Baseball & Other Fantasies

I live in a fantasy world. That may be true for most of us, but in my case some of the fantasies have become real. Once, I was a church organist and played for three Masses on Sunday. Well, it would have been three except halfway through the first one a guy came up to the choir loft and pleaded with me to stop. He was a musician. Then there was the time I gave a workshop in Brazil without knowing Portuguese. And the time I taught a Theology of Marriage course while going through a divorce.

It’s not as if there wasn’t some truth each time. For instance, I taught myself enough piano to play “Waltzing Matilda,” studied Brazilian Portuguese, and was married for seventeen years. So, I definitely knew something. The fantasies didn’t come out of left field. That’s why I agreed to play Yahoo! Fantasy Baseball recently. After all, I played ball in high school. How hard could it be?

Actually, pretty hard. Fantasy baseball is not baseball, and my team is in last place, more than twenty games behind the first place leader. I don’t think the ’62 Mets were this bad. But it’s complicated. Not only do you have to know the players and their teams, but you have to analyze more data than they used in the Apollo space program. I don’t even know the words for the data. I thought a “depth chart” was something they used in the Navy.

Taking pity on me, the guy who suckered me into it–a former student–is helping me move players around to be more strategic. But I don’t even know how to do that. I keep clicking the wrong buttons on the site. If my father were alive, he’d be surprised to hear that, since he told me I have a knack for pushing all the right buttons, but that’s another post.

As with everything in baseball, this is about more than baseball. It’s about risk and the courage to accept risk when the stakes are high. Lately, I have become risk friendly and even seek it out. Certain risks, that is; I am not crazy or stupid. Fantasy baseball is one thing, jumping off a bridge with a rubber band tied to my ankle quite another.

Author first from left, second row

Even though I don’t jump off bridges, I do stand-up, take cold showers, and walk out of class when students aren’t prepared. It reminds me of Sean Penn’s line about not slapping anybody who didn’t deserve it. I say no a lot more than I used to, but when I say yes, I mean it. You could say that fear and I have reached a new understanding. It visits, as it always has, but now I keep it on the front porch and don’t offer it lemonade.

When you try something new, what’s the worst thing that could happen? People laugh at you, you don’t get the job, your paper is rejected, the love interest loses interest. Or maybe you’re on stage and people don’t laugh at you. None of that matters if you have few expectations. To do that you have to give up control. Fear feeds on control, your control.

I played Little League baseball as a kid. I remember trying out for shortstop and being so terrified of the ground balls hit to me that I made one error after another. After a bad hop bloodied my nose, I gave up. I figured there was no point in trying anymore. But I felt so relaxed the rest of the tryout was perfect. Next stop, 161st Street, Yankee Stadium.

Haven’t had enough? Go to Robert Brancatelli. Look for my stand-up debut here. Note to self: beauty grabs the eyes but confidence the heart (Letters from Culver City).

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