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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
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51

#51. I have won four fantasy sports championships.

Hopefully, that number will soon be five, as I’m currently atop the leaderboard in my fantasy baseball league. But I’ve fallen from grace before (oh, you have no idea), so I’m not counting any chickens at this point. I’m not even counting eggs. I’m just crossing my fingers, and waiting. That seems to work the best.

Anyway, four championships isn’t really that impressive, once you know how many fantasy leagues I’ve played in. And kids, I’ve wasted more time and money than you’d want to shake a stick at in these leagues — oh my word, yes. I usually put together one or two football teams a year, the same number of basketball squads, and three baseball rosters. So maybe five chances every year to take home the gold. And considering that I’ve been playing since 1998 or so, that’s around twenty-five or thirty championships that I could have won. And I’ve got a lousy four. So it’s not like I’m Lance Armstrong or anything here. Hell, I’m not even Chris Moneymaker, and he’s only got one championship in his sport! Lousy lucky rich bastard…

But I try. Oh boy, do I try. I pore over box scores, and matchups, and injury reports. I buy magazines, and calculate averages, and build sophisticated projection algorithms. (Sophisticated? Yes. Accurate? Not even slightly. Bitches!) I evaluate, and trade, and cruise the waiver wires, looking for the next ‘diamond in the rough’ who’ll take my team to the promised land. Occasionally, it works. More often (to the tune of ‘eighty percent of the time), it doesn’t. But still, I press on, in search of that elusive title.

And for what? Cash? Trips? Fabulous prizes? Free sex? The adoration of my peers? Well, no. Not really.

You see, I typically play on ESPN’s fantasy site. Where you have to pay to play. Team fees run in the twenty dollar range. (Yes, I’m well aware that’s a hundred dollars or more per year that I’m flushing down the toilet. Stop bugging me!) Chances are, I’m only going to win one league a year, or none. And what spectacular bounty awaits me, should I perservere and sit atop the league at the end of the season? A T-shirt. A lousy, stinkin’, all-cotton ten-dollar ‘beefy tee’. Oh, Lordy, call in the doctor. I think I’m going to faint.

Yep, that’s it. At best — best, now — I’m going to get yet another shirt that I don’t need. (I get two or three a year from playing softball and volleyball in a city league, and they just don’t wear out that fast.) At worst, I’ll have wasted the cash and countless hours to come in second, or fourth, or eighth among a bunch of yahoos that I don’t know, and whose picks I laughed about at the draft four months earlier. Talk about your lousy risk-to-reward ratio… any way you slice it, I’m getting screwed. Even unemployed, the time I spend on this shit is worth more than the prize. I could collect aluminum cans for an hour a day and make enough for three of those shirts, and a baseball cap to go with them. So why do I play?

Well, the short answer is because I can’t stop. Really, I have a demented, debilitating illness, and I should be shot. That pretty much sums it up.

But the long answer — you knew there was a long answer, didn’t you? — is that I love the challenge. I play because I know I can win, because I’m willing to put in the hours and do my homework, and I have the knowledge and drive to show any group of nine strangers that I can beat their ass at fantasy sports. Even if they don’t really care. See, that’s where we differ — I do care. If I win, I care that I won. And if I lose — well, unfortunately, I care about that, too. I simmer in my frustration until the next sport starts, or until the next season of whatever it is I lost at comes around. And I hop back in there, to prove to myuelf and a new batch of whoevers that I am the king. My .200 or so winning percentage be damned.

And so, I’m probably stuck playing these wretched games for the rest of my life. If I win, I’ve got a title to defend. Can’t quit then. No, no. Might get another shirt next year; now I know I can do it. Gotta stay on top. And if I lose, then I’ve gotta get ’em next time. Can’t hang up the keyboard and call it a career after a loss. No way. That’d leave a bad taste in my mouth forever. (Like okra, or Brussels sprouts.) So I gotta jump back in and try a little harder.

It’s a vicious circle, and as it spins ’round and ’round, all it really does is drain my wallet and fill my wardrobe with shit that I can’t wear in public. (Who goes to work with a ‘1998 Fantasy Basketball Champion’ shirt on? I mean, c’mon, I’m a software engineer, but I’m not that kind of software engineer. I’ve still got some social graces left.) And so, I wear my shirts underneath other shirts — it’s all about the layering, kids — and pony up my money, and try to regain the glory that got me the stupid shirts in the first place. It’s just how my life is going to be, I suppose.

Yeah, you know what? Maybe the short answer was better, after all. Could someone just please shoot me now? You’d be saving me an awful lot of trouble. Just be sure to bury me with my shirts, would you? No telling who I’ll need to impress in the afterlife. Thanks so much.

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