OUT OF LEFT FIELD
Is My National Pasttime
"Deal Stan out. He said he's spending all his time trying to fix some kind of rotisserie. Go figure it!"
A tale of good gambling
rather than bad gambling
By STAN ISAACS
Once upon a time there were multitudes who believed in sport for sports sake. Today, anybody over the age of 13 who believes in sports for sports sake is an admirable person, and perhaps a joy to the world, but a member of a vanishing species.
Sport today means--dirty word--gambling. Big time sports subsists on gambling though the moguls, pro and so-called amateur, look away with horror at the thought of associating their enterprises with, that word again, betting. Yet sports would not command the TV ratings, the attention, the financial bonanzas if it werent for the great interest generated by betting.
There are all kinds of betting. There is the BAD kind we associate with degenerate gamblers: straight betting with bookies on horse racing, college and pro football, college and pro basketball, and baseball. Straight betting means wagering on a team winning or losing-bucking the odds in baseball or betting against the point spread in football and basketball.
There is also the GOOD betting that we dont look down at--the kind of betting most of the rest of us do. That would be the flyers on Super Bowl pools (hoping to have the right numbers at the ends of each of the four quarters) and the NCAA basketball tournament brackets that people fill out at offices, schools and bars. And there are the competitions, originally called baseball rotisserie, which have come to be known as fantasy pools as they spread to football and basketball.
I cite all of the above without a hint of shame as a prelude to my telling you about my participation anew this year in a Rotisserie League. The name comes from the midtown Manhattan restaurant--La Rotisserie Francaise--where a genius named Daniel Okrent talked the game into existence in 1979 out of bull sessions with a number of his pals, some of them staffers at Sports Illustrated. This is the same Daniel Okrent now taking much flak (some of it deserved) as the ombudsman for the New York Times.
Do I hear the query, what is Rotisserie? I am glad you asked.
In our league, participants draft a roster of players from teams in both the American and National League. Each teams players are measured in eight categories, four each for hitters and pitchers. Hitters categories are batting average, home runs, runs batted in and stolen bases. Fielding is not a factor in Rotisserie. Pitching categories are wins, saves, earned run average and a complicated ratio measuring strikeouts as opposed to hits, which I can never get straight.
We have 15 competitors--or teams--in our league this year, so a first place in any category is worth 15 points; last place in a category gives you only one point. Points for all eight categories are added up to produce the standings. All of this, courtesy of a statistics service, is spewed out on the computer every day. Yes, the first thing I do after brushing my teeth every morning is a sitdown at the computer to see how my team--my partner Jack and I call ourselves the Gents--is doing.
Money--yes, moola, lucre, mazuma, shekels--is involved. There are, depending on the league, big and small pots to the winners at the end of the year. The Gents, I must say immodestly, have pocketed cash for first place and fourth-place finishes the past three years.
My fuddy-duddy friends disparage Rotisserie--and me. They say this is a perversion of true baseball fandom. Fie on these purists. Rotisserie, sayeth I, is the answer to the new climate in big-league baseball that discourages the loyalty and love of the game of yore. Today there is little loyalty, there is greed by the owners and, particularly as it relates to fans, the players.
Consider Alex Rodriguez, probably the best player in baseball. Eight years ago ARod emerged as a star with the Seattle Mariners. After five seasons as a fan favorite there, he went for the big money offered by the Texas Rangers. So much for the Seattle fans. The Texas fans didnt care about them; though, because now they had ARod. For three seasons that is. This winter ARod moved on. Boston Red Sox fans thought they had him, but the negotiations broke down and the Red Sox loyalists watched a would-be darling go to the hated New York Yankees. Lucky Yankee fans--for now.
Rotisserie action takes care of this. Each year I select a new group of players off big league rosters. They are my guys and have my rooting loyalty for this season. Next year Ill pick a new bunch. I could make such as ARod my own whether he were with Seattle, Texas or the Yankees. (And I should add that rooting for my Gents ought to be a good deal more satisfying this year than rooting for the Mets).
Much of the fun and palpitations of Rotisserie League play occurs at the draft of players at the start of the season. In our league we operate with a paper bankroll of $130 from which we have to select 23 players (nine pitchers). That means applying baseball expertise and money management to corral the best possible team. We bid high for top players, low for marginal ones. Albert Pujols of St. Louis and pitcher Tim Hudson of Oakland commanded the highest bids at $25 each.
The draft action is hot and heavy. One player last year talked on a cell phone to his partner in Las Vegas for the six hours of the draft, probably spending more in phone bills than he would have for winning the competition. This year Las Vegas guy combined an appearance at the draft with a visit to his parents in New York. Lucky for the parents there is a Rotisserie League.
I say anew, Thank you Daniel Okrent.
©2004 by Stan Isaacs. The Stan Isaacs caricature is ©2001 by Jim Hummel. The cartoon is from IMSI'S Master Clips Collection, 1895 Francisco Blvd. E., San Rafael, CA, 94901-5506, USA.
You can comment on this column online. Please address your message to either "The Editors" or Stan Isaacs. To send an email, click here: email@example.com
Home About Us Archives Talkback Shopping Mall