Ilan Mochari
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BlogSeptember-October, 2011
A Fantasy Retirement

Football season began September 8. For more than 20 million Americans, that’s when fantasy football began too.

Not for me. I’m sitting out this year’s fantasy action.

In my self-parody, I’m not just sitting out – I’m sitting at a banquet table. My lips are inches from a padded microphone. Reporters are in the audience, awaiting my first words. I sip from a bottle of spring water, clear my throat, and begin my emotional announcement: I’m retiring from fantasy sports, after 16 decorated seasons of play. I want to thank ESPN, Yahoo!, and all the friends and relatives who’ve made it possible.

Football, baseball, basketball, hockey: I’ve played them all. And I’ve won them all. I’ve even been a bona fide “expert,” analyzing athletes for web sites and magazines targeting the fantasy sports community. Yup: I’ve actually been paid to write about fantasy sports.

But the time has come to step down. After all, I’m 36 years old. And this is a younger man’s game.

Will I be tempted to un-retire? Sure. But I’m going to stay strong. I’m not going to be some fantasy Favre, retiring and un-retiring at a moment’s notice.

There was a time when fantasy sports were my favorite escape. Tinkering with my lineups helped me get through work on Mondays. Preparing for drafts gave me something fun to do whenever real life struck with illnesses or heartbreaks.

But that time is over. Somewhere along the line, fantasy began to feel like work. Why was I spending any more sedentary time on a computer than I needed to? Fantasy also encroached on my enjoyment of actual sports: I was obsessing over stats and schedules and injury reports, instead of just sitting back and savoring the action.

You’d be right to wonder: Why now, at age 36, did all of this begin to bother me? Weren’t the statistical obsessions and computer overtime annoying at age 26?

Yes and no. When I was 26, there was no Facebook, no Twitter, no LinkedIn, no Pandora, no iTunes, no YouTube. There were no smart phones. Not everyone had Internet access at home. If you were online, it usually meant you were at work – and you were goofing off.

Today, we’re online most of the time. I can’t handle that. For four or five hours each day, I need to be unreachable: disconnected from the world and solitary. That’s how I write. That’s how I exercise. That’s how I breathe. That’s how I live. It was easier to live that way 10 years ago, when leaving work meant leaving the world of Internet connectivity. But in 2011, there’s almost no escape – unless you make one for yourself. And that’s the biggest reason for my retirement.

As for my waning interest in sports stats: call it a shift in priorities. When I was 26, I didn’t mind spending all day delving into batting averages and rushing yards and goals scored and blocked shots. But as the years passed, I wasn’t achieving what I wanted in my writing career. I simply realized: Time spent on sports could be time spent on prose. Producing it. Polishing it. Marketing it. Who was I to lament my unpublished novel –about a literary man with a sports obsession – and dozens of unpublished short stories, if I still spent a preponderance of my free time in fantasy land?

So, this summer, in the midst of four baseball leagues – in first place in two of them – I announced my retirement on message boards to my fantasy colleagues. E-mails came pouring in: “Everything okay?” “Let’s grab a beer soon.” I reassured my peers: Everything was fine. I just wasn’t having fun anymore. I needed to spend less time on the computer. And at age 36, I felt I had to focus on one labor of love – and it was fiction outdueling fantasy after a fierce, 16-year battle.

Two weeks after this announcement, I learned a publisher had accepted my novel. Now, whether the timing was coincidental or the work of cosmic forces is anyone’s guess. But I couldn’t help but think a few stars were finally aligning my way.


Ilan Mochari is the author of the novel Zinsky the Obscure (Fomite Press, 2012). His short stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Keyhole, Stymie, Ruthie's Club and Oysters & Chocolate.
In 2009, he received a Literature Artist Fellowship grant from the Somerville Arts Council. He is a former staff writer for Inc, and he has also written for Fortune Small Business and CFO. He has a B.A. in English from Yale University.

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Ilan Mochari