The start of the season is three months away. The excitement of the draft has more or less worn off. Nolan has squashed any glimmer of hope for an enjoyable June by canceling our next mini-camp. The only reason I can tolerate any of the NBA playoffs is because TIVO enables me to fast forward through the first twenty seconds of the Spurs' possessions. Pennant races won't start getting interesting until August. Faced with the bleak prospect of literally having no sports to follow for the next two months, I've succumbed to the pressure of joining an office fantasy baseball league.

Let me start off by stating that I have not played fantasy sports in four years. The last time I played was in college, when I won the league without setting my lineup, making a single transaction, or even opening the web browser once during the season.

But despite my initial success, I never understood the fantasy thing. I don't understand how people can care more about their fantasy team than the team they've followed their entire lives. I think joy and exhilaration should spring to life when Julian Peterson sacks Marc Bulger on third and goal to the delight of 60,000 fans, not when a backup tight end for the Saints catches a twelve yard pass in a 28-3 Monday night contest, and thus, gives you the fantasy points you need to defeat your opponent. I just don't get it. It's like these cooking shows that are taking off. Who in their right mind wants to watch a cooking show?

Nevertheless, I reluctantly agreed to play in my office's league. My approach was simple. I wasn't going to root for any of my fantasy players if they were in a position to do harm to a team I like. In fact, I had no intention of even "managing" my team. I merely wanted to set my lineup, check on things once a month or so, and let the computer program run its course.

I quickly realized that I was in over my head. In week two, I lost a heartbreaker to Geoff, a man renowned for scouring the waiver wire at 1:30 in the morning on weeknights while his fiancée is sleeping. Three weeks later I lost to Peterman, a thirty-five year old attorney who researches his match-ups so thoroughly that he could tell you the average leg-kick height of the pitchers his batters are facing.

It wasn't long before I was receiving e-mails from the office manager to the tone of, "Pedro Martinez had 12 strikeouts last night, and you left him on the bench. We expect more from you Brett." Then there was the week when I was in grave danger of not getting my minimum number of innings in. Here's how it works. I have something like eighteen pitchers on my roster, but only two starters and five relievers can pitch on any given day. If all of my pitchers don't combine for forty innings in a week, I lose all ten of my pitching categories.
Things came to a head one Friday afternoon when Smith walked into the office. "Brett, have you looked at your number of innings recently?"
"You've only pitched 21 out of your 40 innings. You're going to forfeit all your pitching categories."
"Oh well."
"Look. Pull up yahoo right now. If you drop three pitchers you can pick up three guys that are going to start tomorrow and Sunday. Then you can get your innings in."
"How do you drop a player?"
"Here. We shouldn't have to do this, Brett. We shouldn't have to do this."
Frustration has spilled over on numerous occasions, usually in the form of lengthy intra-office e-mails lamenting my excessive number of players on the disabled list, the length of time it takes the Commissioner to approve trades, and a variety of other miscellaneous outrages. So, you can only imagine my response when asked if I would partake in fantasy football this fall: "You bet."