As you can tell, I like playing games. And while losing can be fun, I’m really fond of winning. However, if I lose every board game for a year, but win Dove Hunting, my annual fantasy baseball league, I’d be okay with it
I started Dove Hunting in my freshman year of college. I played in a different league in high school, but it didn’t survive the diaspora of graduation. Dove Hunting was named after a pitch by Randy Johnson, a 6-10 left-handed behemoth, that exploded an unfortunate dove which flew into the pitch’s path. The league started with nine members in its rookie year and has hovered between 11-13 since.
One of the things that makes the league unique is an all-day online auction draft in March. The draft is an absolute pain to schedule and is by far the most stressful part of running the league. We always get through it, but some years have been dicey.
This year’s draft started twenty minutes late as a couple of members had technical difficulties which resulted in a near mutiny before we even began. The draft featured about 400 Trump jokes, a dozen “Dammit Joel’s”, significant lagging issues, and a participant storming off in anger over a near meaningless commissioner decision. It ended nearly eight and half hours after it began with a tired, hungry and irritable crew. All and all it was a pretty smooth year.
Of course with these things, a league is only as a good as its members. Despite being a rather active league, there has been a good deal turnover over the years. New people join, veterans leave, and others come and go as their schedule allows. Only two others have participated in all 15 previous drafts.
One them is Alex, one of the kindest, gentlest, persons you will ever meet. His team has virtually always been named Jose Mesa, a bit of nostalgia that I doubt either of us fully understands. When, after years of being runner-up, he finally won a title last year, everyone was happy for him.
Then there is Deryl. There are others in the league that bring out my competiveness. There is my childhood friend who I’ve been trying to beat at everything , since the 7th grade. Relatives whose success I have to hear about more than I like. However, if there is nothing I care about winning more than fantasy baseball, then there is no one I care about beating more than Deryl.
It isn’t that Deryl wins, has been the most successful member in league history, or that he has won 6 titles where I have squeezed out only two victories over him, each requiring the season’s final day. No, I can accept losing. When Alex finally won with strong keepers and logical moves, I understood it. Deryl drafts irrationally, erratically and not exactly sober, vastly overpaying for mostly local or young guys he has fallen for. He gets obsessed with his guys and gives up on then a week later after a poor stretch. He is overly emotional, berating and praising other league members as he tries to work out deals. He breaks every rule of how one should run a team. I have no idea how he beats me and everyone else, and yet he has done it over and over again.
Unsurprisingly, Deryl is as competitive as me, and really enjoys beating me too. We can’t make trades with each other, since we both think the other has a secret ploy. I consider Deryl my greatest rival, so it may surprise you that we have never met. Deryl and I met playing Overpower, a ccg, online. When I started Dove Hunting, I asked him to join. It isn’t that I haven’t tried to see him. We were supposed to meet at comic con, but his plans fell through. When my family visited Oakland and San Francisco, I reached out to him about meeting up or seeing a game, but it never quite worked out. I’ll be honest though, I never tried too hard. The imagine of our two decade long rivalry is a hard thing to live up to, and I’m not sure I want to handle the shock of an actual face-to-face meeting. I think I’m good with Deryl being that elusive alter-ego, always challenging me to bring my best.