Monday, December 10, 2007

Death and fantasy sports

I woke up groggy yesterday, after a long night of revelry. As is my wont, I immediately turned on my computer to check out what had gone down in the world of sports, and was immediately drawn to a link which included the words Pacers' Tinsley and shooting.

My heart jumped and my senses perked, for Indiana Pacer point guard Jamaal Tinsley, who has a history of nightclub altercations and being present when former-teammate Stephen Jackson shoots up strip club parking lots Wild West style, is on my fantasy basketball team. In fact, it has been Tinsley's unexpectedly strong play this season which has kept my team afloat in the assists and steals categories. Especially since my other point guard, Kirk Hinrich, has been unexpectedly awful.

Meaning if Tinsley was either the perpetrator or victim of the shooting it could be a devastating blow to my fantasy team. Luckily the 3:30 AM bullets missed Tinsley, and the seven-year veteran resisted the urge to fire back (although his brother may have) and tempt a league suspension. It also led to this unusual but reassuring update on the service I use to track the injury status of all my fantasy players:

This all got me thinking about the death of Sean Taylor. While no doubt it was a terrible tragedy for those who knew Taylor, I have to admit it left me pretty cold and skeptical when I saw images of girls, who probably don't even know that much about football, crying with Taylor's number of 21 painted on their faces. And reading the heart-felt anonymous eulogies to Taylor on various message boards made me, more often than not, cringe.

Taylor was a pretty good football player with a lot of potential, but he had only played for a few years on a mediocre Redskin team, and was just as known for blowing his coverage assignments and for his off-field transgressions than he was for his talent. He was also famously private, and spent his offseasons (and apparently his off-nights) in Miami -- not Washington DC. In other words, beyond the shock and novelty of professional athlete being murdered, very few people who didn't know the man could have possibly had that much more invested in Taylor as they had in the hundreds of other young people gunned down on the very same day of Taylor's murder.

Certain people, it seems, just like to identify with, wallow in and -- I would say -- perversely celebrate death. And all the better for the pity party when the focus is on a highly tangential, but high profile, relation like the football player whose name you know from the paper, or the World Trade Center victim your friend's brother went to college with.

This is all to say the only people who should be that upset when a guarded B-plus professional athlete is murdered are his friends, family, teammates and those who have him on their fantasy sports team.* Because I would have been pretty sad if Tinsley had been killed early Sunday morning. Actually, the feeling would be more accurately described as "pissed off because now I have to figure out how to salvage my once promising fantasy basketball season and maybe Tinsley shouldn't have been staying out so late with such a rough crowd again."

But anger is a part of the grieving process. And self-centerdness is always front and center -- if annoyingly unsaid -- whenever people mourn those they don't know.

*I know, defensive players generally aren't important to Fantasy Football -- if they are even included at all. But I would hate to let that get in the way of my point.

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