in Middle Earth. Or wherever it is Mariah Carey is from.
In the last month, though, I’ve caved on that hard-line stance. I have finally indulged in the whimsical, the quixotic, the phantasmagorical: I have joined a fantasy basketball league.
I know there are no dragons or orcs or otherwise mystical creatures in the NBA, unless you count Chris Bosh. Still, this is a major step for me.
While I consider myself a fairly savvy person culturally, it’s only been in the last 10 years that I’ve become much of a sports fan. Growing up as a young punk kid, I rejected the idea of organized athletics, in part because the corporatized nature of professional sports leagues totally went against my totally well-formed and not-at-all made-up anarchistic principles. Also, I wasn’t what you might call “coordinated” or “physically active.” Why partake in something I’m not good at myself, right? Somehow, around the time of the Lakers’ failed super-team championship run in the 2003-04 season, something got rewired in my brain, and I’ve been a fairly obsessive pro-basketball fan ever since.
Up until now, though, I’ve largely avoided participating in any fantasy leagues, in part because of that dreaded word. Fantasy? What? Are we writing fan-fic where LeBron stays in Cleveland and Grant Hill doesn’t have osteoporosis in his ankles? But now that I’ve been roped in, an addiction is setting in.
It’s only been a few weeks but I’m checking my team’s stats constantly. I access the waiver wires whenever I have a spare few minutes, devising ways to improve. I’m watching terrible Charlotte Bobcats and Boston Celtics games just so I can track Al Jefferson and Jordan Crawford. And y’know what? It’s a lot more fun than following a Lakers team that’s tanking for draft position. (Or at least, that’s what they should be doing. Stay on the damn bench, Kobe!)
Weird as it is to say, I think playing fantasy basketball has enlightened me to what many people see in other forms of fantasy. Simply, the real world is just boring. At least, it is when the Lakers are terrible. The ability to escape to a dimension in which I care about Cleveland-based power forwards and even backup Celtics point guards as deeply as Pau Gasol’s rebounding numbers. Now I understand why people love dragons. It’s because, much like my love of Kenneth Faried’s double-doubles, is doesn’t really exist! Maybe I should consider sitting down and finally experiencing the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Maybe Middle Earth — or the midpoint between there and regular earth — is where I actually belong. Sure, Tolkien novels don’t have anyone as entertaining as Charles Barkley in them, but then, what realm does?
I Need Media is a biweekly media column by Matthew Singer. Follow him on Twitter@mpsinger.