Month: September 2015

Pure Fantasy

Today is Sunday, the final day of Week 23—what will conclude, hands down, as my worst week—in the 2015 fantasy baseball season. It may be labeled as fantasy, but the impact of this disastrous week is very real indeed.

Come tomorrow, there will be three weeks left to play in the 2015 Idaho Power Rookie League, a group of eleven grown men and one woman, playing fantasy baseball on the CBS Sports platform. As someone dropping faster than a real baseball team, the Washington Nationals, in the standings this week, I’m getting very anxious.

Each participant in the IPCO Rookie League “owns” a unique team of twenty-six real MLB players. Well, actually, we own the stats of these players over the course of the 2015 season. Ten of the twelve “owners” work or have worked for Idaho Power; hence the league name. We are just a small dot on the proverbial fantasy map.

It’s estimated by the Fantasy Sports Trade Association that forty-one million people age twelve and above in the U.S. and Canada played fantasy sports in 2014. That’s all sports—well more than half play fantasy football—still leaving several million baseball zealots like me. I’ve been playing since two thousand and something when I joined a league started by a former Time Inc. colleague, Dan Okrent. The legendary Mr. Okrent is frequently credited as the inventor of Rotisserie League Baseball, the best-known format of fantasy baseball, in 1979. That’s not the format the twelve of us play today in Idaho; our format is known as head-to-head. It’s much too detailed to try and explain in a primer like this. Perhaps the reader will just accept that fantasies can be both technical and erotic.

Simply put, being an owner of a fantasy baseball team is like being, simultaneously, a general manager and a field manager of a real MLB team. Well, sort of. We don’t have to report to any owner; we don’t do press interviews; we don’t suck on sunflower seeds and spit them out in a dugout; we don’t get inside the ropes at spring training; and, in our format, there is no salary cap, so we can spend (yes, there is real money involved) like a Steinbrenner if we want to.

I hasten to add that real money to most of us fantasy types means hundreds of dollars—at the most—not hundreds of millions of dollars. Yet, my team name, Money Can’t Buy You Bobbleheads, fits both my spending habits, relatively speaking, and my own history of never winning the top prize, a bobblehead trophy modeled after a fictional baseball player caricature. It’s been elusive since I joined the IPCO Rookie League in 2011 and, barring some major collapse by the New Jersey Big Tomatoes, it will remain so.

Why, then, do I spend hours every week watching games, scouting players I might want to add to my humble team, analyzing pitcher versus hitter matchup stats and exposure my wife, Lisa, to most of it? After all, there are plenty of alternatives.

It’s a fun hobby! I remind myself. As such, I spend what I consider to be an appropriate amount of time on it. Most of my other hobbies, like solving Sudoku puzzles, volunteering, and writing blog posts like one this just don’t get the competitive juices flowing like fantasy baseball. When a real player does well, I, their fantasy owner, also do well. Two home runs by one of my batters in a game? Awesome! A shutout—or better yet, a no-hitter—by one of my pitchers? Pure envy, from all the other owners. Unless I happened to have benched that player for the week. Oops. That’s when I swear I’ll never play this game another year!

Tomorrow, only a handful of teams will head into Week 24 with some sort of mathematical chance to win the bobblehead. It’s an odd time to be setting lineups; some readers may know that major league rosters have expanded and former minor league players are now in the mix. Lots of high risk, high reward gambles tempt those owners who are still chasing the Maters. I’m one of them. I have this kid, yes, a twenty-one year-old kid named Corey Seager, who is now playing lights-out for the Dodgers! The Los Angeles Dodgers. Get over it, Brooklynites; your team’s been gone nearly sixty years! Do I put this young, yet red-hot, rookie into my Week 24 lineup? Do I bench an All-Star veteran incumbent like Jose Reyes, a thirty-two year-old with a chip on his shoulder for having been traded recently to the Colorado Rockies? You bet I do. I’m desperate; I’m going with the kid.

Call me cynical, a sore loser. A late-in-the-night gambler. Barring an injury to one of my players today, I’m going all in tomorrow. My roster will be comprised of players with the highest upside and the lowest downside. I’m rolling the dice, baby. I can’t stand the thought of losing to a Tomato! Or being caught by a Dung Heap. If I want to remain mathematically alive in the race for the bobblehead, I’ve got to beat both of my opponents—the out-of-contention Wilde Thing and Birds—in Week 24.

And it’s beginning to slowly sink in: that likelihood, as well as going on to win my first-ever bobblehead trophy, is pure fantasy.


Meet Joe Marshall, Board President of the Lillian Vallely School in Blackfoot, Idaho

This is the first in a series of articles introducing you to
the leaders of this special Episcopal elementary day school.

Retired? This seventy-eight year old is not even close. Like many other successful men and women, Joseph W. Marshall has transitioned from a successful corporate career with Idaho Power—he retired as CEO and Chairman in 1999—into volunteer management positions across the Treasure Valley of Idaho and beyond. He serves organizations in need of leadership, vision, and financial resources, and one of them is the Lillian Vallely School.

Joe W. Marshall

Soon after “retiring,” Joe became reacquainted with a dear friend, LVS co-founder, John Thornton. By then, Thornton had retired as Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Idaho, and he invited Marshall to serve on the LVS Board.

Marshall was not a complete stranger to the Native American culture in Idaho, as his business dealings included the negotiation of transmission lines across the Fort Hall Reservation in eastern Idaho, where LVS students and their families live. He had also worked with the Nez Perce tribe on endangered salmon issues and served on the Idaho Governor’s Bicentennial Commemoration Committee of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

Marshall has long been an admirer of the Native American culture and, in particular, the tribes residing in Idaho.

“They, along with their rich cultures, were swallowed up and deposited on reservations, and, in most incidents, far from their native lands,” Joe states. “You’ve got to have empathy for that.” He’s right. And he adds, “Corralling Native Americans onto reservations and expecting them to adapt to such change in a few years was very unrealistic.”

Why does Marshall believe so passionately about the Lillian Vallely School?

“We have a moral obligation to give these children on the Fort Hall Reservation opportunities,” he says with both pride and a tinge of white guilt. ”Native Americans have made a major contribution to this country, and we want our young students to understand, embrace and take loving pride in their Native culture.”

To that end, the school staff has always included a Native American (Shoshone) culture teacher in addition to its classroom teachers. Marshall explains why. “We think it is very important that our children be well prepared after graduating from LVS to grow into young adults being proud of themselves and proud of their rich culture. No matter where they choose to go afterwards, be it on or off the reservation, they can accomplish much.”

Lillian Vallely died weeks before her eponymous school opened in 1998. She had a wish—which she communicated to the school founders—that the school children receive a quality education, experience their culture, and learn that there is a God and that God loves them as individuals. For this reason, LVS operates today as an Episcopal school. Or some might say as an Episcopal mission, a nonprofit entity receiving modest financial support from a number of private as well as public institutions in the form of grants and gifts—many from Episcopal churches.

The school currently has no endowment, and the $300,000 or so that it takes to operate the school ever year comes from, more or less, the same pool of grants and individual donations. With the Thorntons at the helm, that model has continued to work year after year. But they are now both in their eighties and Marshall has also exceeded the U.S. male life expectancy.

Marshall, the board president for the past six years, is committed in every way to the school and its future. “We have a chance to affect the lives of children—part of a culture living right in our midst—whose love of the land, the environment, animal life, and vegetation permeates their culture. If we can help prepare them to live good lives in both cultures, it will enrich all of all lives.”

Marshall is right. And we all share something in common: God’s love.

His wish, the ‘Marshall plan,’ is to create a Lillian Vallely Foundation to provide financially for the school in perpetuity. He thinks at least half of the annual operating income for the school should come from investment income controlled by the foundation. That’s a tall order, some $2.5 million in legacy and other gifts raised over say five years, but proven achievers like Marshall are the ones to get it going.

How will he confront all the challenges? Research Joe Marshall and one will discover a theme that guided him through his career at Idaho Power. It’s an engineer’s faith that logical minds at work together can surmount any problem.