OpinionAugust 28, 2004

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Who says that only sports can be the subject of a fantasy contest?

By Stefan Micke

For most people, it seems to be a law of nature that fantasy leagues only deal with sports. But is this necessarily a dogma – and is it really from heaven sent? If you ask a few worldly questions, you will likely arrive at a down-to-earth answer: it’s all about stats. Pro sports are the traditional playground for statisticians and math folks – not many aspects of life are so completely analyzed and broken down into numbers. In order to run a fantasy league, accurate statistics are absolutely vital; without them, it would be entirely impossible to establish any kind of scoring system, let alone determine a winner.

Hold on … if it’s only the numbers, doesn’t that mean that everything that can be translated into statistics can be a fantasy game? How cool!

Take economics. Ever engaged in a game of Fantasy Wall Street? No? But you did enter that virtual stock exchange contest that was run by your local newspaper, right? Well, it’s the same exact thing! I agree that watching those stocks go up and down isn’t quite as thrilling as seeing Drew Bledsoe’s game-winning touchdown pass being intercepted by Ty Law (especially if it’s not your money that is on the line). But it works.

Now let’s turn on that TV set and have a look – what else could we use? Fantasy Weather? Not really (although I’m told that meteorologists have a blast with this). Fantasy Crime Rate? Nah! Fantasy Politics? Now you’re talking!

Early last year, when war seemed imminent and Arlo and I were busy working on the site, we did the unspeakable: we spontaneously engaged in a game of Fantasy World Politics!

Let’s take a look at our lineups:

LeaderGeorge W. BushTony Blair
US SecretaryDonald RumsfeldColin Powell
Iraqi SecretaryMohammed Saeed al-SahafTarek Aziz
UN supporting castThat Delegate from ChileHans Blix
CorrespondentChristiane AmanpourTom Clancy

At a glance I have to admit that this one probably went to Arlo (proving once more his superior fantasy knowledge). Too bad – the whole thing looked really good for me from the beginning: Colin Powell took on a dominant role in negotiations and earned a lot of playing time, and on an international level, British Prime Minister Tony Blair received much better ratings than Dubya. But then, Donny Rumsfeld took over, and Blair’s PR machinery began to fail. Worst of all, though, Arlo’s information minister al-Sahaf turned out to be a real sleeper pick, becoming something of an underground internet pop star with the name of “Baghdad-Bob.”

You think we are a cynical bunch? You bet … but not in this case. Politics are not a game, and something as serious as a looming war should not be played with? I don’t agree.

A guy called Noam Chomsky once called it our challenge to make politics as gripping and engaging as sports. Solid point! I assume a lot of things could happen that are much worse than us having to thoroughly investigate an important subject. Plus, it’s always good to look at all sides of a story, be it only to rack up a few fantasy points.

And it’s not like we haven’t seen it before: from the moment you own a fantasy team, your knowledge of its individual members skyrockets. No wait – your knowledge builds weeks and months before the draft – after all you wanna know who you’re picking. You used to root for just your hometown team? Well, not any more. Now you look at all the others, too – you simply have to. You used to hate the Chargers? Now you can’t afford to! If you hold the very first pick in your draft and you leave Tomlinson for your opponents to pick up, this blunder might already cost you the championship.

Looking at all sides? Building knowledge in advance? Following the daily events, and getting excited about them? Would this be something we could use when it comes to politics, where indifference seems to be the prevalent mindset? Um, quite possibly!

Now I hear some people moan that you can’t measure the success of politicians by breaking their actions down into statistical numbers. Granted. But can numbers honestly capture the grace of Priest Holmes flying over the field and diving for another touchdown? Of course not. Do we care? No!

So all we need is for someone to come up with a stats service. Hurry up folks, we’re waiting – after all, that President’s Bowl is already just around the corner!

In a life long ago, Stefan (also known in the forum as menyak) used to study history and psychology at his home university. Although he has vowed to leave his dark past far behind, some old ideas still come back to haunt him.

Fantasy politics? Is this a good idea? Can it work? What do you think?

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