Conspiracy of Silence

Does Rotisserie baseball have blood on its hands? In the days since the Littleton, Colo., high-school massacre, the media has blamed the killings on almost every aspect of contemporary life: guns, rock music, bad suburban architecture, atheism, high-school cliques, the Internet, marijuana, homosexuality, homophobia, The Matrix. About Rotisserie baseball, however … nothing. Chatterbox performed a Nexis search today and found no references to “Rotisserie baseball” coupled with the word “Littleton.” There were 21 references to “Littleton” and “fantasy baseball”–which is how many people have come to refer to Rotisserie baseball. But that isn’t very many for a story this dominant. And by calling it fantasy baseball, journalists are obscuring Rotisserie baseball’s origins. It was a journalist who invented Rotisserie baseball! But Chatterbox is getting ahead of himself in describing a conspiracy at least as complex as any ever perpetrated by the Bilderburg Group, the Freemasons, or the Trilateral Commission.

Rotisserie (or fantasy) baseball is a game in which individuals “draft” real ballplayers into imaginary teams, keep track of statistics on the players’ performance, and win or lose depending on how well these statistics add up at season’s end. (It usually contains a gambling component.) From the few references to fantasy baseball in the Littleton coverage, we know the following: Dylan Klebold, a Red Sox fan, played in Columbine High’s Rotisserie baseball league. He took part recently in a Rotisserie baseball draft party. Apparently he was quite a skillful player. On the day he shot up his high school, Klebold’s team, the Border Hoppers, was leading its division. “He was awesome,” classmate Chris Hooker told USA Today. “He was so awesome we thought he ought to manage a team in real life.”

How does Rotisserie baseball encourage mass murder? By reducing life to a stack of lifeless statistics. By breaking up social organizations (teams) into components (players) who are interchangeable. By fostering feelings of Raskolnikov-like grandiosity. “Every Man a Steinbrenner” is the headline on a feature about Rotisserie baseball that appeared in the “Tempo” section of today’s Chicago Tribune.

Curiously, the Tribune piece makes absolutely no reference to the Klebold connection. Some would call this an oversight. Chatterbox smells a conspiracy. As the article makes clear, Rotisserie baseball is played by some of the most powerful people in this country. Mario Cuomo (former New York governor; father of the Clinton administration’s current housing secretary) has been playing for 12 years. A Washington, DC, league included many participants who “worked for the Federal Reserve Board.” But the Tribune “forgot” to mention the roster of media heavies who in 1980 formed the original group of players at La Rotisserie Francaise, a now-defunct Manhattan restaurant: Lee Eisenberg, the former editor of Esquire; Peter Gethers of Random House; writer Harry Stein; Rob Fleder, executive editor of Sports Illustrated; and Dan Okrent, Time Inc. editor at large, who invented the game.

“I feel totally responsible,” Okrent admitted when Chatterbox tracked him down in the Time-Life building.

Timothy Noah