The D-League has rolled out something called the "Virtual Scout," and to be honest I still can't figure out what it's supposed to be. Billed as a "first-of-its-kind fantasy game," the thing works thusly: step 1 is to go to the Virtual Scout site (you also have to sign up for a free NBA All-Access account); step 2 is to check off five D-League players who you think will get called up at some point in the next month; step 3 is to watch D-League games on Futurecast; step 4 is to pick five different players next month. The press release promises monthly prizes for those who correctly guess the NBA call-up, plus a grand prize of a trip to the 2010 NBA Draft to "watch NBA scouts and GM's [sic] in action." Because nothing beats being in the same room as someone who's talking on the phone for several hours.
Where to start? Well, I guess I'll start with the player list. I will cut the D-League some slack for having some guys on there who have left to go play in Europe, since this list was probably compiled before the season started. And yet, there are NBA assignees on it. That's right, you can take your best guess as to whether NBA player Alexis Ajinca will be playing in the NBA this year. Oh, but wait, since he's an assignee, then when he goes back to the NBA it won't count as a call-up, so you win nothing. I guess that makes sense? Also, what happens if one of your players decides mid-month that he wants to go play overseas because the D-League pay is so low? Do you get to pick a new player?
There's also the fact that this isn't really a "fantasy game," but really more of an old-fashioned guessing contest. No points are awarded for "your" players accumulating stats, and you don't even get to follow a player though a season, just a month. This really reminds me of the Simpsons (like most things in life, which is my own personal problem that I've been dealing with for several years now). Specifically, the season 8 episode "The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show." In that episode (for those of you with normal brains who don't automatically retain everything from this show), kids have stopped watching Itchy and Scratchy cartoons, and the producers are looking for ways to boost ratings. They convene a focus group of Springfield kids to find out what they want, and the result is a jumbled mess.
Focus Group Guy: So you want a realistic, down-to earth show...that's completely off-the-wall and swarming with magic robots?
Kids: [various sounds of agreement]
Milhouse: And also, you should win things by watching.
I've been a bit sarcastic in this post, because that's just my way. Honestly, though, this is a pretty good idea that's set up and packaged oddly. Calling it a "fantasy game" to try and capitalize on this thing called "fantasy sports" that the kids are so into these days was a particularly confusing choice. Really, this allows anyone to watch D-League games and highlights, but hopefully encourages greater fan involvement by making showing them that there are some pretty good players in this league. The fact that a lot of people will probably just pick the names they know regardless of their call-up chances aside (Kevin Pittsnogle, anyone?), getting the casual fan to focus on the real talent in the D-League is always a good thing. I could quibble and say that it doesn't really go far enough, in that when you pick your players you're then taken to a screen that says, in essence, "thanks for submitting your votes! Be sure to watch Futurecast this season!" You're not taken to any kind of stats breakdown or scouting profiles for the players, nor are you told when those players' games are so that you can, you know, watch them. This is, in essence, an ad for Futurecast and for the D-League. If it gets more fans watching the games, though, all I can say is "please refrain from tasting the knob."