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Ormond Beach Observer Monday, Apr. 15, 2013 5 years ago

My whole life's a fantasy camp

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I admit it: I’ve been a little obsessed with baseball lately.

But really, how could you blame me? The new Jackie Robinson movie, “42,” came out last week, softball’s back in season and Major League Baseball’s Opening Day was just a couple weeks ago, which also means I’m back to managing my fantasy team — a job I take only a tiny bit more seriously than my actual job of, you know, waking up early and putting on pants and editing the paper and stuff.

My favorite thing about fantasy season, though, is it always gives me something fascinating to talk about in social situations.

I’ll go out to dinner with a group of friends, for instance, and I can tell by the way the ones who aren’t in my league scroll their cell phones and pick at their nails while I tell them about my latest free agency acquisitions — they’re positively enthralled.

“What a mastermind general manager you are!” they say — at least, I read that in the subtext, in the way they avoid eye contact and grumble when I explain my theories on rookies and sleepers and waivers and Moises Alou.

To those who don’t know, Moises Alou is a former big leaguer who played from 1990-2008. The funny story about him is how, in 2009, one of the guys in our fantasy league picked him for their team in the draft, not realizing he’d retired. Obviously, this is the kind of comedy-gold story that just doesn’t get old, the sort of timeless real-life anecdote that people, young or old, black or white, baseball fan or not, crave in order to break the monotony of their daily lives.

“Thank you, Mike — sincerely,” I read in the introspective way my friends ignore me every April when I tell this story. “I laugh on the inside,” they say, “The deepest kind of laughter. And it breaks the monotony of my daily life.”

No problem, friend, I think, with a pat on their back. Same time next April?

But probably the greatest impact fantasy has on my life is how it helps strengthen romantic relationships.

ME: “Molly! Great news! I just checked my fantasy team and Justin Verlander struck out 10 today!”

MOLLY (not looking up from her magazine): “Oh. No. Stinks. No luck.”

This is when I realize Molly doesn’t understand that Verlander is a pitcher, and that him notching 10 strikeouts in one game is great news for me. We now have lots and lots to talk about — and when I say “we,” I of course mean “me.” But what’s the difference, right?

This, ladies and gentlemen, is called building intimacy and taking your relationship to the next level. Feel free to take notes.

We’ve also added a new face to our fantasy league this year — and that’s the paper’s sports editor, Matt Mencarini. Up until this point, all Matt and I have ever bothered talking about is, you know, waking up early and putting pants on and producing the paper and stuff. So having him in the fantasy fold has really done wonders for our dynamic.

ME: “How’s your fantasy team doing so far?”

HIM: “Good.”

See? We’re like Jerry Seinfeld and George Costanza now! Abbot and Costello. Gary Cohen and Keith Hernandez.

(For those who don’t know, Gary Cohen and Keith Hernandez make up the TV commentating team for the New York Mets. And these are the kinds of always-interesting nuggets you learn when you hang around me during baseball season.)

There’s really no debating it: Baseball season is the greatest season. It makes everything better. It strengthens relationships. It enriches conversations. It makes fans more appealing to nonfans.

Everything about it — except, of course, for my perceptions — is like drifting through life in a complete and utter fantasy world.

BY MIKE CAVALIERE | ASSOCIATE EDITOR

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