Review of Matthew Berry’s Book “Fantasy Life”
Writing ain’t easy. And being a Fantasy Sports writer ain’t easy either – in spite of what every person that has every played Fantasy Baseball or Football thinks. And while writing a book about Fantasy Sports might not be easy either, my review of Matthew Berry’s book, “Fantasy Life: The Outrageous, Uplifting, and Heartbreaking World of Fantasy Sports from the Guy Who’s Lived It” will explain how one guy figured it out.
Spoiler alert: I liked the book.
And if you play Fantasy Baseball or Fantasy Football, you will like this book as well. There are dozens of reasons why, but before I get too far into it, I just thought you should know that it’s good, so get it.
Still need convincing? That’s cool, too.
Why is Matthew Berry’s Book about Fantasy Sports Interesting?
One thing I’ve always said: Don’t drink hot coffee through a straw.
The other thing I’ve said: Listening to another person’s Fantasy tales is like:
- Watching someone else play a video game.
- Listening to someone explain a dream they had.
- Hearing about someone’s poker hand.
With that said – this book is FULL of some great Fantasy tales (both baseball and football), and each one is better than the next. I can imagine he was sent thousands of stories that he had to sift through to find these gems. And I’m sure his editors even asked him to cut a few out. (Where are the outtakes!?!)
Is it just a book about Fantasy Football stories? No. Not even close.
Berry discusses, throughout the book, his journey to where he is now, ESPN’s Senior Fantasy Sports Analyst. From childhood, through college, to Hollywood, where he was a screenwriter for years, to Bristol, Conn., Berry’s world was anything but average.
The real trick to this book is how he easily interweaves his life and career with great Fantasy stories from all of his readers. There are Draft Day tales, mixed in with stories about traditions, trades, trophies and tribulations.
You’ll laugh, you’ll cringe and you’ll shake your head in sheer amazement at how crazy this little hobby of ours makes some people.
Also, you’ll shed a tear. That’s right. Matthew Berry’s book about his life and Fantasy Sports even made me cry at one point. I won’t tell you why or where, until after you read it. Then we’ll compare tear tracks. He hits on some poignant moments – in both his life and the lives of his readers.
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“Fantasy Life” is broken up into several quick, easy-to-read chapters, just like our own lives, if we were to take an introspective look back, as he did.
Bringing it All Back to Me
I met Matthew Berry in the early 2000s, while he was still just the Talented Mr. Roto, and we were both in the 2005 Mixed Tout Wars league, in its first year. In that first auction, he openly mocked my propensity for drafting crappy injured players – and I swore right then and there – I was going to finish eight spots behind him, with God as my witness!!!
While I was at CBSSports.com, Berry and I were in several writers’ leagues together, and then he signed on to join ESPN as their main Fantasy guy (not the official title). We had our disagreements at times, and since CBS was slowly being passed up in Fantasy league popularity by the worldwide leader, there was some certainly some jealousy on my part.
Once I left CBS, I saw things differently, and I always looked forward to drinking a beer with him once a year, when we all got together at Foley’s the night before the Tout Wars drafts.
You see, Berry is the face of our industry. It’s something he sought, for sure, but it’s something I think he’s good at, as well. He learns, as you’ll read, several lessons about life. He shows some vulnerability, too, which makes it quite easy to not hate him while you’re reading it. You don’t feel sorry for him, either. You just … relate.
Everyone has insecurities, and if you don’t, I have several thousand I can lend you. Berry does a great job of showing all his blemishes, while not coming across pitiful or sympathy seeking. He’s just truthful, which is all any reader can ask.
I actually dog-eared several pages of the book, to discuss and react to in a blog post, but I’ll do that once the book is out for a while, as not to ruin the book’s freshness.
He’s a Big Fantasy Fish in a Little Fantasy Pond
This past March, when Eric Mack, Nando Di Fino and Jim Sias were in New York with me for Tout Wars, we did some drinking. We went out, as we do, with a bunch of other writers, and we ended up this one night at Bar None.
Berry was with us, and at one point, we were both discussing my e-book, “101 Fantasy Baseball Tips,” and his forthcoming book. While we were chatting, a random dude came up, all loaded up with smiles and awkwardness, and he stood next to Matthew while we were watching Florida Gulf Coast’s upset of Georgetown in the 2013 NCAA Tournament.
The guy just kinda stood near Berry and made some random comments about the game, and the weirdness was just palpable. Berry was cordial, and the guy finally walked away, but I’m guessing it wasn’t before one of his buddies got a pic or two of him talking with ESPN’s Matthew Berry.
I’m sure you think you wouldn’t act like that if you saw him in a bar, and you’re probably right.
But just when you think that’s bad – here’s what happened next door, when Emack and I went to go inhale a couple Philly cheesesteaks at “99 Miles to Philly.”
While stuffing our faces, we overhear a 20-something guy excitedly yell to a couple other 20-something guys that he just saw Buster Olney at Bar None! … Emack and I look at each other, I go back to gnawing on my sandwich, and Emack asks, “Do you mean, ‘Matthew Berry’?”
The kid realizes he meant Berry and he hurries his friends up, who thought he was talking about Matthew Perry, from “Friends,” so they can go check it out for themselves. In their drunken excitement, I took this video of him (eff-bomb alert):
After reading the book, I’m pretty sure Berry wouldn’t like that video, and he’d take it that people were mocking his celebrity. That certainly was happening, but not at his expense. It was just the sheer absurdity of what we were witnessing.
A Fantasy Sports writer was a celebrity.
People were reacting like they saw a movie star, but it was a Fantasy writer. Matthew Berry’s book shows that this job has become something none of us really expected 10 years ago, and I sincerely think you’ll enjoy reading about it.