24 is on tonight, and I’ll watch it because I think the show is a bit of a razz and because I participate in the 24 Death Pool at work. I like the Death Pool because it reminds me of the way fantasy sports leagues used to be.
Years ago I belonged to lots of “fantasy” sports leagues at the office — we had them for American League baseball, National League baseball, the NFL, and the NBA — but over time I stopped doing all of them. Why? Because the leagues got boring.
Initially, people didn’t pay much attention to winning or losing the fantasy leagues. Instead, the leagues were mostly an excuse to get together, drink a few beers, and ridicule the draft choices made by opposing team owners, and then engage in trash-talking during the season as teams thrived or faded. Team names were picked to be offensive. One year, our NFL fantasy league team was named “Sphincter Lick” (which also would be a good name for a band) in honor of two other team owners who were in their “bell lap” year before partnership. But then people started to take the leagues very seriously indeed. First, team owners began to bring magazines that they could flip through during the draft to aid in their selections, and then they started to bring spreadsheets with reams of statistics. I knew that, for me, the end of the line had come when I went to a draft and I was the only one who had a beer while everyone else drank iced teas and stressed out about their picks; that draft was quiet as the tomb and after the draft everyone shuttled out, without nary a post mortem critique. What is the fun in that?
I dropped my last fantasy league franchise about 15 years ago, and I think things have only gotten worse since then. Corporations have figured out that motivated fantasy league owners will pay to have better results, and now you can subscribe to multiple services that help you as you draft your team and manage it through the season. Seems like more of a job than a fantasy!
On the 24 Death Pool, there are no such options. There are no magazines, or statistics, or corporate services that will help you figure out which of the hapless characters on the show are going to get shot, stabbed, or blown up by Jack Bauer, bad guys, moles, or a combination of the above. As a result, the 24 Death Pool is like a fantasy league reduced to its true essence: a chance to drink beer, have some fun, and have something to talk about on Tuesdays. Everyone needs something like that.