Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Fantasy Life by Matthew Berry*

*complimentary review copy received for this post.
When I was growing up, as many siblings can relate to, I spent hours watching my brothers play soccer and baseball. But aside from heading to a Reds game when we got discounts for good grades or going to watch the local hockey team play, I don't really remember watching sports. It changed a little bit when I was in high school. I started to attend the football games, because it is what everyone did and I wanted to fit in. I didn't know much about the game of football when I started to attend, but with time, I started to learn a little bit about the game. In college, that social tradition of attending football continued.

But, I don't think any of that prepared me for being the wife of a Fantasy Football Player. Not only is my husband a fantasy player, but also the league commissioner. Sunday afternoons in the fall and winter were spent watching as many football games as possible and all of the post-game commentary and anything else where we could get regular updates on the stats of the players on his and his opponent's teams. In dating and marrying my husband, I was suddenly submerged in the world of football.

Off season was spent dealing with a lot of drama as all the other owners debated what needed to be changed with the league. The weeks leading up to the draft, which was an auction, was spent prepping and creating an order of who to bring up and what they were each 'worth'. One season, I even got to serve as the auctioneer - talk about an experience.

During the early seasons, my husband relied on the newspaper for scoring and line-ups and trades were submitted by leaving a message on his answering machine. The increased usage of the internet and e-mail was transformational for the league, allowing line-ups to be submitted and trades to be worked in e-mails and statistics being pulled from a specific site (in case there were differences in numbers, there was a source of record that was used for the official scoring). Now, there is a site that everyone can log into and see live statistics and know exactly where they stand.

For a long time, it seemed that the only fantasy players that I knew of were my husband's friends and league-mates. Then, I started to notice that people I worked with were playing and then, with time, there seemed to be whole leagues comprised of co-workers. As recently as this week, during a new employee introduction, it was shared that he liked to spend his free time analyzing sport statistics and the woman next to me made a comment that he probably was a fantasy player.
Recently I had the chance to read Fantasy Life. Fantasy Life is the soon to be released, auto-biography mixed with anecdotal tales about the world of fantasy sports, from Matthew Berry who is "universally regarded as one of the leading voices in fantasy sports" and is ESPN's Senior Fantasy Sports Analyst.

Despite never having actually played fantasy sports, it was an enjoyable read and surprisingly easy to relate to. Matthew Berry's unique sense of humor and perspective permeate the book.

I enjoyed learning about the path his life took to make him the "Talented Mr. Roto" and eventually to his career as an ESPN Fantasy Sports Analyst. His experience really shows how being in the right place at the right time can really shape your life. I enjoyed reading about the evolution not only of his career, but of fantasy sports themselves - from the early days where the perception was that only 'geeks' played to a widespread activity openly enjoyed by many people from all backgrounds.

I could see aspects of my husband's league in some stories and realized how fortunate I am that his league is not as extreme as some whose stories were featured. His league with friends from college was filled with history and rituals, but they didn't have anything like the 'hazing' rituals that were shared in Fantasy Life. Draft day has always been more of a draft weekend and a social event for both the guys and their girlfriends/wives. Many of the owners would show up the night before for a night of cards and then stay the next night for a cookout and hanging out. For the wives/girlfriends, the weekend was filled with shopping and chick flicks.

Reading about the men that drafted while at weddings or during/after the birth of children, reminded me of the uproar created when my husband 'moved' the draft the year that I was expecting our son. Being the sensible person he was, he held the draft earlier in August than normal that year, in hopes of not being 8 hours away when I went into labor. Of course, the challenge is that there are too many unknowns at that point. The good thing is that his move of the draft was a good thing, as our son was born on a weekend, less than two weeks before the start of that season.

The stories about families in fantasy sports throughout the book was a favorite part of mine, it was great to hear the stories about generations brought together by fantasy sports. There were tales from kids separated from their kids due to divorce that used fantasy to bond to sons, dads and grandpas playing together in leagues. Even Matthew Berry has used fantasy sports to help him bond with his stepsons and brought together a group of kids and parents for a 'family' league.

Whether you participate in fantasy sports or have a spouse that does, I think that Fantasy Life is a book that you will enjoy and relate to. You can pick the book up at your local bookstore or order it online. It is scheduled for a July 16 release, but is available for pre-order.

No compensation was received for this post. A complimentary advanced reader's copy was provided for this review. All opinions expressed are my own or that of my family.