A very short review of Fantasyland, a new book by Sam Walker.
Walker enters Tout Wars, which is one of two super-high-profile roto contests, as one of the “rookie” entries, against a set of expert roto players, and descends into madness in his pursuit of the title.
The good stuff: he goes crazy trying to win. He hires two advisors (one a NASA dude for the stats, one more on the scouting-and-intuition side), gets advice from a baseball astrologer, and gets an attractive actress to act as his “videographer” for the auction so she can flirt and distract the other male, geek-o-matic guys.
One by one, Christine slowly drains my opponents of their excess testosterone: complimenting Steve Moyer on his tan, asking Lawr Michaels if he’d like to play some air guitar, and panning in tightly on a visibly irritated Ron Shandler. “I like to think I know what I’m doing a little bit,” says a suddenly modest Matt Berry. “I certainly know I’m not one of the sharks today,” Joe Sheehan confesses. “I’m a little guppy swinning through the water, and I’m going to get eaten before the day’s out.”
“No, no,” Christine purrs. “Repeat after me: ‘I’m going to be a shark!'” Sheehan blushes, waits a few beats. “I’m going to be a shark!” he says.
“There you go!”
The draft (p151-153) is the funniest fantasy baseball anecdote I’ve ever read.
His attempts to talk to players about being on his team are awkward to the point of hilarity sometimes, and sometimes happily insightful. His writing’s easy and relaxed, and Walker’s self-critical and funny about his descent into madness.
The bad stuff: gets a little tedious in going over the mechanics of what’s happening when in the league, which today is really dry. Sure, whether or not Josh Phelps got benched was important then, but now? He tries to condense it down as much as possible, but it’s just sawdust in the Twinkie. And if you’re a serious baseball fan, you’ll probably notice that there are errors that slipped in on some niggling stuff (the Wade Boggs thing, for instance, p.28).
Also, there’s a baseball astrologer. Reallllly annoying, but I’m not going to get into that again.
He’s clearly got a huge crush on Ron Shandler, which is fine on its own. I’ve bought Baseball Forecaster before (I’ll spare you that review, too). And it makes for a weird/funny moment when Ron Shandler, who can be as insufferably arrogant as anyone, says of Baseball Prospectus “They’re so friggin’ arrogant. Joe Sheehan is one of the only guys over there that I have any respect for.”
That’s funny on maybe four, five levels.
If you’re a fantasy baseball fanatic, this is going to be a really good read. If, like me, you’re not that into roto, it’s fairly quick and entertaining as long as you start to skim when you feel your eyes glossing over when he talks about his horrible dilemma about what to do with his free agent budget.
Anyway– Fantasyland, Sam Walker. Check it out.