Sunday, November 12, 2006


LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - If watching soap operas is your passion, then fantasy game designer Erica Salmon is betting Fantasy Soap League will become your sport.

The Walt Disney Co.'s (NYSE:DIS - news) SoapNet announced the Web-based fantasy site on Friday at its annual Super Soap Weekend in Florida in a bid to attract women aged 18 to 34, and add a social dimension to the six-year-old soap TV channel.

The game works along the same lines as fantasy football, in which real-life players are chosen for virtual teams and results are based on statistics from actual games.

Fantasy Soap players will pick three male and three female actors and five "soapy moments" from nine U.S. network soaps, and score points depending on what the actors' characters do.

Taking off clothing, waking up from a coma, getting an organ transplant, day dreaming or "monologuing" -- when an actor stands alone in a room talking to himself -- are each worth a hefty 50 points in Fantasy Soap League.
Oh. My. God.

You know, this is just stupid enough that, in America, it will make a mint.

Now, I've played fantasy baseball. I understand the concept: you pick a team of players based on a pre-determined budget, and everyone starts out with the same budget. In other words, socialistic sports betting. The players who put up the best stats are the most valuable, but also cost the most so eat the most out of your budget, and you get to feel like a club owner (except of course, it's not like in real life, where you have to deal with a limited budget versus a handful of teams that can spend like there's no tomorrow).

And when it moved onto football, I thought that was stupid: football is such a team game, and everyone marches in lockstep down the field, and so how can you determine the value of a center (fumbled snaps? missed blocks?) or free safety, since so much of their performance is determined by the play of everyone else on the field. There really are no individual statistics in football.

And yet, it took off, partially because most of middle America is too fat and lazy to do anything on a Sunday afternoon...or Monday night...or the occasional Thursday...except to sit there with a piece of paper in one hand and a beer in the other, remote control perched precariously on the sweat-stained armrest.

You know, rather than actually go out and PLAY the game ("But my hannnnnnnnds are colllllllllllld!")...

So I guess it was inevitable that the other major sports would develop their own fantasy leagues. Hockey, basketball, soccer...I imagine in Canada there's even a curling league or two.

But soap operas? Like it's not enough that you sit around day in and day out watching other people live lives of glamour and fortune, dressing in glitzy clothes, living at ritsy addresses in swank little towns, that you now have to bet on what happens next?

Two points to this: I've watched enough soap operas (professional curiousity as well as courtesy to actor-friends who appear on them) to know that if you can't write the next line in your head, you ought not to be watching them in the first place, but out taking a remedial creative writing course for first graders, and second, fantasy leagues work because the games they cover are live and unscripted! There's a human element that you cannot predict precisely, which allows for Jose Reyes to one day win a league batting championship when he usually hits below .300.

Religion used to be the opiate of the masses, and TV was to inform their opinions and shape the national dialogue. We live in a country where the opposite has occured.

And I want my country back.