Junkie Games, Baby Names and Barber Sames

Justin February 24, 2014 1

A coyote bit fake Lee Smith, so I understand what Phillip Seymour Hoffman was going through.


When Oscar winner Phillip Seymour Hoffman died a few weeks ago, a lot of the discussion focused on the fact that he had been clear for 23 years before falling back into addiction. And when he died, Hoffman was apparently living the life of a full on junkie. One of the stories I read said that this entire downward spiral began when Hoffman decided to have one drink while sitting with a friend at a bar.  Just one drink. And within a few years, he was dead from an overdose, living apart from his girlfriend and their kids in an apartment where investigators found 70 bags of heroin.

I’ve always had a problem understanding how that works. How can a single drink lead a recovering addict all the way back down the rabbit hole?  But now I understand.

About 10 years ago, I stopped playing video games.  Part of it was that I didn’t want to invest in a Playstation 3 once they stopped making games for Playstation 2. Part of it was that I decided I was now an adult and adults don’t play video games. But the main reason was that I was tired of the addictive time suck. I didn’t just play video games, I got fully invested in video games. I played entire seasons of Madden in an afternoon. I stayed up till 4 in the morning doing fantasy drafts on NHL hockey. I made up back stories for the fake players I drafted in NBA Live. (In my mind, I turned a center named S. Fitzgerald into Scott Fitzgerald, who I decided was F. Scott Fitzgerald’s great grandson. Then I made up stupid Tabloid headlines in my head every time he did something. At one point, S. Fitzgerald left a game with an injury. I decided the back page of the New York Post the next morning would say, “Great Gasp-y.” At the time I only knew the name of one thing F. Scott Fitzgerald had ever written. (I still only know one thing that F Scott Fitzgerald ever wrote.) )

And so, I stopped. No more playing video games. No more reading about video games. No more getting excited for the next season of Madden. No more staying up until 4am playing NBA Live. And I was fine. Every now and again, I would hear or read something and think, “It would be fun to play again,” but then I suppressed that feeling and moved on with my life.

About two weeks ago, I read an article about old baseball video games. Like real old, RBI Baseball and the original Tony LaRussa Baseball and Baseball Stars. And in that article, it mentioned the name of a current baseball simulator which lets players run a franchise. This, to me, was always the most fun part of playing games. It wasn’t the games. It was the idea of making roster moves and setting hot dog prices and hiring coaches. So, when I read about this baseball simulator, I decided to do a little more research. I asked around. I looked it up online.  I found out that, not only can you run a current team, you can take over any franchise at any point in baseball history. But still, I decided I didn’t want to buy it. Then I started waking up in the middle of the night, thinking about how cool it would be to try to recreate the 1990’s Yankees dynasty and wondering what would have happened if they had signed a different free agent or held on to a prospect instead of trading him for an aging veteran.  Plus, I’m older now. I have an adult job and a live in girlfriend. There’s no chance video games will become the same old time suck at this point in my life. And so, I decided to take the plunge. I bought Out of The Park and I decided to take over the 1986 Yankees.

That was two weeks ago.  I am now mid-way thru the 1990 season. I lost the 87 World Series to the Mets, then beat them for a title two seasons later. I traded for Tony Fernandez and George Bell early on. I’ve held on to Doug Drabek. I signed Bruce Hurst and Jack Morris one year, then Wade Boggs the next. I traded for Gary Carter and, a season later, Darren Daulton. I have young players named Ruben Sierra and Jay Bell and drafted David Wells and Omar Vizquel. I acquired Tom Seaver, then realized he wasn’t good anymore, so I flipped him for Bert Blyleven. Then, I let Blyleven leave as a free agent so I could sign younger players instead. I signed Bo Diaz, solely because I know that, in real life, he died in 1990 and I wanted to see if he would die in the game. (He retired before I could find out.)

Last night, it was the 1989 off season. I was in a bidding war with a couple of other teams for Lee Smith. I ended up losing out on him. I signed Jeff Russell instead. A couple of hours later, I was half way thru the 1989 season.  A message came into my inbox. “Lee Smith will be out for a couple of weeks because of a freak accident. He was bitten by a coyote on an off day.”  THAT’S WHAT YOU GET FOR SPURNING ME FAKE LEE SMITH! You deserve to get mauled by imaginary dessert predators.

It felt so good. I can’t wait to feel it again. I’m going to finish writing this and go right back to playing again. I’ve been thinking about what moves I can make to improve my team all day.

It feels just like it used to when I was younger and would win the Superbowl on Madden. It’s the same high.

Sports Illustrated: February 24th, 2014





Jack Dickey’s Scorecard column is about Derek Jeter, who announced his impending retirement last week. Here is my Derek Jeter theory.  One of the reasons he gave for wanting to retire was to move on to the next stage of his life and, eventually, to start a family.  The next day, The New York Post gossip section, Page Six, reported that Jeter had gotten back together with his supermodel girlfriend, whose name is irrelevant. I bet she’s pregnant. I bet Jeter really wants to be a dad and wants to be home for this kid. But he doesn’t want to make it seem like she got knocked up and forced him to walk away from the game. So, he’ll never say anything about the impending baby. And no one will notice that she’s pregnant because no one knows who the hell she is, so they won’t make a big deal about her “baby bump.” Then, one day, next fall, Jeter will announce that he’s a new father. And, after that, he, his kid and his no name girlfriend will walk away from the spotlight for  a few years.


I didn’t read any of the articles this week. I was busy all weekend, plus there’s the whole video game addiction thing that’s really eating into my magazine reading time.  Today, though, I learned that I go to the same barber as SI reporter Chris Mannix. I went in for my bi-weekly haircut and beard trimming and they had the Dan Patrick Show on in the barber shop. Mannix was filling for Patrick. The barber says Mannix lives right around the corner from me. He’s going to introduce us. We’re going to be barber buddies.


One Comment »

  1. Brian H. March 7, 2014 at 5:58 pm -

    Wow. Just wow. I don’t know if I’m scared for you, happy for you, or amazed by you.

    I do think it would cheapen the game knowing who will be good and who will not amount to their potential in the draft. That is half the fun in real life (I would imagine) is seeing who you took a gamble on pay off and be a top performer.

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