Fantasyland: The Movieby Jeffrey Gross
September 22, 2010
Fantasyland is a great novel from 2006 about fantasy baseball which details Sam Walker's experience as a rookie amongst a field of "seasoned experts" in one of fantasy baseball's highest profile leagues -- that which is known as Tout Wars. For a little more about the book, you can read SexyRexy's old blurb about the book.
Anywho, a documentary based upon the premise of the book (aptly titled Fantasyland) was recently produced (partially by Terminator: Salvation director McG of all people) and released. There is still no word (at least not to my knowledge) on when the DVD will (if ever) come out, but the film is available to view online for free (I've embedded the film for viewing, via Hulu, below). It's a fairly interesting and worthwhile watch, though I found the book significantly more fascinated because it detailed the genesis of the game of fantasy baseball and its historical impact on the actual game.
The movie stars a Jed Latkin, a financial trader and fantasy baseball enthusiast, who is given entry into the elusive Tout Wars league in 2008 to, like Sam Walker before him (who is also in the movie), test the hypothesis of how successful an "amateur" could fair against the experts and lead authorities of fantasy baseball. Jed mostly does what Sam did before him, including making team T-Shirts for the players on his fantasy team, and breaks little new ground. Readers of the book will know what to expect, but those never before exposed to Fantasyland will be an awe of just how far fantasy baseball players are willing to go to win.
All in all, the film presents an interesting portrait about the world of and players of fantasy baseball worth indulging, even if you have read the book. The film is not dull at any moment and Jed's persona is charmingly quirky.
3 stars out of 4.
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(Hat tip to SexyRexy for finding this movie)
Side note for after you watch the film:
I do have one gripe with the film. When I first saw it, I felt as though many scenes were dramatically contrived and beyond the scope of unbelievable-but-true realism from Walker's novel. Upon my second viewing, my suspicions have been confirmed, to some extent. Look at the following still (below) from a scene that supposedly occurred just before the start of the 2008 baseball season (click to enlarge):
Notice two things. First, there is an advertisement for 2009 MLB.TV on the MLB.com website. Why would MLB.TV be advertising for the 2009 season before the 2008 season has even begun? Secondly, Marcus Thames' actual 2008 stats are listed on his player page: .241 BA, 25 HR, 56 RBI. Additionally, at an earlier point from this scene, Latkins is looking over a stat sheet for Justin Verlander which lists Verlander's actual 2008 statistics. I understand that movies are filmed anachronistically for editing and logistical purposes, but the purely outlandish nature of some scenes and these continuity errors make me question the reality of certain scenes such as when Latkins spontaneously shows up to Ron Shandler's house to try and make a trade.
Nonetheless, still worth a viewing.
Jeffrey Gross is an attorney (and die-hard Cubs fan) who currently resides in the suburbs of Chicago. In addition to writing for The Hardball Times, he also writes about craft beer as part of a side project blog titled "saBEERmetrics." He previously worked for The Daily Illini and Northern Star newspapers as a film critic and sportswriter (respectively). You can reach him by email at saBEERmetrics AT gmail DOT com.
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