Fantasy gets really dumb

Tommy Pham-Joc Pederson slap saga is human stupidity smacking us in the face.

Joc Pederson, batting Friday against the Reds after Tommy Pham slapped him before the game, later explained how the incident stemmed from problems in a fantasy football league.

Joc Pederson, batting Friday against the Reds after Tommy Pham slapped him before the game, later explained how the incident stemmed from problems in a fantasy football league.

Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Sometimes you get one of these situations and you don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Such is the Tommy Pham-Joc Pederson Fantasy League Pregame Cheek-Slap Incident.

Actually, I know how to respond to this one. I hung my head in brief comprehension of the absurd world in which we live, chuckled, and decided firmly that, yep, humans are a failed experiment in God’s casual game of universe-building.

In a nutshell — and you’ve probably heard all this because it occurred Friday before the start of the Giants-Reds weekend series — Reds outfielder Pham slapped Giants outfielder Pederson over some fantasy football league nonsense.

Apparently, the two players are, or were, in a fantasy league together, as are most male high school students, frat boys and casually employed sports geeks of all ages.

Major League Baseball suspended Pham three games for the slap. A humble Pederson later explained the catalyst for the one-shot whack, which almost brought the teams to a major brawl.

It was a GIF animation he sent to Pham and others in the fantasy league showing three weightlifters — one marked as a Dodger, one a Giant, one a Padre — each attempting to launch a big weight over his head behind him. The one whose weight crashed down on his head, knocking him comically to the ground, was the Padre, which Pham once was. 

Or something like that.

In fact, these two players are such well-traveled veterans — Pham is 34, Pederson 30, and between them they’ve played for eight teams — that you’d think they’d be beyond petty nonsense.

But, no. They’re dudes. They’re Americans.

The ridiculousness reached its zenith, in this writer’s opinion, when Pederson pulled out his phone in the clubhouse and showed reporters the offending GIF, narrating it as the stupidity wore along. He spoke so carefully and with such remorse that you feared he might start openly weeping.

You see, Pham thought Pederson had been cheating in the fantasy league.

“I put a player on injured reserve when he was out,” Pederson explained of the misunderstanding. “And then there was a text message in the group saying that I was cheating because I was stashing players on the bench.”

But Pederson had checked the league rules and felt comfortable with his maneuver. Moreover, he said, “[Pham] did very similar to what I did.”

A commissioner should have stepped in. But . . .

Never mind.

There’s lots — or maybe nothing — to parse in this modern, essentially harmless, overwhelmingly trivial but layered passion play. In a sense, the slap was irrelevant. Not in this time of gunfire and savagery. In videos afterward, young Pederson’s jaw appears to be intact and his cheek unblemished (save for blondish beard stubble). Not even a faint handprint.

But the slap was, in its essence, modern and trendy.

There are blossoming slap-fight leagues these days, wherein two combatants stand facing each other and commence, alternately, to slap the living (bleep) out of each other. 

So there’s that.

Pham, who brags about his martial arts training and other fighting skills, went gentle. No closed fists or roundhouse kicks. Which is nice.

The event could have been nasty. 

Pham’s a bit of a loose bolt at times. He got into a fight outside a strip club in 2020 — was stabbed in his lower back and needed 200 stitches to get fixed.  This spring, he got mad at Padres first baseman Luke Voit for a home-plate slide and said, “If Luke wants to settle it, I get down really well. Anything, Muay Thai, whatever.”

The GIF that Pederson sent was from seven months ago. Pham apparently has the memory of an elephant and a zealot’s need for justice.

Pederson said he thought it was all in fun. Oopsie.

Fantasy sports and gambling are everywhere now. Even among major-leaguers, clearly. So you have to wonder if the real games mean that much to anybody these days. 

I guess these guys don’t have fantasy baseball teams, only football. I mean, imagine them pondering activating the pitcher that just struck them out. Would anybody let a liner drop in if the real hit put his fantasy team over the top?

Pham is part Black and part Vietnamese. Pederson is Jewish by his mother’s side and has played for the Israel national baseball team. These are interesting guys. Great athletes. Holding dream jobs — jobs we fantasize about.

Yet here they are, morons just like us.

I’m not sure what the lesson is here, but if anybody knows where humankind is headed, based on

the above, please let me know.


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