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By Drew Markol, TSN Contributor - Archive - Email
Nobody asked me, but...
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Wasn't it a lot more fun when it was real? OK, well it was still fake back then, but it was real.

We're talking about rotisserie, or fantasy, baseball leagues.

Back when they began, the early 1980s is when things started to really get going, was the best.

Over 11 million people play rotisserie or fantasy baseball these days (we'll call it rotisserie from here on out), and even more play fantasy football every fall, but it's not the same.

Having been a part of "Rotis" leagues way back in the day, I can speak from experience.

You were part of the ground floor of folks doing it, meaning it was a shock to find somebody you knew who was actually in another league. The little tiny fraternity of rotis folks considered themselves hard-core baseball fans. They were consumed.

They followed everything. Both leagues. The minor leagues. Even the College World Series to see who might be coming.

And following it all was the hard part and the rewarding part. If you wanted to succeed, you had to outwork and out-scout the other members of your league (a personal aside, my best find came thanks to a spring training trip in the mid 1980s when the Philadelphia Phillies were playing the Cincinnati Reds in Plant City, Fla.).

Since the Phils were on the road, they kept their regulars in longer, meaning Mike Schmidt, who would win his third MVP trophy that coming season, was still in the game when Cincinnati brought in a wild, young reliever with an electric arm named Rob Dibble.

Three pitches, three swinging strikes and a month later, when I called out Rob Dibble at our auction and got him for the minimum, the other league members laughed and asked, "Who the #@*% is that?" They stopped laughing a couple of weeks later.

All right, back to the column at hand.

Any game on TV, and that meant your local team on the local affiliate and TBS showing the Atlanta Braves were all a must-see. An Extra Innings package like you can get today? Well, that wasn't part of the deal then. Just not available.

So it meant taking notes (yes, that sounds dorky and archaic today and actually dorky anytime) and keeping track of whatever you could.

What you couldn't see, you had to read about (having the patience to fiddle with your AM radio at night to try and bring in games from distant cities was an option, albeit a trying one) in the newspaper.

And the newspaper that made the most of it was USA Today.

A national newspaper was also a new idea back then and one way USA Today grabbed readers was by running expanded boxscores.

Their editors knew they had a niche with the rotis players and giving them more info, and box scores from every game (when you got the final edition), sold papers.

Today, it's all on a platter. And that's what makes what is fake even more fake.

With everything at our fingertips - statistics, trends, hot rookies, college prospect lists, high school prospect lists - there is no unknown.

There is no legwork needed. It's foolproof.

I was in a fantasy football league draft last year and when I walked in the commissioner had three different sets of lists with the top 150 players on them available.

So, it didn't matter if you did your research or not. All you had to do was look at a list and call out a name.

What fun was that? Not much. When the playing field is level for every player, you have parity and you have dull.

Parity works in the real NFL because your team always has a chance. But in rotis, it should be about the guy who works the hardest getting the spoils.

Those days are gone, though.



Drew Markol has been a sportswriter and columnist for several newspapers in the Philadelphia area for more than 25 years.

Copyright 2012