Silly Little Game (2010) Movie Script

[crowd cheers and chants indistinctly]
[lively percussive music]
The next one is "Last
season, the Intrepid owners".
[Cameraman] No, we don't need that.
The next one is "The origins
of the Rotisserie League
were auspicious enough".
-[cameraman] That's actually-
-And yeah, that's me.
I could, I recognize the
sentence immediately.
I mean, it's amazing.
I mean, the styles are very
distinct. Read the whole thing?
[cameraman] Yes.
[Okrent] The origins of
the Rotisserie League
were inauspicious enough.
You could say we had
been preparing for this
ever since our prepubescent
days, collecting baseball cards,
playing two-man stick
ball while doing
an eight year old's
version of play-by-play.
For us, it wasn't enough
just to watch baseball
or to study it in
the box scores.
We all wished in some
way to possess it,
to control it, but
lacking 20 million bucks
and a pair of plaid pants,
we were clearly never going
to own a major league club,
unless we invented
our own major league.
Ten, tenth and one.
-Eleventh and twelve.
The word fantasy is used today
to describe this activity.
There was no fantasy
about any of this to us.
It was our little
sport, our little game.
[man] The single most
impressive thing about all
of this is that we've
created a $2 billion industry
and none of us actually
made any money off this.
[men laugh]
I am a God in the eyes
of the kids who went
to high school with my kids.
Not because of anything
that I've done,
but because, "Did you know
that Ned's dad was one
of the inventors of
fantasy baseball?"
I was interviewed by
the Wall Street Journal
in the mid nineties.
He asked me how I felt having
invented this phenomenon.
I said that I now knew
what Jay Robert Oppenheimer
felt like having
invented the atomic bomb.
[rock music]
[Man] Robinson Pinot, one dollar.
Brian Kelly, six dollars.
I'm a self-admitted
fantasy sports addict.
Fantasy football!
This is my son, Jack
and Jack will soon
be a future fantasy
sports person, huh, Jack?
[woman] Up salary, okay,
so the Eagles now at 106.
We make your NFL
fantasies come true
right here on NFL
Live Fantasy Five.
-Hey, fantasy sports girls Casey...
-And Jackie.
As we get closer to
the NBA All-Star break,
fantasy seasons
are in full swing.
From a fantasy perspective,
I think there's
going to struggle.
[rock guitar solo]
[woman 2] Can you just tell me
how this whole thing got started?
Uh, it started out
of desperation and pyschosis, I think.
Winter of 1979, 1980, and
I was missing baseball
and this sort of came to me in
a dream like an opium dream.
[mystical music]
[man snores]
[Dan] I had a really empty
life in those years.
I was self-employed
living in the country.
It was before we had kids.
It was before there
was an Internet.
There were a lot of
long and lonely hours
on those cold New
England winter nights
when the sun goes
down, you know,
about an hour after it comes up
and, I don't know, I
was missing baseball
and thinking about baseball.
I'm a serial obsessive.
I get interested in something
and I really get
interested in it.
Baseball has been
one of those parts
of my serial obsessions
that keeps popping up
because of the numbers,
because of the details,
because every act in
baseball is recorded.
[electronic music]
The game as we know it can
be recreated from numbers.
So I took these
numbers and I put them
into the framework of a
game that would enable me
to compete with my
friends and show
that I knew more about
baseball than they do.
I wrote up a kind of a
pitch with the basic rules.
What the idea was
we'll pick players,
we'll have an auction for them,
you'll have to have them
at certain positions
and then we'll follow
the statistics.
So whoever scores the
highest in various categories
will get points,
yadada, yadada, yadada,
the team that has
the highest number
of points wins the
pennant, and handed it out
to a bunch of friends with
whom I had periodic lunches
in New York at a
lousy restaurant
called La Rotisserie Francaise.
[upbeat French music]
[young Bruce] Why do we choose
to come to this restaurant?
Are we trying to find the worst
restaurant in New York City?
I think that we all have a hidden agenda
to kill ourselves.
-That's why.
Oh, that was poorly
timed on my part.
[Lee] The majority of us seem
to be Phillies fans
and we sat around
this, you know,
now defunct East Side
French restaurant.
And what we really did
was talk about baseball.
Yeah, they would obsess
about Greg Luzinski
for the first 10
minutes of lunch.
-Last night.
-The Bull!
-Greg Luzinski!
-Did you see that?
It was amazing!
And then we would
talk about baseball.
Larry Bowa is a golden God.
-Absolutely, he is.
You know what I'm going to do?
I'm going to get a boa constrictor,
I'm gonna name him Larry.
I'm gonna name my
daughter Mike Schmidt.
Mike Schmidt Eisenberg,
you can write that down.
Dan would probably
say that he came
to the table at La
Rotisserie with this sort
of immaculate
conception of a game
called the Rotisserie
League just sprang
from his rib and boom,
thus, creation occurred.
You want to play a game?
[intense music]
The basic idea is
this, we put together
an imaginary
baseball team filled
with real ball players.
[crowd cheers]
Mike Schmidt, Larry Bowa, they can both
be yours if you want them!
We each pick 14
major league hitters
and nine major league pitchers.
We do it like an auction at
the beginning of the season.
Then, we intently follow
their stats over the course
of the year for
hitters, home runs,
RBI's, batting averages, steals.
For pitchers, ERA, wins, saves,
and something I
invented called WH/IP,
which is walks and hits
over innings pitched.
Then, the team
with the best stats
at the end of the year wins.
[crowd cheers]
Do you see what I see, gentlemen?
All you do is brag about
your baseball knowledge.
I'm giving you an
opportunity to use it.
Are you too afraid?
You sit here, munching
on rotisserie chicken,
when I offer you Ambrosia of
the Gods: Rotisserie Baseball.
[electronic music]
I don't quite
remember it that way.
I do remember Dan
coming to the table
with a pretty good notion
of what this game would be.
We'd have 25 players.
We'd assign them by position.
We'd have a certain amount
of money to spend and so on.
People don't understand,
they think he made up
these rules arbitrarily,
but he actually sat down
with a baseball almanac
and he said, "I'm
going to figure out
the eight characteristics
of a great team"
and he looked at every
available baseball statistic
and he actually invented
a new baseball
statistic called WH/IP.
You know, much as
Abner Doubleday
got baseball right
the first time
with the 90 feet between
bases and everything else,
those guys who sat
down at that restaurant
created something fairly perfect
and gave us something that was,
you know, instantly fun
and instantly recognizable
and instantly challenging.
One question, how
do we get started?
Well, we find everybody we know
that likes baseball
as much as we do.
From that point, we had
to recruit more players.
We needed to fill it out.
Each of us tried to bring in
other friends who
were baseball fans.
There I was associate
publisher of Ms. Magazine.
In my office, about 11:30 in
the morning, my phone rings.
"Valerie, this is Dan Okrent.
Can you meet Lee Eisenberg and me?
We're having a drink
and we would like
to talk to you about something called
Rotisserie League Baseball.
And I said, "What the hell is
Rotisserie League Baseball?"
He said, "We can't
discuss it over the phone
in case your phone is tapped".
So I said, "I'll be
there in 10 minutes".
I meet Lee Eisenberg
and, of course, Dan.
[heels tap]
[slow music]
He started off by saying,
"Valerie, do you like games?"
I said, "As a matter of fact,
I hate games. What, monopoly?"
And he said, "No, no, no, no".
I'm talking about
a baseball game.
A baseball game that's
better than actual baseball.
These two lunatics,
drinking at 11:30
in the morning, telling me-
We auction off players
and follow their stats.
-Okay, I don't understand.
-You will!
Now tell us: Where
are you on the night
that Pete Rose got
his 3000th career hit?
What's an expo?
Nobody knows.
And I kept correcting
them, saying, "No, no, no.
You don't understand,
American League".
American League,
not National League!
Ask me any question you want
about the American League.
Listen to me right now, Valerie.
This is National League only.
If you can't handle the heat,
get out from behind the plate.
-[glass shatters]
-[cat yowls]
What does Schmidt
translate to in English?
What's Templeton's jersey size?
[glass breaks]
Hey, we only have so
many coffee cups, okay?
And I was sweating,
and I was sweating
because I was really nervous
but then I was trying
to figure out how
not to appear nervous
and intimidated by these guys.
So I just said to
myself, "Valerie, you will do just fine."
Now why would we want you here?
I said because I
will learn everything
I need to know-
About the National League
by the time of the draft.
Valerie. You're in.
But just so you know, it's
only because we needed a girl.
Yes, they both admitted
that day they were looking
for the lone female.
So I figured I had
some competition,
which I probably did,
but they hired me.
I mean, they asked me and
invited me into the League.
So, [mocking noise] I won!
-[Valerie laughs]
-[upbeat music]
Each in his or her
way contributed
to this sort of odd chemistry
of this strange group of people.
At some point, Lee
came to me and said.
"We're putting
together this thing
and it's kind of
hard to explain.
It's a really fun game
involving baseball
and some-- to some extent gambling
on your baseball knowledge
and do you want to play?"
And I called Bruce,
Lee and I both,
we were in business together.
Bruce said, "yes".
Dan of course is
a great salesman
and he convinced me that
I should be part of it.
I worked at Columbia University
in a dead end job in the
central administration.
Then I discovered a
problem that the buy-in
for this thing that later became
Rotisserie League Baseball
was 250 bucks.
Glen didn't think
he could afford $250
and he met this guy
named Peter Gethers
that he didn't know before.
We put in 125 bucks each
and decided to be partners
and then we met with
Okrent and Eisenberg
and, you know, the
rest of the losers
who are starting this thing
and then that was that.
[upbeat electronic music]
This new adventure
absorbed every waking hour,
as I tried and Peter tried
to learn everything
we possibly could
about Major League Baseball.
-I wasn't one for Schmidt.
I thought and I think he thought
that we, yeah, God, we
knew baseball inside out.
Not so!
We discovered
that we didn't know
the full 25 man rosters.
We discovered that
we didn't know
their top Minor League players.
The way in which I prepared
was really studying their stats.
That was the first criteria
but the second criteria
was what they looked like.
How many had really,
really dark brown eyes
and how many had blue eyes?
And then what they
had in the back.
[Dan] I just studied
for endless hours,
made charts, used up huge
stacks of graph paper,
did the other nerdy,
obsessive things
that I am likely to do.
[Glen] I thought it was a diversion.
I didn't know it was going
to take over my life.
[upbeat rock music]
[upbeat piano music]
[Sam] They call them the
founding fathers
in kind of a joking way.
Those guys sitting
around at that table
in New York having
this first draft,
it's akin to what the
founding fathers did
with the Constitution.
It was a seismic moment in
the history of baseball.
[Dan] We, the people
of the Rotisserie League,
in order to spin a
more perfect game,
kiss domestic
tranquility goodbye.
[Lee] And secure the blessing
of puberty to ourselves,
and those we left on base.
[Bruce] Do establish
this Constitution.
[Valerie] And hereby finish
this run-on sentence.
"Our object shall be
to assemble a lineup..."
"...of 23 National League
Baseball players..."
"...whose cumulative statistics..."
"...exceed those of all other
teams in the league."
"Forget Thanksgiving,
Christmas, and New Year's."
"Skip your birthday."
"Hire someone else to
remember Mother's Day."
"And your wedding anniversary."
[Dan] From now on, Draft Day is
the single most important
day of your life.
We were all really unprepared.
We didn't know what
you needed to know.
So somebody says, "I'll bet
a dollar for Mike Schmidt".
[Dan clears throat]
I bid a dollar for Mike Schmidt.
And then we begin by
moving around the table
in a clockwise direction.
I bid $2.
I bid $2.
-I pass.
-I pass.
I don't know, [mumbles] calculator.
[Okrent mumbles]
You, wait. I just said that.
-I just said-
-$4, I'll say!
I'll do, I'll do six.
Can we slow down?
[Bruce] I tried to fake
my way through it,
but mostly by
keeping my mouth shut
because every time I talked
I looked like an idiot.
They had sheets of, you know,
"Baseball Guide"
going back three years
and all this stuff and just
spouting this stat jazz.
4.7 ERA, ain't no
good for me or you.
.349, two stolen bases,
come around the bend,
lots of home runs.
Lay it down, stat jazz.
Stat jazz!
It's totally nerve wracking
'cause you know you're
going to screw up.
There's... there's
no one who sticks
to their strategy perfectly.
-All right.
-Here we go.
$12 to the Goners, going once,
-going twice, to the Goners-
-[men gasp]
[intense percussion]
Going once, going twice,
sold. Mike Schmidt for $26.
We didn't know where the
$26 was a lot or a little.
-Babe Ruth isn't worth $26!
-You can build it.
If the same draft
had taken place
after we had played for a year,
Schmidt would've gone for $40.
That was a great bargain.
There was all this sort
of poker table kind
of banter going on and
people laughing at, uh...
Louis Aguayo.
[men laugh]
[man groans]
The thing I remember
the most was drafting,
the first draft day, Neil Allen,
a relief pitcher for the Mets
for $2 and Glen whispering-
Who is Neil Allen?
And I say to him,
"He is going to save
our team. Don't worry."
But I didn't want to tell him,
I had also never
heard of Neil Allen.
-[crowd cheers]
-[microphone feedback]
-My name is Glen...
-I'm Peter Gethers...
And we are the co-owners of
the Gethers Wagoners.
We are not going to
be Goners this year.
-Absolutely not.
-Because of this guy, because of-
-Ned Allen.
-Neil Allen.
-Neil Allen.
I thought the draft was
going to be so much fun.
Lighthearted, you
know, filled with a lot
of chuckles and jokes.
It was none of those things.
It was one of the
worst days of my life.
It was so tough.
They were so serious.
They were such killers.
[Lee] It was an incredibly tense time.
There wasn't a draft
that I ever left,
that we didn't have a
really serious headache.
[Rob] As well as things that you have
this awful
anticipation going in.
You're scared and
early on, I would say,
"You know, it's like having
sex for the first time.
You don't know
what you're doing,
but you know something's
about to happen
and then it happens
and it's just like,
"Oh, yeah, this was this
wasn't on some levels,
wasn't exactly what I expected
but I'm coming back for more."
That was the single greatest
day of my adult life.
[Alan Schwarz] Fans have always
wanted a connection
to baseball beyond
going to the game,
listening to it on the radio,
or reading it in the newspaper.
They wanted to
watch it come alive
in their own bedrooms or
their own living rooms
or their own basements.
This has happened throughout
baseball's history.
[upbeat music]
[Dan] When I was an
undergraduate at Michigan
there was a professor
named William Gamson,
who played a game called
the baseball seminar
where you bet on who would
have the most home runs
in the course of a season.
It was cuneiform compared
to what Rotisserie and
Fantasy League became.
It was very, very early.
[Alan] Dan Okrent came along, though,
and he took it to a
completely different level.
The idea that they could
have their own teams
and make their own trades
and pay their own players
and prove who was the
smartest fan in the room,
that had never been
possible before.
[crowd cheers]
Within seconds, I no
longer had a favorite team
and only rooted
for my own players.
[Valerie] The Salembier Flambes,
my baseball team.
It was like dying
and going to heaven.
[crowd cheers]
[Rob] It put you in touch
with baseball,
on truth be told in
a level of obsession
because of your own, your
stake in forming this team
that I don't think
anybody anticipated.
I sure didn't.
In my serial obsessions,
this was the deepest
that I had or have
ever been in baseball.
-[typewriter clicks]
-[indistinct radio playing]
[electronic warbling]
[crowd cheers]
Once the baseball season starts,
every day,
I've got something waiting for me
and that's, how
do my guys stand?
How do I stand?
-[stats crack]
-[crowd cheers]
You are watching how your players
are doing throughout the league,
you're getting to know
other teams extremely well,
getting to know baseball better
and I think that this is
the one major positive thing
about Rotisserie Baseball,
fans became better baseball
fans because of it.
Reality, unreality,
no, no, they were,
our teams were ultra real.
There were a cohesive unit
loyal to the Goner management.
-Yes, yes, yes!
-Go, go!
Hey, great, Nick. Thanks for
being on the Fladermice.
Would you like an orange slice?
Hey, seriously though,
I want, okay. Whoops!
Come on! Yes, yes, yes!
Go, go, go, go, go!
-Yes, yes!
-[upbeat percussion]
-[Valerie cheers]
The box scores became
like reading Torah
for a rabbinical scholar.
It became going
line by line by line
and obsessive, [mumbles],
0 for four, 0 for four.
Remember this is 1980, pre-computer.
It's like the Stone Age, you know?
We had pen and paper.
We would just keep track
of what our guys did
and keep our own statistic.
Calculator, ledger
sheets, and a pencil.
Each team would be ranked
in eight different
statistical categories.
Batting average, home
runs, RBIs, stolen bases,
earn run average, walks and
hits per innings pitched,
wins, and saves, and
I would do the math,
add up the columns and
create the standings
and then distribute them
to everybody in the league.
A couple of us who
worked in offices,
we could actually get
our stats via fax.
That was like a huge
technological breakthrough.
[Dan] It got much, much worse when
I began to do daily stats
and I did that simply out
of personal obsession.
It was awful.
It wasn't awful. I loved it.
My obsession with it had more
to do with the
levels of the game,
with the strategy of
how to make a trade,
spending really,
really long content
but somewhat stressful
hours thinking about trades.
We can make something
happened here.
You need pitching.
I need hitting.
This is easy. I don't
need Bob Stanley.
You can have Bob Stanley.
Just give it to me. Come on!
I was notoriously both
the most active trader
and, even more notoriously,
the most aggressive
and vilified trader.
Eisenberg was pure unadulterated
evil. He is human scum.
I hope that's, that's
not too harsh, is it?
He was a swine.
Lee was a swine.
-[country music]
-[phone rings]
Come on, Bruce, pick up. Come on!
-The is Bruce.
-Bruce, it's Lee.
[Lee] I remember a trade
with Bruce McCall,
but it was a one for one trade
but Bruce was very
reluctant to make the trade.
All right. Thanks, Lee.
Thanks for wasting my time.
I'll talk to you later.
You don't need to care
about this anymore anyway.
You haven't paid
attention to your team
in weeks and you know it.
He was so relentlessly obnoxious.
I mean, he would
not let you alone.
He was always nudging
you and needling you
and huddling you
and just to shut up!
"Yes, I'll make the trade!"
I'm doing you a favor.
I can't believe
you're arguing this.
[Lee] And I then did something that,
I guess I'm both proud
of and deeply ashamed of.
I said, "If you make this trade,
I will buy you a new dress shirt".
[intense country music]
You're going to give me a shirt
in exchange for Bill Buckner?
Yeah. Stop being such
a wimp, just do this!
It had never been stipulated
that you couldn't include
real cash or goods in a trade.
So I felt compelled to offer it
and he felt
compelled to take it.
It's gonna look great on you.
-Thank you.
-All right, great.
That's a good trade right there.
-All right, see ya.
That idiot, you're like, the
best player in the league.
This seals it for me! It's
not even a real silk shirt.
Whoo, he's crazy!
I would've given him four
Bill Buckners for this baby.
This is nice.
I mean, psychologically, it's
a little pathetic, right?
They think they own these
people and they're pretend.
It's a pretend game.
She was the one who
fielded the calls
from all these people calling
to make trades at all hours.
You can imagine how it would
put a certain strain
on a relationship.
They turned into
cartoons of themselves.
These are se- these
were serious editors.
I mean, they were putting
out serious magazines
and they, you know,
the best years
of their lives were
spent calculating
how they could pretend to
buy someone for a dollar.
You know, it's just-
In 1980, I would get up.
I would study the newspapers
for 45 minutes
checking box scores.
I'd work probably from
about 11:30 to 11:45
and then basically start plotting
more trades for the rest of the day.
Rotisserie Baseball took
over my life completely.
It was, it was scary.
[indistinct crowd chattering]
[upbeat music]
-[baseball cracks]
-[audience cheers]
[Dan] You know, one of the
things that happened,
and this continued to happen
and still happens in Rotisserie
leagues all over the place.
A player that you've
never heard of who is,
you know, the third
guy in a bullpen
and, you know, you
buy them for $2
and they end up being worth $40.
Not because somebody
knew something
about Neil Allen but
somebody got damn lucky.
[crowd cheers]
Ned Allen.
-Neil Allen.
-Neil Allen.
That's incredible.
[Glen] Neil Allen wasn't
even the designated closer
for the Mets at the
beginning of the year.
-Oh my!
-Oh, my God!
-Did you see that?
He was a throwaway.
He was two bucks.
And in fact, he turned
out to be the closer
for the Mets and completely
gave us the pennant that year
'cause he had, I don't
know how many saves,
but 30 saves or something.
Neil, come here!
Neil, Neil, come here!
-Here you go, buddy.
-You got it!
-Go, go, go, go, go!
-Go, go, go, go, go!
-[glass shatters]
-[both] Goners!
Well done!
[Peter] There's no question.
We had no idea what we were doing.
So to beat guys who we
all thought were smarter
than we were, it was
probably the greatest feeling
of my entire life sadly enough.
[men cheer]
It is a great day to be a Goner!
Thank you!
I would like to thank
this Goner right here.
To everyone who's stuck
with is from the beginning!
I have in my hand the
most valuable possession
in baseball, the Wiggy Cup.
The Wiggy Cup,
beginning in 1980,
was given to the winner
of the Rotisserie League of that year.
1980, Getherswag Goners,
round of applause, please.
They won. We had a party.
They wore black tie
and it culminated
in the pouring of a bottle
of Yoo-Hoo over the head
of the pennant winner.
That became the tradition.
[Peter] It was like winning the pennant.
It was as close as you can get
to when you go
inside a clubhouse
and you're seeing
people pouring champagne
over people's heads.
They could not have been any
more thrilled than we were.
And there's no better
feeling in this world
than to have his sticky cold
substance poured on your head,
running down over your cheeks.
[Peter] A defining moment for any
young man comparable to,
you know, to a bar
mitzvah I would guess.
I've never been so proud to
be sticky in my entire life.
Well, maybe twice, but
that's another story.
[Dan] Well, I couldn't
figure out why it was
that they did better than I did
when I was the one who
A, invented the game
and B, presumably knew
more about baseball,
and C, certainly spent more
time on it than anybody else.
Poor Dan, I mean,
he invented the game
and he was a failure.
[water drops tap]
[Sam] I think what you
have to remember is
that when they did this, it
was incredibly subversive
because Americans as a country,
we act out a lot of serious
subjects through sports.
It's serious business for
us and especially baseball.
There was a reverence
about baseball
and these guys, what they
were doing was taking the game
and the people who run it and
the people who know the game
and live the game and
turning it on its head
and sort of crafting it
for their own purposes.
I don't want to get all
philosophical about this,
but I pretty sure
that I knew that
that moment at the
end of the season
that this was going to
be the rest of my life.
That this was going
to be what I was going
to be doing in my heart and head
that mattered most for,
you know, from then on.
Get me some peanuts
and crackerjacks
I don't care if
I never get back
Let me root,
root, root for my...
[Glen] Season's over, but then the
Hot Stove League commences.
There's trade talk. There's
examination of how things went.
Rotisserie League Baseball,
like Major League Baseball,
is a year round phenomenon.
It just changes form and format.
[Peter] We were having such a good time.
We would talk it up.
I mean, if you would
go to a dinner party
and I would start talking
about Rotisserie League,
by the end of the
evening you'd realize
we'd spend four hours talking
about Rotisserie
League Baseball.
It was fascinating to
people and weirdly cool.
At this cocktail party,
I ran into Daniel Okrent
and we started chatting and
we struck up a friendship
and he said, "You know,
you really should play
Rotisserie League Baseball,"
and of course I
jumped at the chance.
In describing it to other people
and the people we knew
describing to other people
there was suddenly this great
deal of interest about it.
[Harry Stein] I was totally fascinated
by it and said,
"Listen, if there's ever a
team available, I want in".
I think of the 10 of us, 11
of us in the original league,
eight or nine of us
were in the media.
We all knew people in the
media who heard about it
and they published
articles about it
and talked to other
people about it.
So it spread very rapidly.
[Glen] God, it made me feel
famous to see my picture
in the New York Times.
The newspaper of record?
For God's sake!
Publicity was fun,
but we didn't do it
for any particular purpose other
than we could go,
"Oh, how cool is this"?
Eric? What about the, what
about the Rotisserie League?
How Bryant Gumbel could
do a five minute segment
and not mention the
Goners, the Flambes.
It picks up much more
for a variety of reasons.
One is I wrote a piece for
Inside Sports magazine,
which was then new and hot.
[John A. Walsh]
I was editing Inside Sports.
Dan came to me and said,
"We started this game last year
called Rotisserie Baseball."
And he explained the
game to me and said,
"Would you be interested
in an article"?
And I said, "Sure!"
The article came
into the magazine
and as soon as the manuscript
went into galley form
in our proofreading department,
a league was formed at
Inside Sports magazine.
[Mark Potts]
Yeah, I remember reading this
in my apartment in
Chicago and just thinking,
"Wow, this is so cool.
I want to do this".
Lots of people bought that issue
based upon the cover line.
You're now talking to one of
the guys who bought that issue.
I think I was 13 years old.
I wanted to play Rotisserie
League Baseball, too.
[Rob] I suspect what happened is
people got it intuitively,
much as we had when the
game was first invented.
It's like, "Oh, I get
what they're up to.
That's pretty cool.
That makes sense."
[cameraman 2] Here's a guy
that's just suffering
from rotisserie
overdose right here.
-They used to be first place!
-We used to be. That's right.
I think part of the reason
that this game took off was
that there wasn't a
lot to do in 1980.
We had like 11 channels.
It was basically, you
read and you played Atari
and it wasn't even good Atari.
It was Pong.
So this was revolutionary.
I mean, it was cool anyway,
but when you compare it
to the other things that
were going on in 1980,
this was really, really good.
It had vaguely occurred to
us that there might be a way
to make some money off
this thing we'd started.
We were all in the book business
and I think it was
Peter, had been working,
had worked at Bantam Books and
one of his colleagues said,
"Hey, let's make a
book out of this".
[upbeat music]
[Glen] The Goner way is power hitters,
aced relievers, and
enough of everything else
to fill out the roster.
The Goner way is
Julia Child in charge
of grub at the
concession stands.
The Goner way is Cuervo Gold
in the dugout water cooler,
jalapeno chewing tobacco.
The Goner way is loyalty.
It just seems so much fun.
I wanted to be part
of the Wolf gang
or you know, a
trade with the Goners.
Because they were
such talented writers,
they were able to get
the book published
and make the game appealing.
[Peter] As the game became
really popular,
if I was having
lunch with someone
and talking about the
Rotisserie League,
I can't tell you how many
times someone would come over
to the table and go Peter Gethers
of the Getherswag Goners?"
And you'd go, "What? I think
something's happening here."
Needless to say, we knew
that there was something
to be exploited here.
we talked about it.
What could we do more
to exploit the game?
Money, we wanted
money out of it.
There was nothing
else to be had.
We started a company.
It's an insult to
the word "company",
but we thought that we
would create a corporation
that owns the trademark
that we all own pieces of
and we would try to exploit it.
Dan, those Rotisserie
bonds, I'm getting them.
It's all good.
Oh, hey, Dan, what's up?
A little turn, the-- Hey, guys!
What do you think
of the t-shirt?
T-shirts, all the
money was in t-shirts
and we used to sell,
oh gosh, hundreds!
Two nines, not 2.29!
Oh, hey, Dan.
Sorry, fax machine
not really happening.
Gross! This is a terrible idea.
[Dan] The highlight of
this was a marketing video
that we made starring us
and the over the hill, Reggie Jackson.
Hi, I'm Reggie Jackson
and welcome
to the greatest game for
baseball fans since baseball,
Rotisserie League Baseball.
[upbeat music]
Be warned that this
is more than a hobby.
It's an addiction and half
a million people are hooked.
Normally responsible
adults have been known
to skip work and
dodge family reunions,
so they can keep
track of their teams.
I guess if you're a kid like me,
that wasn't a good athlete,
you imagine yourself more
as an owner or manager
than you do a player.
How are you doing?
This is the commissioner.
Alrighty, just wanted
to give you an update
on the Suckling Pigs' progress.
People say, I have
you in my league
and hope you do well this year.
What can I say?
I'll do what I can do.
Mario Cuomo's office
had a league in Albany.
I remember being surprised that
Brian Gumbel was as intuitive as he was.
People would yell
from the stands,
when I'm on the on deck circle,
that they have picked me
in their Rotisserie League
and for me to have a good year.
[Anthony Lake] I formed a league in
Washington while I was
in the White House, which it
turned out was a violation
of the law against gambling
on federal property,
that we were playing
for $23, I think.
I have so many friends
that belong to it.
It's unbelievable.
They'll ask me, you know,
I steer them so wrong,
so many times on
which players to get,
they won't even ask me no more.
[upbeat music]
[Dan] I guess around '84 or '85,
we started having
Rotisserie Conventions.
70, 80, 90 dorks from
around America came
to join the 10 founding dorks.
[crowd cheers]
The people actually
paid money to meet us.
How sick is that?
[upbeat electronic music]
The people who showed
up, there were two types.
There were people who
were kind of nerdy.
Loners, didn't seem like they
had a lot of social life.
And then people who
were very, very nerdy
and clearly had no social
life, social skills.
They're kind of, you know, ambulatory
schizophrenics, I think.
And all of a sudden
you'd see three guys
from Kansas City
walking down the hallway
-and they'd go...
-"I think that's Glen Wagoner".
Yes, it's Glenn. Oh, my God!
And I'd be sitting there going,
they're excited to
see Glen Wagoner.
This is really as scary
as anything I've
ever seen in my life.
-[fan 1] Unbelievable!
-[fan 2] I mean, the Phillies-
[Rob] There were all
these people wanting
to engage us in conversations
about the unbelievable
$3 outfielder
they got in the
previous year's draft.
I keep building on my team
and there'll be
no way to stop me!
I think I stat...
Okrent's law: there's
nothing more interesting
than your own Rotisserie team
and nothing less interesting
than someone else's
and the plague
that I have been beset with
for having been associated
with the invention
of this game is
that I meet people and
they want to tell me
about the trade they just made
or the trade they didn't make,
or how they overpaid this
player or, I don't care!
And you don't care about
my team. It's really dull.
How'd you guys get in here?
-Be honest.
So we did that for a few
years, but it flopped.
You know, here we were, we
were inviting these people
to our convention, "come
to our great convention!
Have a wonderful time!"
And then we'd be at a ballpark
and you'd see one of them
coming and say [yells].
It's important to
understand that I think
that this was just sort of,
this was their sideline hobby.
They got a kick out of the fact
that the little money trickled
in every year from their silly
little game that they played
and I just, you know,
you can't blame them.
They didn't have the vision
to see that it would explode.
The Rotisserie book section
of the bookstores
started expanding
from just the Rotisserie book
to the Ron Shandler book,
the John Benson book, the
Baseball Perspective stuff,
you know, Bill James is always
tucked in there somewhere.
There were probably a good two
or three dozen people who
were just trying their hand
to see what they could make out
of this industry and
perhaps make a living,
perhaps make some
money on the side.
Stats, this is Mike!
The long-term outlook
is that Milligan is
much better than Mantou.
Have you ever played
Rotisserie Baseball before?
That should have been
all of our business
if we had figured out a
way to capture the market.
But the crucial
mistake we made was,
basically, one of hubris,
which is we started
from virtually year one trying
to protect our
trademark, Rotisserie.
We would dispatch the
cease and desist letter.
Cease and desist, you are in
violation of our trademark
and of course what happened
was they would say,
"Screw you! We'll call
it fantasy baseball"
and once that genie
was out of the bottle.
[tense music]
Rotisserie, it doesn't, it has nothing
to do with what it really is.
So I'm going to call
it fantasy sports,
fantasy baseball,
and nobody owns that
and we were left by the side
of the road where we belong.
-Some fantasy league owners-
-Fantasy league lineup.
Fantasy baseball now
attracts millions
of participants and
a growing number
of books, newspapers, and
magazines cater to the craze.
Fantasy baseball,
fantasy football,
fantasy everything else
and there was no copywriting
the word "fantasy."
People could take our rules,
do whatever they
want to with them.
The idea had gotten
away from them
and then when it went over to
football, it really took off.
You know, because that's
the number one sport.
After that, I think that
was the sort of the,
"Guys, we're never going to
be able to do this ourselves".
And we just let the forces
of the free market take,
you know, take it
and take it away.
[upbeat electronic music]
At some point the
novelty wore off
and it became more of
a burden than a joy.
For a grown man to do something
that fanatically for 20 years,
you know, at a certain
point you have to say,
you know, you're being
fairly sick about this
and just get on with it.
You have a life, kids,
you have a career.
[Dan] I left in '95 and
we basically fell apart
a few years after that.
We are gathered here today because
Rotisserie Baseball is totally dead.
You schmucks invented this
game. You didn't make a buck.
You don't even play it anymore.
I had had enough of
drafts, of spring training,
of keeping score,
and keeping records.
It was like, enough already! I'm done!
[Glen] 1981 Wolf Gang, 1982
Eisenberg Fouriers,
'85 the Carrie Nations,
'86 Steinbrenners,
'87 Platermeis, '88
Steinbrenners, '89 Carrie Nation
and 1991, Getherswag Goners
and that was the
last time we bothered
to inscribe this
wonderful trophy.
[sad piano music]
They couldn't have imagined
this would turn into anything.
It had fad written all over it.
It had nerd geek fad
written all over it.
It really wasn't huge.
It was, in total
numbers, you know,
yeah, maybe there were a
million people playing it then
but there weren't 10
million people playing it.
It hadn't really
penetrated the culture.
That didn't happen until the
Internet made it so easy.
[Lee] And I'll never forget,
Okrent said,
"Come into the living room.
I want to show you something."
And he turned on this machine.
I am old enough to see
a man land on the moon
and that was pretty amazing
but I don't think anything
was quite so awe inspiring
as seen the same day box
score slowly take form
on Okrent's computer screen.
It was absolutely incredible.
[commentator] Pure hustle
after her got his jaws
on... for third.
The Internet made it perfect
and the Internet allowed
you to get stats every day.
You literally sit there
and watch your guys bat
and see that you hit a home run
and you moved a point
ahead in the standings.
[Bill] Thank God for the Internet.
I mean, definitely the
Internet has been the best
for porn and gambling, but I
think fantasy is a close third.
You know, if you think
back about 13 years ago,
we were running on a single box,
sitting under some guy's desk.
I remember the first
guy who sorta logged in,
he was a guy from Ohio,
and we all kind of laughed.
It was almost having
a one-to-one relationship
with our fans.
In those early years, we
had 400 leagues one year
and the next year we had 800.
Next year, we had 1300.
Next year, we had 2000.
In 1999, we had roughly
half a million users
playing our fantasy
football product.
This year we'll have well over
4 million users
playing the game.
[upbeat heavy metal music]
[John] Now we've got
millions of people playing.
We've got a seven by
24 operations looking
at this 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
The numbers that
play in this country,
the estimate's from
as low as 18 million
to as high as 30 million.
I've heard the total
economic impact argued
at anywhere from a
billion to 3 billion.
We know that people are spending
way too much time
playing fantasy sports.
Users are logging in
multiple times a day,
spending over 10 hours
doing research every week.
I remember a letter
I got from a woman
in Owing's Mills, Maryland.
Dear Mr. Okrent,
I want to thank you
for inventing your
silly little game
because of it my
marriage has ended.
And I thought, "Oh, my God,
I unleashed this on the world?"
You know, it's a passion.
You wanna, you know,
you want to be the
best at it, you know?
So you're always
just read and read
and putting things in
the back of your head.
You want to see perfection?
This is perfection right here.
Let me show you this.
Clinton Portis, top
five running back,
picked it number nine.
The yellow would be guys that
I would accept on my team.
The bluish guys are guys
that I'm especially high on.
Probably in a little while,
I'll pull out a red pen
and I'll probably mark up guys
that are going to get picked
but I absolutely
don't want on my team.
We're aggressive.
We want to put it that way.
Yeah, we don't, we don't
let anything get by.
We're all, like you said
before, we're all about value.
We're in about sixth place.
Fifth in the 15 people league
and then we're not doing
very well in the big one.
Antonio Fassina.
It never stops.
Fantasy's like, you know,
cause I do the basketball,
football, baseball just goes
round and round and round.
It never stops.
I had 18 fantasy
baseball teams right now.
I think 43 football teams.
Oh man, I got to pick
and I have no clue who
in the heck's left.
Somebody take Felix Jones already?
[cameraman] You ever
heard of Dan Okrent
and the Rotisserie League?
[cameraman] Do you know where
the word rotisserie comes
from or do you have any idea?
I have no idea. And do I care?
It comes from making the chicken.
You're cooking chicken on
the grill, on the rotisserie.
How's that? Oh, Derek Mason.
That's not a bad
pickup at this level.
I think it's a shame that
people aren't familiar
with what Roto means.
There's a generation of
people playing it now
that have no idea
about Glen Wagoner
and Dan Okrent and Steve Wolf
and the founding fathers.
[indistinct chattering]
[Lew Fidler] I don't think any of them
got the credit they deserve.
Honestly, one of the reasons
we did the ceremonial city hall
was to give them a
little more credit.
Somebody's gotta say on
behalf of Rotisserie Baseball.
On behalf of Rotisserie,
as President,
current President,
I want to thank everybody.
There'll be one in
a frame and each one
of you will get a copy unframed.
Suitable for framing however.
Well, I sent an email to Dan and,
you know, the response really was,
you know, sorry,
I'm in Martha's Vineyard.
I'm not coming to New York City
for this nonsense.
I wouldn't go anywhere near it.
You know, just humiliation,
I mean, come on.
[Lew] All of this started
with these guys
and so we have a proclamation
for them here today
honoring what they have done.
Now therefore be it know,
the Council of the City
of New York hereby honors
the founders of
Rotisserie League Baseball
for their tremendous
to the culture, economy, and
sports tradition of New York.
[audience applauds]
[woman] If you want to see
Brandeis High Schools in the house,
I'd like you to stand up, stand up...
[speech fades]
[Glen] Anytime you started
getting proclamations
from government bodies though,
you know, you're
dead in the water.
You know, your time has passed.
Those guys should be
in the Hall of Fame
as contributors to the game.
I'm dead serious about it.
Those guys should be in
the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Think of something
that's been invented
that has contributed
to the enjoyment
of a sport more than
fantasy in the last 30 years
and you can't, you can't.
In a way, I realize this
may sound insincere,
but in a way it's a good thing
we didn't make any money on it,
because we didn't set
out to make money.
We wanted to have
fun and we had fun.
[Lee] From 1980 to possibly 15,
through the next 15 years,
I don't think there
were three nights,
whatever the season
including the dead of winter,
that I would not go to sleep
and at least for a few minutes,
think about my team
or think about trades
or think about who
I was going to keep.
[Glen] It was fun, but it
went beyond fun.
It filled gaps in your life
that you didn't
even know existed.
Do I think about it?
Do I I think about how famous
and rich we could have been?
No, I would say not
more than every 12
or 13 minutes of the day
and sometimes I wake up
in the middle of
the night sobbing,
but other than that, no, it
doesn't really occur to me.
[John] To me the funniest thing remains
that Dan has never won
a Rotisserie League.
That's funny.
It's like hearing that
Hugh Hefner's never gotten laid.
[Dan] In the first incarnation
of the Rotisserie League,
1980 until I left in 1995,
I think I finished second three
times and third three times.
I just never could win.
Maybe that's why I
started playing again
in our extremely
limited, slow pitch,
old man's AARP Rotisserie,
which I play now.
I guess it's just,
it's part of my life.
I don't know how to not play it.
I'll never quit.
Another way of putting
it, I'm not going to quit
until I win and I'm
never going to win.
[upbeat music]