This past week, I bested TSL Managing Editor Ben Lauren 149-123 in a pivotal matchup with playoff implications in the “5C Fanta-C” fantasy football league. And after a humiliating loss to Sports Editor Adam Akins two weeks ago, last week’s victory feels even more special. But beyond a desire to defeat my TSL editors week in and week out, fantasy sports have provided me with a team to root for besides the mediocrity my hometown franchises have; to offer and an interest in sports I never would have found myself committed to otherwise.
On Oct. 30, 2019, my beloved Washington Nationals won the World Series, capping off an improbable playoff run and an even more improbable season. The following day, I promptly bombed my chem exam because nothing else mattered. The Washington Nationals were World Series Champions. Weeks later, I was still riding high in the front row at the World Series Parade, my voice hoarse from screaming.
This championship was the third in two years for D.C. sports, with the Capitals claiming Lord Stanley’s Cup the year prior and the Mystics, D.C.’s WNBA team, claiming their first title in franchise history in 2019 as well. Since then, it has been a dreary five years of nothing. Nada. Zilch.
Gone are the days of championship parades passing the Capitol Building. National’s Park, which I was lucky enough to experience shake during the 2019 postseason, now only welcomes a fraction of the fans through its gates. It has been a rough past few years for D.C. sports fans and the future doesn’t look much brighter. But, when all hope seemed lost, fantasy sports swooped in and saved the day.
When I was in middle school, my dad, an accomplished fantasy sports manager in his own right, helped set up a fantasy baseball league for me and some of my friends from school. He came home from work one day with a magazine that ranked the best players at each position and told me to start researching.
Just like that, I was hooked. Come draft day, I was ready: spreadsheets, stats and rankings were laid before me as I made my first pick. I filled my roster with stars from across the league; some names I recognized, some I didn’t, but I was sure I had put together a championship-caliber team.
Over the past few years, as the Nationals’ seemingly never-ending rebuild leaves them in last place in their division year after year, my fantasy baseball teams keep me sane. Despite an underwhelming 8-12 performance in my 2023 fantasy baseball campaign, Team Fuson still had Juan Soto starting in Right Field, even if the Nats didn’t. As the Major League Baseball season comes to a close, the sad story of D.C. sports remains. Watching the Commanders lose (which I faithfully do every week) gets boring after a while, but when your other favorite team features the best players in the league and there’s a chance that you will win each week, the games you’re watching become much more enjoyable. There’s a thrill in making a well researched pick that pans out come playoffs that no one saw coming
Years later, I’m still assembling make-believe sports teams and living my Moneyball dreams. Still, I’ve grown my fantasy empire beyond the bounds of baseball, establishing expansion football teams and, recently, a basketball team. Through these new teams, I’ve created a love for sports that I had no interest in years before. When I joined my first fantasy football league, you could count the number of non-Super Bowl football games I had seen on one hand. I drafted Tom Brady first overall and then auto-drafted the rest of my team. I honestly knew nothing.
But it was a start! Soon enough, I was invested in not only my team but the rest of the National Football League as well. Watching teams from across the league, learning that I probably shouldn’t have drafted a quarterback in the first round and becoming invested in the sport.
After a brief hiatus from the fantasy football world, during the 2022-23 season, I was right back in the mix, this time in a new league full of Pitzer first-years whom I had met just weeks before. With a few years of experience under my belt, I was ready to roll come draft day. My Sundays became filled with football, watching teams play when a year ago, I couldn’t have named a single player on their rosters. Soon, I watched teams play who had no relation to my fantasy team, just out of an interest in the sport.
After a season of big wins and humiliating losses against my peers, I emerged victorious! A champion! The weeks of researching players and obsessing over which kicker to pick up off of waivers had paid off.
This fall, in addition to my new fantasy football league, I have been roped into a fantasy basketball league, marking new territory for me. Outside of following the Wizards on Instagram and bringing the ruckus to the P-P vs. CMS games, I know little about basketball. But I figured, “why not?” So, I put together a team of (potential) All-Stars, hand-picked by my friend’s younger brother, who knows more about the NBA than I ever will. And while my debut season is off to a rocky start, the ship will right itself eventually and I’m sure you’ll find me in a playoff position come springtime.
To me, that’s the beauty of fantasy sports. They foster a love of the game as a whole. Whether you just watched your favorite team trade away a generational talent and need a new team to root for, or if you’ve never seen a game in your life, fantasy sports provide an incentive to invest yourself in the sports world. They make every game exciting all season long.
Editor’s note: Managing Editor Ben Lauren would like to put on the record that he finished in a respectable fourth place while Harold fell to a lowly seventh place in their intercollegiate fantasy baseball league this past season.
Writer’s note: Sports Editorial Assistant Harold Fuson would like to point out that for the majority of the season, he was in the woods without wifi, so anything better than last place in this league is respectable.