By Tim Keown
Page 2

I'm starting to think the whole fantasy football thing is getting completely out of hand.

It hit me the other day when I found myself listening to a fantasy football call-in show on a local sports-talk radio station. These shows have been around for probably 10 years -- in fact, they're a staple of late-night talk. I've heard them before, like the white noise of a refrigerator running in the background. But this time, I was struck by the silliness of it all.

Priest Holmes
Who cares if your team got rocked? If you had Priest Holmes on your fantasy team, you're in good shape, right?

These shows are phenomenal in their specificity and comical in practice. Guys call in and ask a fantasy expert -- how do they judge them, I wonder -- for advice on their fantasy roster that week.

Most calls go something like, "Hey, yeah, I'm in an eight-team, four-tier league and we can play two running backs and three receivers. My question is about my running backs: I've got Priest Holmes, Clinton Portis and Cory Schlesinger. Which two should I play this week, do you think?"

Where else do you get such personalized, public advice? I guess you can call a syndicated radio show and ask a doctor why your leg hurts, but there might be a thousand other people listening with the same leg and the same hurt. These fantasy shows are pretty much room service when it comes to getting expert advice for free over the public airwaves.

I'd rather hear a guy talk about point spreads and the over-under. At least that's equal-opportunity information.

For those of us who don't see the appeal, fantasy football is eminently mockable. But there's a more serious undercurrent: Their appeal has changed the way a lot of people view sports. How many fans root for their fake teams first and their real teams second? Discounting Raider fans, of course, you hear way too often someone say something similar to this: "My team lost today, but that's cool. Moss had four touchdowns and Bulger threw for 400 yards, so my fantasy team kicked butt."

There's probably a psychological reason for the rise of fantasy sports -- the increasing distance between player and fan has to account for some of it -- but figuring it all out takes too much thinking. Instead, I'm guessing I speak for every non-fantasy-obsessed person when I say there's nothing more boring than a guy bragging about his fantasy team.

Unless, of course, it's the guy lamenting the decision to go with Priest Holmes on the week when Cory Schlesinger decided to score three touchdowns.

This Week's List

  • It's been said many times before, but the opening week of the NFL season makes it worth saying again: Big players make big plays.

  • Win or lose, say this for the Cubs' season: It hasn't been boring.

  • The way it looks now, when January rolls around it'll all come down to one game to decide the undisputed national champion: Fresno State vs. Utah.

  • Things that should be eliminated at big-league ballparks: 1.) the insufferably cute practice of allowing kids to do the PA announcing for an inning or two, because it usually sounds like a dying squirrel choking on a microphone and only the parents give a damn; 2.) choosing between-inning songs based on fans' cheering; 3.) estimated home-run distance on anything hit less than 420 feet.

  • A man whose impact is measured by its smallest increments: Jerome Bettis, five carries, one yard, three touchdowns.

  • Just for the heck of it: Archi Cianfrocco.

  • We'd like to offer a special thank-you to Herman Edwards, who made exactly this point during his press conference Monday: The world's announcers need to unite and remove the surprise from their voices when they tell us the majority of the quarterbacks who threw for 300 yards did so in a losing cause.

  • Why, you ask: Because, you see, the very fact that Mr. 300's team is losing is often the very reason why Mr. 300 is forced to throw often enough to reach 300 yards.

  • Hey all you kids out there, listen up: People get real angry when their college quarterbacks (Chris Rix, for one) don't play up to expectations.

  • Speaking of kids: When an announcer says something like, "That's a good lesson for all you young cornerbacks out there," how many young cornerbacks do you really think there are out there, watching a game and desperately hoping a "lesson" breaks out?

  • And finally, today's most important lesson -- chair = to sit; baseball = to throw: After the television replay showed the Rangers' bullpen going ballistic and throwing a chair into the field-level seats in Oakland, one of our esteemed Bay Area announcers said, "The chair isn't meant to be thrown, and that's the sad part, too."

    Tim Keown is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine.


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