King Kaufman’s Sports Daily

Do fantasy sports make real-life sports more fun? A lifelong fantasy avoider considers the frightening possibility.


Does this happen to you? As each new season of each sport that I follow dawns, I find that my interest level varies widely from year to year.

Because of what I do for a living, I can’t ignore any of the big sports, so there’s a kind of baseline, and I’m always on board pretty heavily by the time the postseason rolls around. But some years baseball or college basketball or hockey begins and I really can’t be bothered. Other years, same sport, and I’m riveted.

I don’t remember this happening when I was younger. As soon as it started to feel like spring — I grew up in Los Angeles, where you have to really be perceptive to note seasonal changes — baseball was all I could think about. Every year.

As soon as the days started to get shorter, even though baseball’s pennant races were heating up and I was fascinated by them, I was also excited about the prospect of a new season of football. I couldn’t wait to play, couldn’t wait to watch. College and pro.

And then here would come basketball and hockey, and I couldn’t get enough of season forecasts and early games.

I say this because I find myself obsessing over this first week of baseball, which a year ago at this time left me kind of cold.

I’m spending my afternoons switching between random ballgames, looking in on the Red Sox and Rangers, switching over to the Phillies and Cardinals, and then hey, look what’s up in that Tigers-Royals game.

Let me say that again. I’ve been watching the Tigers play the Royals. And it isn’t 1984.

This is the time of year when professional responsibility dictates that I obsess not over the first of baseball’s 26 weeks but on the dogfight for the last playoff spots in the NBA and NHL. Can the Sixers recover? Can the Hornets catch the Kings?

Look at that scrum in the NHL’s Western Conference! What do you think for the seventh and eighth seeds, Oilers and Sharks? Canucks and Kings?

Sorry, what were you saying? I was watching the Orioles play the Devil Rays.

As I’ve told you, I’m making my first foray into fantasy baseball this year, having been invited to participate in an “experts” league by Baseball Prospectus. Regular readers know what I think of the expertise of sports “experts” — a convenient attitude for me to have at the moment, given that at least two public forecasts of the league’s outcome have my team in last place.

Whenever I’ve dismissed fantasy sports over the years, many readers and friends have told me that fantasy sports have increased their enjoyment of real-life sports. You have to learn about the players to draft intelligently, and wanting to follow your guys leads fantasy players who don’t live in, say, Detroit or Kansas City to tune in to, say, a Tigers-Royals game they’d otherwise happily ignore.

I’m not sure if my new hobby, which for all I know is going to be a one-year variation from an otherwise fantasy-sports-free life, is behind this year’s upswing in my interest in baseball.

I’ve experienced something similar with the NFL the last few years, a league I have largely ignored for long stretches of my life. But I haven’t played fantasy football. I’ve also entered various NBA, NHL and college football, basketball and baseball seasons with higher-than-usual interest over my adult years without benefit of fantasy leagues.

Still, grudgingly, I can’t dismiss the possibility. I didn’t tune in to those Tigers-Royals games to check on my guys — you wouldn’t either if you saw who they were — and I’ve been just as interested in the National League as the American even though the league I’m in only has A.L. players. But I did spend March poring over baseball ephemera in preparation for the draft, and that may have energized my fandom.

Then again, the World Baseball Classic, another unusual March event, may have done just as much to get the old hardball juices flowing.

Hard to say. My team, bound for last place anyway, the experts say, has been beset by injuries already. The simulated games, based on weekly real-world results, that make up this league don’t start till next week, but the way my healthy guys are performing so far, a mass trip to the disabled list might actually count as a hot streak.

What I mean is there’s a good chance that in about three weeks my team will be hopelessly out of it, which will be a good test of how much my fantasy participation is guiding my nonfantasy fandom.

In the meantime: Have you been following that Brewers-Pirates series? Wow!

Previous column: Barry Bonds reality show

- – - – - – - – - – - -

  • Bookmark to get the new Kaufman column every day.
  • Discuss this column and the sports news of the day in Table Talk.
  • To receive the Sports Daily Newsletter, send an e-mail to

  • More Related Stories

    Featured Slide Shows

    • Share on Twitter
    • Share on Facebook
    • 1 of 11
    • Close
    • Fullscreen
    • Thumbnails

      Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

      Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoët
      Kerascoët's lovely, delicate pen-and-watercolor art -- all intricate botanicals, big eyes and flowing hair -- gives this fairy story a deceptively pretty finish. You find out quickly, however, that these are the heartless and heedless fairies of folk legend, not the sentimental sprites beloved by the Victorians and Disney fans. A host of tiny hominid creatures must learn to survive in the forest after fleeing their former home -- a little girl who lies dead in the woods. The main character, Aurora, tries to organize the group into a community, but most of her cohort is too capricious, lazy and selfish to participate for long. There's no real moral to this story, which is refreshing in itself, beyond the perpetual lessons that life is hard and you have to be careful whom you trust. Never has ugly truth been given a prettier face.

      Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

      Climate Changed: A Personal Journey Through the Science by Philippe Squarzoni
      Squarzoni is a French cartoonist who makes nonfiction graphic novels about contemporary issues and politics. While finishing up a book about France under Jacques Chirac, he realized that when it came to environmental policy, he didn't know what he was talking about. "Climate Changed" is the result of his efforts to understand what has been happening to the planet, a striking combination of memoir and data that ruminates on a notoriously elusive, difficult and even imponderable subject. Panels of talking heads dispensing information (or Squarzoni discussing the issues with his partner) are juxtaposed with detailed and meticulous yet lyrical scenes from the author's childhood, the countryside where he takes a holiday and a visit to New York. He uses his own unreachable past as a way to grasp the imminent transformation of the Earth. The result is both enlightening and unexpectedly moving.

      Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

      Here by Richard McGuire
      A six-page version of this innovative work by a regular contributor to the New Yorker first appeared in RAW magazine 25 years ago. Each two-page spread depicts a single place, sometimes occupied by a corner of a room, over the course of 4 billion years. The oldest image is a blur of pink and purple gases; others depict hazmat-suited explorers from 300 years in the future. Inset images show the changing decor and inhabitants of the house throughout its existence: family photos, quarrels, kids in Halloween costumes, a woman reading a book, a cat walking across the floor. The cumulative effect is serene and ravishing, an intimation of the immensity of time and the wonder embodied in the humblest things.

      Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

      Kill My Mother by Jules Feiffer
      The legendary Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist delivers his debut graphic novel at 85, a deliriously over-the-top blend of classic movie noir and melodrama that roams from chiaroscuro Bay City to Hollywood to a USO gig in the Pacific theater of World War II. There's a burnt-out drunk of a private eye, but the story is soon commandeered by a multigenerational collection of ferocious women, including a mysterious chanteuse who never speaks, a radio comedy writer who makes a childhood friend the butt of a hit series and a ruthless dame intent on making her whiny coward of a husband into a star. There are disguises, musical numbers and plenty of gunfights, but the drawing is the main attraction. Nobody convey's bodies in motion more thrillingly than Feiffer, whether they're dancing, running or duking it out. The kid has promise.

      Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

      The Motherless Oven by Rob Davis
      This is a weird one, but in the nervy surreal way that word-playful novels like "A Clockwork Orange" or "Ulysses" are weird. The main character, a teenage schoolboy named Scarper Lee, lives in a world where it rains knives and people make their own parents, contraptions that can be anything from a tiny figurine stashable in a pocket to biomorphic boiler-like entities that seem to have escaped from Dr. Seuss' nightmares. Their homes are crammed with gadgets they call gods and instead of TV they watch a hulu-hoop-size wheel of repeating images that changes with the day of the week. They also know their own "death day," and Scarper's is coming up fast. Maybe that's why he runs off with the new girl at school, a real troublemaker, and the obscurely dysfunctional Castro, whose mother is a cageful of talking parakeets. A solid towline of teenage angst holds this manically inventive vision together, and proves that some graphic novels can rival the text-only kind at their own game.

      Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

      NOBROW 9: It's Oh So Quiet
      For each issue, the anthology magazine put out by this adventurous U.K.-based publisher of independent graphic design, illustration and comics gives 45 artists a four-color palette and a theme. In the ninth issue, the theme is silence, and the results are magnificent and full of surprises. The comics, each told in images only, range from atmospheric to trippy to jokey to melancholy to epic to creepy. But the two-page illustrations are even more powerful, even if it's not always easy to see how they pertain to the overall concept of silence. Well, except perhaps for the fact that so many of them left me utterly dumbstruck with visual delight.

      Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

      Over Easy by Mimi Pond
      When Pond was a broke art student in the 1970s, she took a job at a neighborhood breakfast spot in Oakland, a place with good food, splendid coffee and an endlessly entertaining crew of short-order cooks, waitresses, dishwashers and regular customers. This graphic memoir, influenced by the work of Pond's friend, Alison Bechdel, captures the funky ethos of the time, when hippies, punks and disco aficionados mingled in a Bay Area at the height of its eccentricity. The staff of the Imperial Cafe were forever swapping wisecracks and hopping in and out of each other's beds, which makes them more or less like every restaurant team in history. There's an intoxicating esprit de corps to a well-run everyday joint like the Imperial Cafe, and never has the delight in being part of it been more winningly portrayed.

      Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

      The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew
      You don't have to be a superhero fan to be utterly charmed by Yang and Liew's revival of a little-known character created in the 1940s by the cartoonist Chu Hing. This version of the Green Turtle, however, is rich in characterization, comedy and luscious period detail from the Chinatown of "San Incendio" (a ringer for San Francisco). Hank, son of a mild-mannered grocer, would like to follow in his father's footsteps, but his restless mother (the book's best character and drawn with masterful nuance by Liew) has other ideas after her thrilling encounter with a superhero. Yang's story effortlessly folds pathos into humor without stooping to either slapstick or cheap "darkness." This is that rare tribute that far surpasses the thing it celebrates.

      Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

      Shoplifter by Michael Cho
      Corinna Park, former English major, works, unhappily, in a Toronto advertising agency. When the dissatisfaction of the past five years begins to oppress her, she lets off steam by pilfering magazines from a local convenience store. Cho's moody character study is as much about city life as it is about Corinna. He depicts her falling asleep in front of the TV in her condo, brooding on the subway, roaming the crowded streets after a budding romance goes awry. Like a great short story, this is a simple tale of a young woman figuring out how to get her life back, but if feels as if it contains so much of contemporary existence -- its comforts, its loneliness, its self-deceptions -- suspended in wintery amber.

      Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

      Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
      This collection of archetypal horror, fairy and ghost stories, all about young girls, comes lushly decked in Carroll's inky black, snowy white and blood-scarlet art. A young bride hears her predecessor's bones singing from under the floorboards, two friends make the mistake of pretending to summon the spirits of the dead, a family of orphaned siblings disappears one by one into the winter nights. Carroll's color-saturated images can be jagged, ornate and gruesome, but she also knows how to chill with absence, shadows and a single staring eye. Literary readers who cherish the work of Kelly Link or the late Angela Carter's collection, "The Bloody Chamber," will adore the violent beauty on these pages.

    • Recent Slide Shows



    Comment Preview

    Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

    You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>