TAKOMA PARK, MD – Jim McDonald sits alone in his basement, staring at his four monitor set-up and researching biographies of NPR personalities. A former professional football fan, McDonald is now the commissioner of Takoma Park’s hottest fantasy sports league: Fantasy Public Radio.
“Fantasy Public Radio is the perfect pastime for this community,” said McDonald, wearing a WAMU t-shirt. “Listening to NPR is way more popular in this town than watching football.”
McDonald started the league 5 years ago with several neighbors, all of whom were tired of repeatedly finishing last in office fantasy football competitions. “I couldn’t tell you who the top 5 quarterbacks are in the NFL,” admitted Maggie Duvall, owner of Duvall Things Considered. “But I can certainly name the top 5 morning shows on 88.5.”
While the NFL continues to alienate fans with player misconduct scandals, offensive mascot names, and its ongoing refusal to sign Colin Kaepernick, the Fantasy Public Radio League has seen consistent growth. It added its tenth team—the Ira Glasskickers—at the start of last season, and this year at least sixteen teams are expected to compete.
“Fantasy Public Radio plays to my strengths,” said Jackson Kimball, who co-runs the Morning Wood Edition team. “And it lets me feel morally superior to everyone else who still supports the NFL’s concussion factory.”
Much like their football counterparts, team owners in Fantasy Public Radio spend hours preparing to draft the perfect lineup. Online message boards track airtime statistics, keep count of Peabody awards, and report rumors of programming changes and promotions.
“The wrong pick can really kill your whole season,” lamented Carrie Davis, owner of Fresh Air Raid. “I had Garrison Keillor on my team in 2017 when he got fired by Minnesota Public Radio. If I had paid better attention to the rumor mill, I would have known he was sleazy. I spent months kicking myself for not taking Terry Gross when I had the chance.”
Indeed, it appears easy to get lost in the minutiae of strategies and contingencies. “I have the #1 pick this year,” stated Gavin Powell, owner of NPRsonists. “In the past, Diane Rehm would have been the obvious choice, but then she retired. Do I take Kojo Nnamdi because he’s a local hero, or Steve Inskeep because he has more weekly on-air hours? I really like Nina Totenberg, but I heard her husband has strep throat and I can’t take the chance that she’ll catch it from him.”
Time is running out for Powell and his league mates to plan their choices. The 2019 season kicks off next month, and the championship trophy—The Golden Tote Bag—will be awarded in January.