September 13, 2006
Last weekend was the greatest of both worlds for fantasy sports fans — the baseball race is reaching its crescendo, and football season is off and running. For professional fantasy players in high-priced leagues like mine, that made for a glorious weekend of backstabbing, conniving, lying, cursing and other character building exercises — there were a lot of dreams shattered and a lot of lives ruined. In fact, there were probably several marriages irreparably damaged. God, it was fun.
The beginning of September is both a magical and mystical time, a time when nature is at its most wondrous, though there is a touch of foreboding as we contemplate the trying times ahead. For me, Labor Day weekend is both an ending and a new beginning.
It's an ending because The Albany National Rotisserie Baseball League, of which I am a proud member, imposes a strict trading deadline promptly at noon Monday.
As if there were a great confluence between the gods of wind and rain, my beloved Andy Robustelli Fantasy Football League, remembered by its catchy acronym ARFFL, also declares a trade moratorium as we prepare for our annual draft precisely at 12 the same day.
For those of you who don't understand these things, fantasy sports have nothing to do with dreaming about Pamela Anderson — it's real men competing in real leagues using real players and real stats. Forget George Steinbrenner — guys like me call the shots.
It is the busiest and most important day of my life. Fantasy players know it as the Dreaded Double Deadline Day.
It used to cause a real problem, because I invariably get stuck at work during the crucial last few minutes of wheeling and dealing. Nowadays that doesn't cause a problem, because since I'm the boss, I don't actually have to do any work. I liken the role of an editor to the role of a conductor: we wave our hands in the air a lot and occasionally mouth words to those we conduct, but everyone knows the hand signals mean nothing, so everyone ignores them.
Here at The Independent my underlings know that when I am conducting fantasy baseball and/or football business, I'm not to be bothered by little things like late-breaking stories. Here is how a typical Labor Day plays out around 11 a.m., when I am inevitably on the phone trying to dump one of my lazy, overpaid players off on another team owner.
REPORTER: "Rick, Rick we just heard another Kennedy went down in a plane!"
ME: (Wave hand in air and scowl)
REPORTER: "Should we send a photographer? Should I tell them to hold the front page?
ME: (Wave two hands in air)
REPORTER: "This is the biggest story of the millennium!"
ME: (Mouthing words silently) Go Away!
Meanwhile, I'm trading a back-up tight end for a number 13 draft pick. Now that's important.
I remember the first time I was confronted with the Dreaded Double-Deadline. In those days every call would come into the East Hampton Star on one line, and Russell Bennett's distinctive voice would ring out over the loudspeaker for all to hear: "Rusty, Supervisor Bullock on line one," or "Julia, Capt. Stonemetz on line two."
They started coming for me in droves, and unfortunately, there were no cell phones to stop the bleeding. "Rick, Larry Large Beak on line one . . . "Rick, Sammy the Smeg on line two" and so on.
Yes, like gay men, all fantasy geeks have a name we only use when talking to others — in my baseball league we have Nicky Knockers, Bruce The Gargoyle, Baby Huey, Paulie Infected Pimple, etc. In our football league we have such stalwarts as Mikey Eighth Pole, Artie Suffern Succotash Cohen, Tony the Tweezer, and my favorite, Petey I'm Your Worst Freakin' Nightmare Popadoupolis — he insists on spelling it out in its entirety on every form, e-mail, message and written missive. You can only imagine the buzz around The Star when the calls started coming in, especially when Donnie No Underwear Colavito checked in.
I rushed to my office and called as many of the guys as I could. I told them I was in a vulnerable position at a new job, and that they should tell whomever answers the phone they are Fred Thiele, who was the Southampton Town Supervisor at the time. That way, I explained, the editors would think I was working on a story. I then laid out a frenzied series of trade proposals.
You know what happened next — around 10 minutes before noon the phones started ringing off the hook: "Rick, Fred Thiele on line one" . . . "Rick, Fred Thiele on line two" . . . "Rick, Fred Thiele on line three . . . " They didn't know what to make of it, but powers-that-be knew I was pulling some kind of weasel deal.
Lay people, those of you who don't own and manage professional sports franchises, seldom do.
You'll never understand that living in a backstabbing world where no one is your friend, where the desire to win supercedes all loyalty, where the allure of making a quick buck outweighs years of cultivating a person's trust, where the rush to the top easily outweighs the desire to achieve something positive in life — oh, wait a minute, that's what it's like trying to exist here in the Hamptons!
At least in my Fantasy World I try to remember the little people I stepped over on the way to the top.