A man struggles with fantasy football
| It was ten minutes to five on a Friday afternoon. Sheldon Lamar stared at the clock, trying to will the last ten minutes by. Not that he had anything to hurry off to. Just the end of another mundane week at his mundane accounting job. He knew he had nothing more to look forward to this weekend then doing some house chores, shuttling the kids around to their various commitments, and watching some television. Just like every other weekend for the past fifteen years. As the minute hand passed ever so slowly on to the next minute, he sighed quietly.
Tom Wilkins from marketing rapped on Sheldon’s office door. Tom was the antithesis of Sheldon, dynamic, outgoing, always off on some wild weekend adventure that he would regale the office with on Monday morning. Sheldon secretly envied and loathed Tom at the same time.
“Sheldon, you a sports fan at all?”
Sheldon shrugged his shoulders.
“Not really, why?” he answered.
“Some of the guys in the office are putting together a fantasy baseball league this year. We’d like to have an even number of guys so I thought you might like to join.”
“Eh, I don’t know Tom. I really don’t follow baseball that much.”
Tom stepped into the office and leaned against the wall.
“What’s to follow? You just draft a team and then keep up with it periodically to make sure you have the right guys playing the right days. You don’t have to get into the statistics if you don’t want to. It’s just a harmless diversion for us. No one really takes it that seriously. Except of course maybe Trent, he watched most of his damn Mets games last year on streaming video.”
“While he worked?” Sheldon exclaimed, “That’s violation of company rule four, article 36.”
“Don’t toe the company line so hard,” Tom chuckled while rolling his eyes. “It’s not like he still didn’t get his work done. Come on, it’ll be fun and give us all something to razz each other about during the dog days of summer.”
Sheldon wasn’t overly enamoured with the idea of being the subject of fun (although he was constantly and didn’t know it). At the same time, he realized that he could use some kind of diversion from his mediocre daily routine.
“Okay, I’ll….think about it,” he replied hesitantly.
“I know this is a big decision,” Tom said mockingly. “Try to let me know by Monday, we’ll be drafting by the end of next week. Okay? Have a good weekend.”
“Yeah, you too.”
Tom walked off towards the elevator while Sheldon packed up his briefcase. He shuffled out of his office and took the stairs down to the parking garage. He drove home the same route that he always took and picked up the same groceries that his wife always asked him to get. As he pulled into his driveway, his son was just about to leave on his bike. Sheldon waved at him.
“Hey, Sam, wait up a second,” he called out. Sam grimaced and gave his dad a sullen look.
“What is it dad? The guys are waiting for me at the park,” he protested with atypical teenage grumpiness.
“What do you know about baseball?” asked Sheldon. Sam shrugged his shoulders and anxiously looked at his bike as his means to escape this undesired conversation.
“I don’t know, nothing?” Sam replied, hoping this would lead to his escape. Sheldon pressed on.
“The reason I ask is that some guys at the office want me to be in their fantasy baseball league. Do you think I should do it?”
“You don’t even know anything about baseball, dad. How are you going to manage a fantasy team?”
“I thought you could help me out. It could be a kind of father and son deal,” Sheldon spoke optimistically about getting the chance to spend time with his increasingly distant son. Sam sensed this desire from his dad and quickly mounted up on his bike.
“That wouldn’t be fair to the other guys, don’t you think? Anyway, I’ve got to go now dad. Tell mom I won’t be home for dinner.” Sam rolled down the driveway and pedaled furiously up the street, leaving his father standing in the driveway with groceries in hand. Sheldon sighed and trudged up to the front door.
Inside the house he took the groceries to the kitchen where he found a note from his wife, saying the she had taken their daughter to ballet lessons and was then going to attend her book club. Sheldon dug a frozen dinner out of the freezer and threw it into the microwave. He plopped down on the couch and began his usual weekend routine. Flipping through the channels he came across some baseball highlights and while in the past he would have kept flipping, this time he decided to watch.
“This doesn’t look that hard to follow,” he thought to himself as the microwave timer went off in the kitchen.
Monday morning Sheldon walked into Tom’s office.
“I think I’ll join the league.”
Tom smiled broadly.
“Great. I’ll email you the information this morning. But don’t let this interfere with your work.”
“I’m kidding Sheldon. Really, try to get into this thing, it just might loosen you up.” He winked at Sheldon knowingly and then returned to his work. Sheldon meandered down to his office.
Sheldon logged onto the league homepage right after he received the email from Tom. He chose one of the stock baseball hats as his team logo. After much thought, he named his team ‘Team Sheldon’ which displayed no imagination at all, especially in comparison to some of his esteemed league mates like ‘Mr. Awesome’ or ‘Frodo Baggins’. Each of the other players had exercised some creativity while coming up with team names and logos but years of sheer ennui had stunted Sheldon’s ability to think ‘outside the box’ as Tom would say.
Later that evening, Sheldon showed his team to Sam. Sam just grimaced and shook his head.
“Come on dad, this is no good,” he scolded.
“What’s wrong with it?”
Sam started to click on various options that allowed for a much bolder and adventurous team logo, involving a serpent wrapped around a flailing baby deer. Sheldon winced at the violent image.
“Is this what hours of video games have taught you?” He inquired with disappointment in his voice. Sam ignored him.
“You’ve got a chance to really create a new image for yourself. Here, I’ve changed your team name to ‘The Constrictors’ which plays well with this photo. This way, other players will at least think you really know what you’re doing.”
“I don’t know, it seems a little violent,” Sheldon persisted. Sam pushes himself away from the computer desk, frustrated.
“Look, if you don’t want my help that’s fine by me.” Sam stormed out of the office and into his room. After slamming the door shut, loud rock music blared from behind. Sheldon sighed and resumed working on his team. His wife, Ann, walked in from the kitchen.
“Was Sam just in here?” she asked.
“Yeah, he was helping me spruce up my fantasy league team.”
“It’s nice to see you spend some time with him.”
“I’d say it’s the other way around. I’m always here for him but he avoids me like the plague.” Sheldon’s disappointment in his relationship with his son was palpable.
“Well, maybe this league can help you guys out. What’s it for anyway?”
“It’s just a baseball league between me and some guys at the office. I’m not really planning on getting into it.” Ann weighed this thought and offered her own.
“Still, it could help you gain more of a repoire with your coworkers. And maybe give you and Sam something to do.” She clung desperately to the optimistic chance that her husband would come back to the lively character that she had originally fallen in love with. Sheldon just shrugged and answered in his atypical bored fashion.
As the warm winds of Spring wafted through the office, Sheldon was glued to his computer screen. A small pile of paperwork sat on his desk. Sheldon stared at the breakdowns on that night’s pitching match-ups. Tom wandered into his office.
“Sheldon, you wanna grab a sandwich and then have lunch in the park? It’s a beautiful day outside.”
“No thanks Tom. I’ve got to pick up a starter for tonight. I’ve already got three not pitching.”
“No offense, but I’d say you could use some time away from the computer,” Tom offered in a friendly voice. “You’re sufficiently placed in the middle of the pack, which by the way is much better than any of us expected of you.” Tom stood and watched Sheldon barely tilt his head away from his stats.
“You guys didn’t think I could follow this?” Sheldon expressed mild concern while pondering the pick up of Perez over Meche. Yet his eyes never left the screen. Tom cleared his throat and moved to exit.
“Anyway, that’s cool if you’re not interested. And don’t take it personally. It’s just that we’ve only really know you as a numbers cruncher.”
“Which has worked out perfectly for this game,” Sheldon exclaimed with enthusiasm. “The intricate nuances that daily stats provide has given me something to follow. I never imagined there was so much mind work involved.” His eyes darted between the breakdowns of the two pitchers’ last four home starts. Tom chuckled.
“I guess we stand corrected. By the way, you might want to tackle that report on top of your little paperwork pile. It would help if I got an answer by tomorrow afternoon.”
“Sure, sure,” Sheldon mumbled, which left Tom with doubt as to when he would really get an answer. Tom walked out of the office while Sheldon moved his mouse key over Meche as a stopgap starter.
“Sam! Get in here!” yelled Sheldon with an authority as of yet unheard in the Lamar household. After a few moments, Sam appeared in the office doorway with a startled look on his face.
“What did I do?” he stammered, unsure of how angered his to this point milquetoast parent. Sheldon motioned for him to come over by the computer. Sam cautiously pulled up a chair near the desk. Sheldon waved his hand towards the computer screen.
“Look at this,” he grumbled. “I proposed a perfectly good trade to this guy and he’s rejected it.”
“Um-hmm,” spoke Sam. Sheldon continued.
“I mean, he needs steals while I’m trying to improve my team ERA and strikeouts. I’d say that giving him Crawford and Garciaparra in exchange for Mussina and Hoffman is a perfectly reasonable offer. I don’t think that Team Yankees Haters is really paying attention in this league.”
“But isn’t Garciaparra on the DL right now?” offered Sam.
“Just temporarily. Are you saying you don’t think it’s a good trade?” demanded Sheldon. Sam shifted uncomfortably in his chair.
“No, I just, look it’s your league dad. Can I go to bed now?”
“Yeah, good night.” Sheldon waved Sam away. Sam quickly hopped up and left the room. He brushed by his mother on the way to bed.
“Good night Sammy,” his mother called after him. She entered the office and came up behind Sheldon, placing her hands on his shoulders. “Are you coming to bed soon?”
“In a little while.”
“You’re not going to stay up until three again, are you?” Ann asked with some consternation in her voice. “I think it’s getting a little ridiculous how much time you spend staring at your fake baseball team.”
Sheldon stopped staring at the screen for a minute and turned to face his wife, a look of annoyance on his face. He sighed heavily and tried to make her understand his newfound obsession.
“Look honey, I’ve finally found something that I can really get into. Plus, I’m getting to know some of the guys in the office. We post comments to each other and just engage in some gentle ribbing. I thought that’s something you wanted me to do?”
“Sheldon, taking up a hobby is one thing, but you spend hours in here every night. The kids and I barely see you anymore.” Ann was not sure what to make of the attitude that her husband was expressing more and more. It made her uncomfortable. Sheldon stared at her blankly and then turned back to his computer.
“You know, it’s funny you mention lacking time with me. I never saw you or the kids mind it so much the past ten years.”
“That’s not fair.”
“Look, just go to bed and I’ll be in there in awhile.”
Ann stared at her husband exasperated. He continued to peruse pages of stats. Finally, she shrugged her shoulders and left him to his increasing madness.
Sheldon sat across from his boss, Mitch Lowell. Mitch sat very quietly and stared across his desk at Sheldon, while Sheldon shifted back and forth in his seat. He was anxious to get back to his desk and check the day game stats. Finally, Mitch breathed heavily and leaned forward to speak.
“Your work has been suffering lately Lamar. Why is that?” he asked with a tone of disappointment.
“Well sir, with being the middle of summer, I think all of us get a little antsy in the workplace. And I’ve been thinking about my upcoming vacation with the family. That tends to distract, I guess.” Sheldon wasn’t very convincing with his answer, especially since he knew the truth.
“Looking forward to a vacation is all well and good, Lamar. But until such time you have a job to do here. More importantly, I need you to fly to Denver for a few days and process their last two years of accounting data. It should only take you a few days.”
Sheldon was not happy to hear of this business trip. It would take him two time zones behind the east coast members of the league.
“Are you sure you need me to go, sir? I would happily go over the data if they just sent it back here.”
“No, I think you getting out of the office would be good for you. After that little incident in the break room, I think your absence in this office would be beneficial.” The incident in question had happened the previous week. Sheldon had gotten into a screaming argument with another member of the league over the importance of OPS for batters versus WHIP for pitchers. It had gotten very heated and Sheldon ended up being restrained by two other guys from accounting.
“Sir, if you remember, I apologized profusely for that outburst. It was just a simple misunderstanding that got out of hand.” Sheldon attempted to downplay the episode.
“Regardless, I need you in Denver. Sharon has already booked your flight and hotel. And I’d like you to leave your laptop here.” Mitch looked very sternly at Sheldon to show that he was serious.
“What?! But how can I keep up with my tea…er, um, I mean my work?” Sheldon was at a loss. He knew that without twenty-four hour access to the league’s waiver wire, he was subject to missing out on a spot pickup or to monitor the progress of some players coming off of the injured reserve list.
“You can use their systems. And then at night, you can relax in the hotel and maybe regain some of your sensibilities. You know, I’m in the fantasy league too but at the end of the day we all have a job to do. You would do well to remember that.” Mitch turned his chair around and gazed out the window. “Okay, that’s all for now. Have a good trip.”
Sheldon slowly rose from his seat and left to pack up his stuff for the trip.
Sheldon was finishing up his evaluations of the Denver office’s data. He hadn’t been able to log onto his fantasy team page in two days and it was eating him alive. The work stations that he had been given had no Internet access because it wasn’t required for the raw crunching of data. He stood in the supervisor’s office and handed over the final numbers.
“Thanks for coming out, Sheldon. I hope you enjoyed your few days in Denver,” said Sam Bonderman. “Are you flying out tomorrow?”
“No, I’m catching a redeye flight tonight. I’m really anxious to get back to Cleveland,” Sheldon replied with an anxiousness in his voice.
“’Anxious to get back to Cleveland,’” Sam repeated. “I’ll bet that’s the first time anyone has ever said that.” He chuckled but Sheldon just stood there, checking his watch.
“Hey, before I head to the airport, could I borrow a computer with web access? I need to download my boarding passes.”
“Um, sure, use my secretary’s outside. Anyway, thanks for coming out. I’ll be sure to tell Mitch how helpful you were.” Sam stood up and shook Sheldon’s hand. Sheldon smiled weakly and rushed out to use the computer. He logged onto his league page and instantly poured over the last few days’ worth of transactions. His blood pressure rose as he saw two waiver pickups that he should have had priority on. He gritted his teeth and looked up the email addresses of the teams that had leapfrogged him. One of the names he didn’t recognize from his office. He logged back out and ducked his head into Sam’s office.
“Excuse me Mr. Bonderman, but do you know a Bill Tenuta?” he asked innocently.
“Bill? Yeah, he heads our marketing department out here. I think he’s holding a meeting in the conference room. Why do you need to speak to him?”
“Oh, I just have a message for him from our marketing guy. I think they went to college together or something,” Sheldon lied.
“Well, you should probably just leave a note on his desk. I know it’s an important meeting.”
“Okay, will do.” Sheldon raced out of the office and down to the conference rooms. He looked in to see Bill giving a presentation to several Japanese businessmen. The frustration was building up in Sheldon and he couldn’t stand just leaving a note for Bill. He burst into the conference room, startling everyone.
“Hey, Team Turdburglar! You made a waiver pickup that was rightfully my turn to make!” Sheldon screamed and gestured wildly with his arms at the stunned Bill.
“What? Who the hell are you? I’m in a meeting here,” stammered an exasperated Bill. Sheldon moved closer to him, poking his finger into Bill’s chest.
“You know what I’m talking about. I should have been first to put a claim on Clemens but couldn’t access a computer.” His hysterics were worrying the Japanese businessmen, who chattered excitedly amongst themselves. Bill grabbed Sheldon by the shoulder and lead him out of the room.
“Gentleman, excuse me a second,” huffed Bill. He pushed Sheldon outside the door and closed it. “Are you fucking insane?! I’m having a very important meeting here!” He left Sheldon outside the room and slammed the door in his face. Sheldon was furious.
“This isn’t over Turdburglar!” screamed Sheldon through the door as several members of the office looked over to see what the commotion was.
Sheldon sat quietly across from Mitch. Mitch glared at Sheldon with a fury that Sheldon had never seen before. Finally, Mitch cleared his throat and spoke.
“Lamar, we’re letting you go.” Mitch spoke with a clear finality to show there was no leeway in the matter.
“Mitch, I’m sorry. But you’re being unfair.”
“Yes, just because I’m winning the league doesn’t give you the right to fire me.” Mitch’s face went blank as he tried to comprehend what he just heard.
“I’m not firing you because you’re winning the league. It’s because of the break room incident, and Denver, and the fact that your work has become practically non-existent this last month,” retorted Mitch with anger and disappointment in his eyes.
“I’ve been having trouble at home too. Ann took the kids and left me.”
“That’s too bad Sheldon, but it doesn’t change the fact that you’re not getting the job done anymore.”
Sheldon saw there was no way he was going to change Mitch’s mind. He slowly rose from his seat and turned to leave. At the last moment, he turned around and addressed Mitch.
“Let me tell you something. I’ve worked hard for fifteen years at this office and hated myself for it. I finally found something that made me feel alive, like I was working towards a goal, and now you fire me for it. You may not understand, my family may not understand, but I’m going to win this league and reap all the glory that comes with it.” Sheldon stood triumphantly and waited for Mitch to respond.
“Sheldon, it’s a fantasy league. There is no glory. You’ve ruined your career and home life for absolutely nothing.” Mitch shook his head and looked at Sheldon with pity. Sheldon said nothing in response, straightened his tie, and marched out of the office.
Sheldon stared at the clock late Friday afternoon while sitting at his new job. He had nothing more to look forward to then returning to his rented hotel room, ordering in some food, and watching television all weekend. It had taken him weeks to find a new job and was already late October. Tom had deleted his team from the league and despite his commanding lead, he was unable to finish the season and win out. This caused him to revert to his old self; introverted, quiet, lacking confidence in himself. As the last few minutes ticked away, one of his new coworkers poked his head into the office.
“Hey Sheldon, I know you’re new here so I thought of a way you can get to know some of the office better,” said Mike Townley, Sheldon’s new supervisor. Sheldon looked glumly up at him.
“Yeah, how’s that?”
“Have you ever joined an NBA fantasy league?” Mike asked. And with a click, the wheels in Sheldon’s head started to pick up steam.