Noah Davis has a 50.01% share in a fantasy baseball team with long-distance friend—who luckily knows more about sports than he does.
Josh was the first person I texted when living in New York became suddenly, dramatically un-fun. I was trying to decide if I should move to San Francisco, so I asked how he liked his adopted home. Or rather, I inquired as to whether I could join his rec soccer squad. My text, sent on August 29, 2009, reads, “If I move to San Francisco can I be on your team?” The response came 44 minutes later: “Yeah. Or we’ll form our own one.”
Skip forward 60 days, and I was on a Jet Blue plane across the country with my worldly possession whittled down to two suitcases. A brief iPhone exchange: “En route. Be there in 6.5 hours,” followed, in a few hours, by his “Sweet. I’m already waiting at the airport in anticipation.”
In college, Josh and I were friends, but not the type who would sit and chat for hours. I’m quiet, and he was, impossibly, quieter. (Hence the texts.) We are the type of people who are happy sitting in our living room with our buddies and letting the conversation wash around us. Any one-on-one bonding moments came at the poker table, where as two of the three best players in our group, we would inevitably play heads-up to end our occasional house games. He usually won.
When we graduated, I knew Josh would always be a friend, but in that way you always are with someone who knows the innumerable drunken nights, the hungover mornings watching Sports Center, and the brutally cold Maine winters in a filthy house that’s run out of oil. Again. We were close because of the experiences we shared while part of a collective.
(Our friendship was solidified after I totaled his WRX in suburban Virginia during a spring break road trip we took with another roommate. Josh was remarkably calm toward me, while I imagine he was taking hell from his parents for letting his irresponsible friends drive. Sorry buddy.)
San Francisco was different. The collective was gone. I knew few people, and he needed that college-type buddy, a person with whom he could talk about sports and reminisce with as we waded through the complexities of our mid-20s. (His then-girlfriend, now fiancée, didn’t know the first thing about Serie A. This is only one of her many charms.) He had other friends in SF, but they were architects and/or all in serious relationships. Lovely people, but well, you know.
We grow up and change, mostly for the better, but sometimes you want to remember who you were as well. I was happy to help facilitate those memories. I needed the nostalgia, too, while I aimlessly wandered around a new city. Josh played guide, and we grew closer. We had his Mets, who always lost, and my Red Sox, who did so eventually. The Jets and the Patriots are mortal enemies, but when you’re 3,000 miles away from the rivalry, you find common talking points. (There is nothing like watching the awfulness of the Raiders week after week to bring the AFC East together.)
And I joined his rec league soccer team, The Tater Tots. We played dual forwards, passed primarily to each other, and yelled at the refs and the other teams as a unit.
For a while there, it really was magic.
After a year, however, I missed New York. As quickly as it hadn’t, Brooklyn once again felt like home. I moved back east. Leaving Josh, the friends I’d made, the West Coast’s cheap produce, and my amazing apartment was tough, but it was the right decision.
Winter rolled into spring, and the draft of my fantasy baseball keeper league drew closer. I invited Josh to be a co-manager for two reasons: one, I’m terrible about the day-to-day details and two, I missed him. He accepted. I jokingly demanded to be the majority owner. He, wonderfully, sent me $29.99 via PayPal, one cent less than half of the $60 buy-in. I bequeathed him a 49.99% ownership share.
On draft day, six members of the league and I gathered in a friend’s apartment in Brooklyn. Josh was in San Francisco, but we chatted online for the entire three-plus-hour affair. It was the most we had talked in months. We caught up between picks. We took Hunter Pence 90th, then Josh told me about the beer he was brewing. We debated the perils of drafting too many Mets, took Ike Davis in the 16th round, then moved on to discussing the foundation our friend Mike was pouring for his Noe Valley house. (The same house where Josh and Mike built a kitchen table for my SF apartment, while I stood around and uselessly told jokes.) We questioned Nyjer Morgan’s sanity, drafted him 294th, then wondered about the United States soccer team’s Gold Cup prospects. (We dropped Morgan well before Mexico dismantled the US.) We took Mark Buerhle as our final pick, signed off the chat, then almost immediately started emailing each other thoughts about the squad.
The season began. At the start, Josh consulted me on player moves. Sometime around May 1, he realized I didn’t care and didn’t know anything anyway, so he started adding and dropping guys at will. The details were his role. Mostly, I wanted the opportunity to write long, rambling emails with dramatic titles, sign them Noah “Team President and Chief Enthusiasm Operator” Davis, and have someone other than myself read them. He, I think, appreciated the effort. I know I did his.
(A sample paragraph: “Here in the dog days of August, we demand more. We want the $40 we deserve for winning the division, but we won’t stop there. We won’t? We won’t! Did the Hobbits quit when the bad guys blew up Helms Deep? They did not, despite the fact that the Riders of Rohan had a serious flaw in their defenses. Personally, I would have been demoralized by the fact that no one thought it was maybe not the greatest idea to have a giant hole in the wall. But that’s why I manage fantasy baseball teams and don’t fight evil. Also, it looked like a lot of work to build that wall. I’m tired just thinking about all those rocks. Accio big-ass boulder?”)
It was a wonderful pairing. I did little; Josh did a lot. We jumped to the top of our division and stayed there. More importantly, it also gave us a reason to communicate across the country.
An email discussion about whether to start a pitcher morphed into a story about the crumbling fortunes of the Tater Tots, whose success—or recent lack thereof—I was assured had nothing to do with my absence. (This was probably true.) Frequently, the emails and texts wouldn’t go beyond a simple “nice win this week” or “FUCK” when we lost a close match. It didn’t matter. The point was that they existed in the first place. Josh and I are not the type to declare our friendship—it’s just a fact—but the contact was nice. Not important, but certainly fun. And something I had missed.
The (fantasy) baseball season is long. June rolled into July became August. We kept winning, stretching our division lead to double digits. We kept emailing and texting. Fantasy sports are fun. Especially when you’re winning. And doing so with a friend.
Josh and his girlfriend came east for vacation. He proposed on Montauk. She said yes. They dropped by New York City to celebrate. The three of us went to a bar with another college roommate. Josh and I talked about our team incessantly while the roommate and Rachael discussed a wedding planner Google document. We were all content.
Our team marched into the playoffs as the No. 2 seed, and we won our first round match easily. The semifinals were next, so we emailed, texted, and planned. We debated the merits of keeping Josh Collmenter—a brilliant pick up by Josh the previous week—and starting Buerhle. (Yes and yes.) We felt cautiously optimistic, knowing it would be close.
In the end, it came down to the final minutes of the final day. Boring details aside, our opponent’s WHIP was a few thousandths of a point better than ours when the Phillies and St Louis Cardinals entered the 8th inning on Sunday night. We still had Brad Lidge and Ryan Madson available. If either pitched one perfect inning—hell, one perfect batter—we would win.
We didn’t. Charlie Manual sent Joe Blanton out for the 8th and gave some kid named Justin De Flatus his Major League debut in the 9th. Congrats kid, you ruined our season.
We lost the matchup 10-8. At 3:02 a.m., Josh texted: “Still got one week left. 3rd place is ours.”
If we win, we’ll walk with $110. I figure we split the winnings 50-50. At this point, Josh and I are even.