The words “fantasy sports” can conjure up images of unicorn polo or dragon dingleberry bowling, but for both students and teachers at CHS, the stats-heavy, OCD world of fantasy sports is a very real passion.
In fantasy sports leagues, participants select major league athletes to draft onto a personal “team,” and these teams gain points as drafted players accrue positive achievements like home runs, goals or whatever the hell is used to keep score in curling.
On the surface, this may seem a bit boring, right? Just competing stat-heads buried in box scores and beer nuts, right? Wrong. There are just as intriguing scenes happening in fantasy sports as there are in real sports, even though its players are miles from the ballpark.
Here, heavy hitters have names like Tapson and Brothers, instead of Pujols and Trout. Enter Carmel High School Fantasy.
“It gets really competitive,” says senior Traven Tapson, who commissions multiple fantasy leagues. “You are following your own players and rooting against the other guys’ players.”
Indeed, according to senior Barrett Brothers, Sports Medicine teacher Matt Borek has even paused mid-lesson to trash talk.
However, as competitive as things get between those who play—and believe me, they do (the message boards of one of CHS’s most popular leagues contains more passive aggression than a pissed-off life guard)—there’s still a sense of camaraderie.
“It’s fun to play with people you see everyday,” Borek says. “Friendly trash talk is encouraged but usually doesn’t go beyond that.”
These friendly vibes only go so far.
But don’t just take my word for it. Nearly every student I interviewed mentioned a practice I’ll call Planet Earthing, where ruthless, more experienced fantasy players pounce on oblivious, underclassmen gazelle and sink their teeth in, coaxing them to make lopsided trades.
“It usually occurs in the first couple weeks of the season,” Tapson says. “There’ll be [baseball players] who will start off the year really well, but they aren’t that great of players. People who are new to [fantasy sports], if someone has a .500 batting average after day two, they’re thinking ‘Oh my god he’s going to have a great year,’ where more experienced [fantasy] players realize it’s only day two of a 200-day season.”
Stories of these trades aren’t just hyperbole; I’ve listened to one about this past NFL season. The voicemail begins pleasantly enough with Brothers just seeing how senior and proverbial tin-medalist Scott Robleski is doing. Then comes the pitch.
“Are you ignoring my calls, you little rascal?” Brothers asks with barely concealed desperation. “Just wanted to check in with ya, see what it would take to get Gronk [the Patriots’ Rob Gronkowski]. Still hopin’ you come through with that one.”
Brothers, who normally ribs Robleski at any and all opportunities, seals the message with an “all right, love ya, buddy, bye-bye” ripped straight from the used-car-salesman playbook.
Perhaps the most dastardly of these dupings came during the beginning of this year’s fantasy baseball season.
One league’s commissioner, a senior, convinced a freshman to trade away top players for garbage. To make matters worse, the commissioner then changed the rules of the league, disallowing any complaints or appeals by others players to reverse the trade because of unfairness, setting off a wave of backlash from other competitors. Aspiring dictators, take note.
“It got pretty heated,” reflects Robleski with a laugh. “But everybody tries to [make these trades]. Barrett’s the best at it.”
The Game of Thrones-esque plotting doesn’t end here.
Perhaps in an effort to defend his family honor—after all, the trophy in his league is a miniature toilet named his after mother—senior Rod Ahmadi even admitted to buying players from other students during his sophomore year.
“It was one time!” insists Ahmadi, though, after some nervous I-did-not-have-sexual-relations-with-that-woman mumbling, Ahmadi admits that one time really meant one season.
“I haven’t done it since though,” he adds.
Ironically, he says he even paid for certain high-value sluggers.
Yet all of this intrigue and scheming is not caused by any inherent shadiness: it’s more just boyish competition on steroids—irony intended. Watching SportsCenter once a week on the elliptical isn’t enough for these fantasy fanatics.
“I check my team every hour during the day,” junior Connor O’Toole says.
Instead of crusty scouts with gum cancer, many use sleek smartphones and apps to stay updated on their team’s progress.
“I use RotoWire, an app on the iPhone,” Tapson says. “It’s designed for fantasy football and baseball players. It has up-to-the-minute stats, injuries, stuff like that.”
Tapson, who’s read the sports page in the newspaper since he was in kindergarten, says he even used to listen to podcasts solely dedicated to fantasy sports.
Why students and teachers play is just as varied as how they get their information.
For some, it’s all about the bragging rights.
Brothers savors “the ability to talk crap to your opponents,” as do his rivals. Shortly after his interview, Ahmadi sticks his head in the room, reminding his competition, “I’m up by six. Suck it.”
“You can’t replicate that feeling of just destroying your opponent,” senior Colin O’Grady adds.
Others play because it enhances the experience of being a sports fan.
“I like to play for the competitive nature and how much more involved I get into baseball,” Borek says.
So teachers, your students aren’t texting in class; they are just colluding, cheating, obsessing and having a darn good time while doing it.