In Fantasyland a player's obsession is milked for humor and pathos
In his 2006 book, Fantasyland, author Sam Walker (then a sportswriter for The Wall Street Journal) chronicled his first foray into fantasy baseball, when he competed in the expert Tout Wars league and used his media access to get insight from G.M.'s, coaches and players. But in the documentary film based on the book (available for free at snagfilms.com), even Walker is flabbergasted at the fanaticism of Jed Latkin, a research analyst who was picked to join Tout Wars from among thousands of applicants. At one point Walker gets a call proposing a deal from Latkin, who is at a hospital where his wife is about to give birth to twins. "Are you in your scrubs trying to trade me [Justin]?" Walker asks.
Later Latkin drives eight hours to the home of fellow owner Ron Shandler to try and broker a trade. At the time Shandler denounced Latkin's journey as "freakin' bizarre," but after seeing the film he wrote that Latkin might be the "savior" of fantasy baseball because any player can now tell his (or her) significant other, "Just be grateful I'm not Jed Latkin."
While Latkin's relentlessness makes for compelling cinema, most fantasy players could not emulate him. The filmmakers arranged for Latkin to meet the actual players on his team. When told that ERA and WHIP figured in Tout Wars calculations, then Tigers closer Todd Jones, who rarely had one-two-three innings, quipped, "I can't help you there."
Latkin's zeal would grow tiresome without digressions on the history of Rotisserie baseball and other crazed fantasy owners' antics. Most of those who play will understand when Rob Fleder, a former SI editor and one of the founders of the original Rotisserie league, says, "It became important to everybody in the way drugs become important to a drug addict."
COURTESY OF WILL MANSFIELD (LATKIN)
BUT HOW DOES IT AFFECT ME? In the Tigers' dugout, the single- (and WHIP-) minded Latkin spread the gospel of individual stats.