Wednesday, April 21, 2010

'Silly Little Game' a great little film

Just got done watching ESPN's latst 30 for 30 documentary, "Silly Little Game," about the birth of "rotisserie" baseball, the forerunner of all fantasy sports.

The documentary, directed by Adam Kurland and Lucas Jensen, traces the origins of the game we love back to La Rotisserie Francaise, a New York City restaurant circa 1979 where a group of self-described geeks set in motion what would become a $4 billion industry enjoyed by millions.

"Silly Little Game" hilariously recreates those landmark early moments, from Rotisserie League founder Dan Okrent's grand unveiling of his invention to fantasy's "founding fathers" holding the first draft (complete with the reenactors donning Thomas Jefferson-inspired colonial garb). The founders' recollections of that first draft are fascinating and all-too-familiar to today's fantasy players - from a bunch of guys (and one gal) crunching numbers on cheat sheets, to the unending search for a diamond in the rough ("I'll take Neil Allen" ... "Who's Neil Allen?).

The current generation of fantasy leaguers will be left aghast at explanations of how these fantasy OGs kept stats BY HAND and faxed updated league standings to one another. Yet it's amazing how little the essential facets of the game have changed in 30 years. Okrent's creation was near-perfect from its inception - from the draft and roster formats to the invention of the WHIP statistic to help better gauge pitcher's performances.

Kurland and Jensen paint the original Rotisserie leaguers as tragic figures, unable to fully cash in on their invention as it gained popularity and exploded with the Internet age. Yet their passion for (or as they readily admit, obsession with) the game that so many of us now enjoy are evident on screen. "Silly Little Game" offers both an enjoyable look back at fantasy's roots and some insights into what makes it so addictive.

If you missed the orginal broadcast, go here for encore showtimes.

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