Musings of Maestro R: Back to Reality

(By Richard A. Rampello)

Will Judge Manuel Mendez be the new Judge Ito? It is unlikely. However, his “very soon” injunction decision could crush two companies. Admittedly, this is a fallout of capitalism, although the idea of free market is debatable here, given the government is interjecting, yet it is not about cost. No, FanDuel and DraftKings are potentially illegal gambling sites, according to Kathleen McGee, the chief of the attorney general’s Internet Bureau.

Given that nearly 13 percent of the contributors to fantasy are New Yorkers, the largest percentage by far, it is understandable the business concerns. Yet seasonal, seemingly recreational parleys and fantasy sites are kosher, and this was supported by the Commissioner’s oratory regarding the matter. Roger Goodell’s popularity, or passive support to put it politely, is not a great bit of public relations perhaps, yet his power does lend an air of credibility to the Attorney General’s case.

The question really is what does it matter to fantasy players? Moreover, are people on those sites really fantasy players? That seems to be the argument. Outcomes to games are said to influence bets, which is the reason for the legal quandary; consequently, it does not sound like fantasy sports to me. It seems to fit high stakes gambling, a la the stereotypes found in “Hard Ball” and “Rounders.”

But I do not know enough about how these “sites” operate, and that was not my main point when I sat down to write this. No, the point was to delve into fantasy sports in general, because I really dislike the ideal.

Yes, I belong to several non-paying leagues for different sports, and I do it for the same reasons many others participate, to be active in an activity with friends. My dislike is not for the fantasy aspect so much, rather it is because I would lose every week with joy for my favorite team to win. Often I forget to check my lineups and inadvertently let trade propositions fall to the wayside hoping and intending to review them later.

I have won money in a league, and I was in a parley for years with my dad, something we enjoyed. However, it was the rush of trying to be right, not the intent of get-rich quick action or instant gratification efforts. We grew from those moments into a deeper relationship, but sports always was central in our getting to know each other and doing things together.

It was a stepping stool to other items, but there was always that thread. We rarely hugged, as neither of us was really into that, but we embraced after Elway won his Super Bowls, yet neither was a fan of his team -- or even him in particular. It was an incredible sporting moment, though. There was joy in witnessing the euphoria John did.

You see, the reality of events is far more impactful than “playing” General Manager sans the cap restraints (although ESPN does sometimes have a nifty tool for basketball trades with cap space factored in that is fun to work with). Even taking in a game with a mortal enemy in the football world (read fans of the Cowboys, Giants and sometimes the Eagles for me) holds more “bragging rights” upon conclusion than cobbling a bunch of potential studs and then growing disenchanted they did not perform well enough. We lose the team here.

Yet I cannot stand coming across as preachy because it is implies a wrong, when it is a different side to the story, if you will. And what I mean by that is that people bond in trying to outdo their rivals and very much feel the pain of losing that traditional fandom unfortunately has burdened us all with. And in the framework of Elway, that ecstasy of winning, albeit aided by luck.

Professional sports are littered with chances slipping away and opportunities being seized through unlikelihood. Drew Bledsoe scrambling comes to mind, but that is a typical anecdote. Injuries have often produced the best chances in history. Favre comes to mind too.

Even if players can come in and surprise, there is always a chance they will never play. It remains the “How do you know?” question. So, again, we get the allure of fantasy, yet the Lombardi Trophy will not be awarded to a creative name or intuitive insight of greatness.

No, it will go to the football team that truly hangs on and perseveres. Aaron Rodgers once had Cal outgain USC considerably, but was never close on the scoreboard, but I will take the robotic motion and even robotic drafts for the sake of victory.

Because the only USC quarterback to win a Super Bowl never played in it. That was Rob Johnson, backup for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Rodgers has arrived, played and won.

That, my friends, is reality. 

Richard A. Rampello is the author of the column Musings of Maestro R.

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