A lesson from an old teacher

Pictou Advocate sports

I’ve had good reason to know David F. Scott all my life. He and my sister Barbara were born on the same day, in the same year, at the old Aberdeen Hospital on Stellarton Road. Through all these years, I’ve repeatedly reminded them that they were roommates way back when.

I was three years older, so I advanced through the New Glasgow school system before Dave and I became close friends. Not long after I got into newspapers and he began teaching, we became pals. It’s been a wonderful friendship for over 60 years.

We got into baseball in different capacities, we bowled together, we were interested in anything about sports really. We had a lot of things in common, including double-dating two Aberdeen School of Nursing roommates on the same evening. Those nurses would later become our wives.

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No real surprise, we became fantasy sports opponents almost two decades ago, in baseball and hockey. Even in retirement, we’re still fanatical. Oh, we seldom win, but the fun is there nonetheless.

Don’t know about fantasy sports?

To best explain it, take numbers available on the internet. Fantasy sports have become big business in Canada and the United States. One figure that caught my eye recently was that, by 2020, it’s estimated entry fees will generate over $14-billion. In layman’s terms, that’s big business.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, however, it’s a small and very different business where Dave and I apply our knowledge. A case in point: the fantasy league in which we compete has a total prize purse of only $650.

But enthusiasm — and the right to brag of one’s knowledge of the game — is much more important than the possible winnings. When the fantasy bug bites, it affects you for life.

For a $50 entry fee — for six months of utter enjoyment — we spend countless hours setting our lineups each day, making trade offers, picking up players from the waiver wire, watching our teams like real general managers.

Pretty good for 50 bucks. Even if you lose, that’s just $2 a week for six months of entertainment.

And, boy, do we ever want our guys to perform! There’s nothing better than to rise in the standings and look down at opponents.

Unfortunately, I spend much of my time in the lower echelon of team rankings. It’s been that way every year, in baseball in the summer, in hockey in the winters.

My key rival — make no mistake — is Dave. We’ve been in this thing together for more than 50 years. Before fantasy ever began, we arranged short lists of players from our favourite teams and wagered enough money to get at least a couple hamburgers. In those days, in the 1960s, Johnny Young, another teacher, made our bet a three-way battle.

I’ve written about fantasy leagues for years. Usually I talk about my own results. This time, though, I’m focusing on, yes, Dave. His club, White Lightning, has earned my attention.

Three-quarters into the season, his club has performed like none in the past. He has spent the entire time — except for one single day a couple weeks ago — in first place. As I write this, he’s a runaway leader in the standings. It’s total domination.

The old teacher — in retirement in New Glasgow after a career in classrooms in Stellarton and New Glasgow — is teaching me a thing or two about how to perform.

For years, I’ve teased him in my column about the mid-1960s when I presided over the Stellarton Keiths in the Twilight Senior Baseball League and he was a pitcher. A left-handed one. I repeatedly reminded him of the game in Stellarton when he walked 13 batters — in one inning. What a huge number. But now, I admit I was exaggerating somewhat. He only walked 11 batters.

All these years later, he can rub it in with me.

Whether you call it mathematics, arithmetic or just plain statistics, his White Lightning club is first, while my entry, The Jay Team, resides in 12th place — just one rung from the cellar.

To put it into numbers, as I write this, Dave has 7,824 points — a healthy lead of more than 400 points over his closest pursuer. I can’t see any team beating him.

The Jay Team? To my embarrassment, it has only 6,383 fantasy points — a ridiculous 1,441 points behind Dave. The teacher is definitely at the front of the class.

I confess there’s a lesson there for me.

Dave and I guild our lineups in entirely different ways. In the pre-season draft, and during the season, he gets players no matter where they play, no matter who they are. In sharp contrast, I obtain as many Toronto Blue Jays as I can, while adding several New York Yankees (my team in the old pre-Jays era).

As Dave has told me many times, “You have too many Blue Jays.” In winter, he’s always revising the advice, “You have too many Maple Leafs.”

Another thing: Before the trade deadline, I made 10 deals, the most in our league. Dave made absolutely none. Which of those tactics works best? Painfully to admit, the evidence suggests — as Dave says — “You make too many trades.”

Is the teacher right?

Maybe so. His 2017 performance offers loads of evidence that he knows what he’s doing.

Have I learned my lesson? I might have.

Is it time to abandon my worn-out strategy of picking as many Jays as I can get and, in winter, as many Leafs as I can grab?

I’m not so sure.

I’ve been too much a Jay since Major League Baseball came north, too much a Leaf for 70 years.

Meanwhile, I must write 100 times on the blackboard, “Congratulations, Teacher, you have taught me a lesson.”