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Revolt of the orange slice eaters

Observer Viewpoint | Wednesday, November 3, 2004

When I was in 7th grade, I did what every red-blooded, Communist hating Indiana pre-teen does once in his life: I joined the junior high school basketball team. Now, I may have stood all of five feet flat and weighed 90 pounds dripping wet, but at the time I owned a pair of Reebok Pumps, so I had no doubt that I could be reasonably assured of a Larry Bird-esque ascension to Hoosier Hardwood glory.

These humble hoop dreams were quickly deflated when the reality of my athletic ability hit me in the face. I mean that quite literally. In my first game against the hated St. Anthony Panthers, I was struck in the head by a rope of a pass so violent that I can still make out the word SPALDING across my forehead. We had spent weeks practicing and mastering the bounce-pass, baseball-pass and no-look-pass, but no one had prepared me for the basketball-to-the-cranium pass. This illustrious beginning kicked-off an athletic career of bench-warming, day-dreaming, orange slice-eating and at least two broken bones. Oh, how I loved those half-time orange slices.

As I enter the autumn of my sporting endeavors, however, I find myself in the bizarre position of high sovereign lord ruling over some of the National Football League’s finest athletes. Each and every Sunday without fail seven All-Star caliber professionals line up at my very behest and answer to my beck and call. Two-time Super Bowl champion quarterback – and on-again, off-again beau of Tara Reid – Tom Brady takes his walking orders from a man who once ate 50 donut holes on a dare. Sticky-handed Steelers’ receiver and all-around super freak athletic specimen Plaxico Burress has a dude who can’t be troubled walking all the way to the Rock deciding if he starts over the equally mind-blowing Isaac Bruce.

In short, I have become a Fantasy Football franchise owner.

My friend Joe, a recent Notre Dame alum, invited me into the league as a way of keeping in touch with mutual friends who have since graduated. We picked our athletes and gave our teams ridiculous names and decided exactly what color we wanted the lighting bolt on our helmets to be. We left jovial instant messages and exchanged polite emails, wishing each other well on the (make-believe) field of (pretend) competition.

This good-natured spirit of sportsmanship worked just fine until the first week of the season when we discovered the intoxicating blood-lust that accompanies destroying your good friend with a fictitious team of professional head-hunters. Our instant messages and emails these days would make Patton blush and I myself have sunk into such a state of unbridled coaching rage that even Bob Knight’s professional sensibilities would be offended. As our young season moves along, I find myself at two major infuriating disadvantages which fuel this hysteria: my players stink and I don’t scare anybody. However, my boys are pros and I trust they’ll turn it around. We’ve been in worse spots.

Ultimately, what I’ve learned as a pretend footballer is that the appeal of a Fantasy League is self-evident. It is, pure and simple, fantasy. Our generation grew up in the age of ESPN, maturing in a sport-centric universe that extolled the virtue of being “Like Mike.” We are the young people of one sports-nation of the Adidas logo, for the Adidas logo, by the Adidas logo where you didn’t get on the school bus until you saw the Top Ten plays of last night on the 7 a.m. Sportscenter. In Sports-Nation the Fantasy League becomes the great tool of athletic democracy. We, the average-athlete masses, rise to equal footing with the NFL’s All-Pro aristocracy. We are the common bench-warming, orange slice-eaters … but in a Fantasy League we get to be the hero on our childhood bedroom wall.

But still I feel this isn’t enough. In a truly democratic Sports-Nation, we orange-slice eaters wouldn’t be relegated to the realms of internet fantasy. That’s why today, inspired by my illuminating Fantasy experience, I advocate a full-scale bench-warmer revolution, a Bastille Day for the short and fat where we, as one body, take over our nation’s athletic institutions and redistribute them to each according to his never-lettered-in-high-school needs.

We must strike first with our local basketball team. Now, Mike Brey is one fantastic coach and one fantastic man. But he’s just one man. One tie-hating man. Thus, he should not be that difficult to lay siege upon him in the first battle of our Not-So-Hard-Worker’s Revolution. Much like the first guns at Lexington and Concord, the Battle of the JACC Basketball Office will signal a new and glorious age of freedom from oppression.

Ask yourself, wouldn’t our team receive a greater benefit from having the collective will of 10,000 non-varsity students all at once deciding if Jordan Cornette should shoot the 3 or pass the ball? Isn’t such a democratic coaching theory more akin to the ideals of our Founding Fathers? Wouldn’t coaching the Irish make me feel better about the time when I scored two points for the opposing team? The answers are “yes!” and “shoot!”

Bob Masters is a senior English major. He can be contacted at amasters@nd.edu.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.