The Mercy Rule

My Beautiful Dork Twisted Fantasy

By David Roth

Being into fantasy sports is not, objectively and in itself, any more or less embarrassing than being into, say, niche pornography or vegan baking. All of those things can be discussed in happy, densely jargonic detail among people with that same interest, and you should by all means do so if you are among those people. None of those things—not your out-of-the-box fantasy draft strategy, not your considered opinion on which independent porn production house is currently making the best (that is, most intelligently crafted) Fraggle Rock-inspired cosplay erotica, and certainly not your peanut butter cakes, which are really just terrible—are things you should assume other people are interested in sharing with you. This is not to say that you should be ashamed of any of the above (though the Fraggle-porn may be something you should take a look at). But we could, it seems safe to say, all probably stand to chill the fuck out when it comes to fantasy. Not about caring about it, but about apologizing for it.

The week before the start of the actual baseball season is the most overheated time of the fantasy baseball year, a goofily intense fortnight during which rooms both real and virtual fill with embarrassed/serious dudes and embarrassing, serious dude smells. ESPN runs gnomic, word salad-y fantasy baseball words—it's not quite right to use "information" to describe a scrolling list of stolen base projections or "SHORTSTOPS IN DECLINE: S. Drew, Ari." Websites run exhaustive and exhausting fantasy baseball previews that mix exactingly specific proprietary draft day strategies and broad bro-humor in something like a one-to-one ratio. Even the doofus from Deathcab for Cutie is breaking out the multiple exclamation points on Twitter in anticipation of his own fantasy draft. All this, all the time, and—in a tic every bit as central to fantasy rhetoric as the goofily acronymic draft strategies ("If MARVIN strikes you as too aggressive, perhaps you're better suited for SPAETZLE") and Megan Fox jokes in those fantasy previews—all weirdly and disingenuously apologetic.

As a non-follower of Ben Gibbard, I would have no way of knowing if dude just tags #nerd at the end of all his tweets as a sort of heads-up, but his decision to do so on his fantasy baseball squee was not at all an outlier. But while it's easy enough to see what could be read as dorky about fantasy sports—this is, if you're just joining us, grown-ass adults claiming ownership of the statistical output of other, notably more physically fit grown-ass adults, with the former then bitching about the latter for like six consecutive months—there's really nothing embarrassing about fantasy baseball, unless it's used as an excuse to embarrass oneself. Which, mostly, is done by using it as a vehicle for other-related dickishness, usually of the telling-people-things-they-don't-care-about variety. Rick Santorum, who is basically a pair of khakis that somehow developed an obsession with other people's genitals, has a fantasy baseball team. Meat Loaf, who is Meat Loaf, has like 308 fantasy baseball teams. As long as they aren't using those teams as excuses to ban contraception or sing melodramatic, pun-laden songs, said activity is the very definition of harmless, guiltless adult behavior. It is probably the only example on record of Rick Santorum engaging in that sort of behavior, but it is definitively that behavior.

If your mind's right, there's no such thing as a guilty pleasure. Owning your own personal boat-floating interest—the aforementioned niche-porn or dense inedible cake-baking predilections; pretending to "own" Justin Verlander; recycling gross-out jokes from previous columns about not being an idiot about fantasy sports, or whatever—is absolution enough. Or it should be. Life provides enough legitimate reasons to feel some sort of guilt that you shouldn't have to apologize for giving a very specific shit about a given player on the Royals, or anything else that doesn't hurt anyone else. Of all the things for which Messrs. Santorum and Loaf owe us all an apology, overpaying for saves on draft day is not one of them.

Previously - The Black Comedy of Tim Tebow

@David_J_Roth

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