This was the week.
This would have been the time of the year I’d be finalizing projections and printing out my VDP cheat sheet, getting ready to go on my ‘trip of the year’ – the NFBC live drafts. Las Vegas, Nevada where I’d be catching up with dozens upon dozens of old friends with whom I share a strong common bond. The love of fantasy baseball.
Everything about the trip is the stuff of ritual. Every Thursday morning in the third week of March for the past eight years, I drive over to my buddy Scott Jenstad’s place right outside of Pasadena. For some odd reason, I didn’t own a printer at home for years, so I’d always send my spreadsheets to Scott to print out for me. He’d put them in a manila folder for me when I arrived, printing out three copies (for two of my live drafts and one for us to mark up in the car).
We’ve had different people drive up to Vegas on that Thursday over the years. But over the last few years, we’d drive up with two of our good friends in the fantasy industry, Jeff Erickson and Tim Schuler, (Jeff and Scott live about 15 minutes away from each other). We’d wait for Jeff and Tim to arrive with their massive golf bags and try to fit them all into Scott’s SUV along with the rest of our stuff like a jigsaw puzzle. Every year on that drive, we’d run through the player pool one position at a time and challenge one another with different points of view. At some point along the way, Tim would try stumping us with some old school baseball trivia. I’m well known for needing to stop as many times as possible along the way on road trips while Scott prefers to take the 3.5-hour trip in one straight shot (crazy!). For years, we’d stop by Arby’s on the way up, and every so often, I’d convince them to do Popeye’s instead (none of us actually like Arby’s, but tradition is tradition).
The feeling of waking up on that Thursday morning as I pack my stuff for the weekend to get to Scott’s and head out on our road trip was akin to being a little kid waking up on Christmas Day. Just that genuine feeling of youthful awe and excitement. A weekend of camaraderie and fun and drafting and…baseball. A weekend I always looked forward to and never took for granted.
The realization that this year’s trip wasn’t happening this year took some time to manifest, but once it did, it hit me like a ton of bricks. Quickly recognizing the severity of this pandemic before the widespread national panic made me feel selfish and guilty about caring so much about fantasy baseball and the weekend I’d be missing.
But it was a natural human reaction and soon my focus shifted to the world around me. Incessantly scrolling my Twitter feed and reading CV-19 news put me in a constant state of panic. As a kid, I diagnosed myself with OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) out of the DSM IV from the library, and this wild anxiety resurfaced for the first time in two decades. Afraid to touch things (like my mail without gloves) and to even breathe the air outside.
You see, I’m an optimist by nature. “Don’t worry” and “Everything’s gonna be alright” has always been a part of my day-to-day vernacular. I’ve always been the guy to pep up my hockey teammates in high school after a tough loss or help turn the mood around of a friend or family member down in the dumps.
But over the last week, I’ve internalized this anxiety. For the sake of being strong for my family and to keep myself sane. I jumped right back into a slow draft, delved right back in to researching baseball and made sure to ration the frequency of which I read news.
We’re in uncharted territory. Most of us are on alert, more cautious, more aware. And each of us is coping with the pandemic in different ways. What I’ve learned about many things in life is that the answer usually lies somewhere in the middle. So, no I don’t subscribe to the theory that this is the beginning of Armageddon or the end of the world. And no, I don’t think that it’s nothing to worry about and that it’ll just pass in a couple weeks.
What I really do think is this globalized “re-set” will make most of us appreciate more of what we do have. Pardon the cliché, but an opportunity to stop and smell the roses. So many of us are always ‘on the go’. Life has a way of keeping us on autopilot, overwhelming us at times and maintaining a robotic nature of work, chores, eat, sleep, repeat.
Not even speaking to the obvious sadness and reality of daily updates on the mortality rate and fear of this hitting close to home, but I truly believe that sometimes out of chaos comes order. Some of this quarantining will put us in touch with parts of ourselves we either didn’t know about or have never had a chance to visit. We’re already seeing our friends and other folks challenging themselves in different ways: learning new things, innovating, being more creative, self-reflecting, looking out for our neighbors and community.
As I said, I’m an optimist and there needs to be people out there to spread positive and supporting vibes in the toughest of times. My objective here isn’t to come off preachy or sing kumbaya. This isn’t the piece I planned on writing and I would much rather have used this first From the Gut to talk about late-round draft strategies. But hey, writing is my outlet and it’s therapeutic to just ‘put this on paper.’
My bottom line is that we’re going to get through this. Not everyone is going to come out the other side a better person, but interestingly enough, I am already seeing more unity than I’ve ever seen before in my lifetime (perhaps because I’m starting to focus more on the positive and uplifting stories).
And so, whatever it is you choose to focus on personally with any free time you may or may not have, my only recommendation is that you don’t fixate incessantly on the news cycle. It’s certainly critical for us to be aware, be cautious and protect ourselves and our loved ones. But many of us know firsthand that mental health is of the utmost importance and that getting into a cycle of nonstop breaking headline accumulation isn’t good for our state of being and sanity.
So, let’s stay vigilant, but most importantly keep ourselves sane in a temporary world of despair without the outlet of sports that we never in our lives imagined we’d live one day without.
We’re going to get through this together.
And now that I got these words out of my system, I’m going to continue to keep you entertained, informed and will help keep that fantasy baseball fire burning inside us all. One year from today, you and I will be in a better place, and I’ll be preparing my spreadsheets to send over to Scott so he can print them out for me for our trip.
I can’t wait.