Life Imitates Baseball


All I really need to know I learned in my fantasy league.

This summer, like any other socially conscious Harvardian looking to impress fellow interns and future employers, I decided to embrace my inner gangster by finding the “dopest” activity capable of fulfilling my SPQ (Summer Procrastination Quota).

In retrospect, I probably didn’t do a very good job.

But I could care less, because I’m currently in the midst of a cutthroat battle for first (first!) place in my fantasy baseball league.

It’s okay, you don’t need to tell me how cool I am. I know. I’ve known since canceling on that cute girl because I needed time to make a crucial substitution to my starting lineup.

Yet, what I’ve lost in cool points, I’ve certainly made up in knowledge points (wow, bet you can’t sound cooler than me right now), for I’ve come to realize how useful my experience with fantasy baseball would have been during my freshman year.

So I thought I’d share what I’ve learned, both in fantasy baseball and Harvard, in hopes that some freshman reading this will learn to be cooler than I was freshman year.

Shouldn’t be too hard.

It’s All in the Draft

The biggest mistake you can make in fantasy baseball is to let the computer-generated ranking system dictate the order in which you select your players. It’s all too scientific and based on too many unreliable statistics. Case in point: Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton (.248 batting average, 8 home runs, and 35 runs batted in) was ranked ahead of Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira (.286 batting average, 29 home runs, 84 runs batted in) by Yahoo Sport’s supposedly fancy, immaculate ranking system. For those baseball-illiterate trying to appreciate such injustice, imagine placing the current Britney Spears ahead of the current Megan Fox in every humanely known evaluation of beauty.

That said, take every preconception you have about people at Harvard, and throw it out the window. Your experience will be much more memorable and fun if you approach every social interaction without preconceived notions. Don’t be surprised when the guy urinating on the “special statue” ends up becoming the smartest guy in your math class or if the girl you first see (and I mean, really see) during Primal Scream becomes the perfect girlfriend. An open mind will really go a long way. Though always remember: a sketchy freshman dance party in the dark is still a sketchy freshman dance party in the dark.

Get in a Routine

Fantasy baseball is a daily event, and success is impossible if you don’t make it a part of your daily routine. Opportunities to pick up a recently-dropped and under-performing all-star are readily available and can be steals – that is, if you come across the information first. Behind their computer screen, the majority of players are fanatic vultures – often combining the admirable ways of Wall Street brokers and extreme Jonas Brothers fans. So in this case, it’s true what they say: If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

Life at Harvard is the same way, but probably not in the way you think. Competition isn’t suffocating by any means, and it’s simply not true that you’re doing yourself an academic service by passing out (sober) in the library on a daily basis. In fact, I’d argue that the happiest and most successful Harvardians are the ones that get their daily seven hours of sleep (nightly physical intimacy not withstanding), never miss a meal, and know when to relax and have fun. Being consistent is not enough – you’ll need to be consistently smart with the choices you make here.

Find All-Stars, and Stick with Them

Just as producers know a movie starring Will Smith will likely generate a blockbuster, people playing fantasy baseball know that certain All-Stars like Albert Pujols and Ichiro almost always contribute. Sure, Albert might go into a mini-slump every once in awhile and Will Smith might make another Wild Wild West, but it borders on stupidity to drop one of your preeminent players simply because they’ve had an off-week.

When it comes to making friends at Harvard, take the same approach. Quality is much more rewarding than quantity, but more importantly, when you’ve found those five or ten amazing friends, don’t give up on them – even when you experience weeks where that close dynamic simply isn’t there. For every scheduled dinner they ditch, close friends will take notes for you when you’re too sick to go to class, wake you up for an exam when you’ve overslept, and carry you to bed when you can’t tell the difference between a toilet and your date. Now, you can’t put a price on that.

Nor can you put a price on having a great first year at Harvard. Best of luck, freshman!

Hao Meng ’11 (haomeng@fas) isn’t that bad; he only cancels on girls once every five years.