The long-awaited Kevin Durant Sweepstakes are almost upon us.
Free agency is just a couple of more days away.
Yet I hope you can indulge me for a few lines of tribute to my ... Strat-O-Matic baseball team.
I know, I know. Reading about a fictional diamond outfit in this space, so soon before KD hits the open market, is probably not what you expected. Truth is: Neither did I.
Pretty much the very last thing I expected, when the calendar flipped to 2016, is that I would be invited to join my first Strat-O-Matic league since my college days at the Daily Titan at Cal State Fullerton in roughly 1990.
Or that I'd enjoy it so dang much.
But these past nine weeks of computer-simulated dugout warfare have been absolutely intoxicating. After so many Western Conference playoff games this spring, there I was scrambling for my phone late at night, desperate to catch up on how my Norristown Bulls did.
It all came about because my beloved Strat-O-Matic -- perhaps you'll recall former ESPN'er John Hollinger and I turning to the basketball version amid the despair of the NBA's last lockout in 2011 -- invited a handful of media types to join a 12-team league for charity and to promote the company's new #BaseballDaily initiative.
So what happened?
Figuring I had roughly zero chance of success given how little I follow the modern game and having been thrown into a league with nothing but true baseball men -- including legendary San Fransisco Giants announcer Jon Miller and ESPN's own Doug Glanville -- I decided that I was going to make this as fun as possible. Which meant making fellow El Toro High School alumnus Nolan Arenado my highest-paid player via an auto draft ... and snapping up every Fullerton product who sports a Strat-O card in the current game.
In the end, though, none of my rivals could laugh at my ridiculous roster policies, because I also happened to have a team that surged from a lowly 47-55 start into the fourth and final playoff spot, then swept the 95-win Salt Waaps managed by NBC Sports' Joe Posnaski to reach the Media Experts League World Series.
On Monday night's flight home from a week of NBA draft and USA Basketball duty in New York City, I learned that our Bulls were finally toppled in five games by the Jon Lester-led Madison Square Gardeners, managed by USA Today's Steve Gardner (who has a fine piece here explaining how the how league works).
Yet nothing -- and no one -- can take away what we achieved this "season." Ryan Braun (.289, 33 HR, 93 RBI, 24 SB, .491 slugging percentage) was our rock. Kenley "Don't Call Me Kelsey" Jansen had 51 saves in the regular season, plus five more in the playoffs. A whopping nine of our players hit at least 16 homers, fueling our team philosophy that everything rides on the long ball and great arms. Thanks to some cagey pickups, if I do so say so myself, our five-man pitching rotation eventually housed Jose Fernandez, CC Sabathia, Yu Darvish, Adam Wainwright and Justin Verlander.
Best of all? With all those Titans on the roster, along with ETHS royalty Arenado joining Braun and Ian Kinsler in our trio of 30-homer men, we tuned out all the Twitter haters, as well as numerous warnings from league commissioner Adam Rosen, and did it our way.
The dream scenario, of course, would have been winning it all, because Strat-O is donating $1,000 in the name of the champion to the charity of his choice. My designated charity was the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS), in honor of my late father Reuven.
None of the above, however, is why I felt the need to share all this.
I simply realized, after these past nine weeks, how energizing it can be to reach back to your youth when you get the chance and do something completely childish. (As long as it's harmless.)
Don't forget to be a kid once in a while.
It's a thought, with apologies to Fullerton legend Kevin Costner, that can actually help the ballclub.