Help! Addicted to Fantasy! by Bruce Buschel

Hello. My name is BB Gun and I am an addict. For the last 23 years, first thing every morning and last thing every night, I check up on my fantasy baseball team — good news, bad news, mixed bag. Never a dull moment. Several times throughout each day, I go to various websites to find out about trades, tirades, injuries, and pertinent updates. The hourly findings trigger substitutions or self-pity or fist pumps. Up and down like a corked yo-yo. 

My league has its own e-bulletin board on which we share every minute maneuver (except our secret strategies). The races are tight, the competition stiff; any nugget of information could swing a whole season, so you best not miss any games, including postseason, spring training, minor leagues, winter ball.

El Diario is obligatorio. The DirecTV MLB package is de rigueur. The financial investment is modest — less expensive than one ski trip or one golf outing at a fancy country club. Some years, finishing in the first division, you even take home some cash. 

Winning the whole shebang gets you a new plush sofa and a puffed chest. 

The BB Guns have been a consistently solid squad that has delivered a little money, a little glory, and surprisingly deep pleasures. A home run hit by a longhaired stranger in Anaheim or Arlington lands deep in your soul. A shutout hurled by a tall lefty in Toronto or Cleveland fills you with relief and rapture. The less you paid for the player at the draft, the more you celebrate such joyful moments. You are, after all, head scout, general manager, and chief dealmaker. You learn about the beauty and the business of the game, as well as the complicated nature of cohorts-cum-competitors. (Why do grudges have no final inning?)

This desultory season, this terrible Summer of Seventeen, the BB Guns suck. I mean, suck on steroids. (How I wish I could force-feed some anabolic-androgenic compounds into my feckless power hitters every time they whiff.) Poor projections on my part, coupled with constant injuries and dunderheaded trades, have my psyche catching Aroldis Chapman fastballs without a mask or mitt. I ache in cranial nooks and crannies I didn’t know could ache. I pore over box scores and Bleacher Report and Baseball Prospectus like a Franciscan monk studying scriptures. 

My better angels — no, I do not own Mike Trout — want me to stay far away from the whole mess: my league, my stats, my failings. But I am failing at that too. I am hooked. And unhappy. I chase my misery doggedly, compulsively, first thing each day, last thing each night, and twice on Sunday — Rays vs. Jays at 7 p.m. followed by O’s vs. A’s at 11. And then I pace and sulk, sulk and pace, until dawn’s early light.

But why? Oh why?

Researchers at the University of Chicago have found that reading positive items about yourself or, by extension, your fantasy team, on a regular basis, can be as addictive as cigarettes or alcohol. Facebook is just a gateway drug. Instagram is mere porn. Twitter dulls all pain and makes anyone feel omniscient and loved, in a poetic fashion.

Who needs fentanyl when you have fantasy baseball? 

At Harvard University, M.R.I. scans of the brain revealed high activity when subjects received personal attention and/or approbation from websites like OnRoto and FanGraphs. They concluded that “self-disclosure communication” stimulates the brain’s pleasure centers much like sex or food. “High-scoring participants experience greater excitation of their amygdala and striatum, the two brain regions involved in impulsive behavior. These patterns are on par with those who are addicted to cocaine.”

Soy un adicto. Yes, I am an addict. In two languages.

Science equates 20 years of fantasy baseball to decades of cheap booze, rough sex, a pack a day, and crack. This sad season, I am experiencing all the lows and none of the highs of a debauched lifestyle. I want to get off this unmerry-go-round. Seeing oneself in last place, sinking like a stone, day in, day out, will do serious damage to your amygdala and striatum, not to mention ego and erections. The BB Guns are misfiring. 

Oh, say can you see the grand opening of The First Real Rehab Center for Fantasy Ballers. It will be in Florida, and likely located within the Devil’s Triangle of Clearwater, Dunedin, and St. Pete’s (spring homes of the Phillies, Jays, and Yankees). I pray for the day, and have to trust it will be covered by Obamacare. 

If you, dear reader, are looking for a happy ending or a silver lining — a miraculous ninth-inning comeback — you have come to the wrong place. Just like the Trump presidency. 

Or the Yankees’ pennant drive.

Bruce Buschel is a writer, producer, director, and restaurateur who lives in Bridgehampton.