Fantasy sports: more fun to play than to read about.
Rotisserie baseball, which began as a bunch of overly intelligent baseball nerds in New York playing with numbers, has since blossomed into a multisport, multimedia phenomenon. Before the Internet, the typical fantasy league pulled its statistics from the newspaper, after which its members ran the numbers by hand; now, numerous Web outlets have programs in which the masses can draft their teams and let the technology do the stats work. One of the most notable is, unsurprisingly, ESPN, and ESPN.com offers not only online services as a repository for league stats, but also advice columnists, the best of whom is Berry, aka the Talented Mr. Roto. In his debut book, the author combines memoir, history and cultural study in what was likely intended to be the definitive volume on fantasy sports; however, the topic is too thin for this much study and analysis. A genial gent, Berry relates his entry into fantasy sports, touches on fantasy's roots and presents numerous case studies—i.e., stories from fantasy leagues around the world. Unfortunately, the autobiographical sections are less than compelling, the roots-of-fantasy stories have been told time and again, and the case studies are simply uninteresting. In addition, the long, trying-too-hard-to-be-clever chapter titles begin to grate—e.g., “The Benefits of Fantasy in the Work Place, or ‘No One Seems to Realize That Adrian Peterson Isn’t a Parishioner.’ ” Berry's fantasy advice columns on ESPN.com and his ESPN on-air work are flat-out enjoyable, so his many fans may be disappointed with this earnest yet tepid effort, which makes it clear that fantasy sports commentary is best left for the online world.
Berry gave it the old college try, but the ultimate fantasy sports book has yet to be written—then again, it's possible that such an entity is a pipe dream.