by Robert Wyllie

Whether because they are attracted to the Church in the first place by outdated images of the traditional devotional life, or because they are simply bewildered by the fact that the Church has something in the order of ten thousand canonized saints, new Catholics draft very poorly. There even seems to be a taboo around discussing this subject. I want you to know that I am strictly here to help.

Most Catholics are in leagues with straightforward rules, but they do vary. Look into them closely first, because they are going to come. You do not have to delve deep into the analytics to know the main thing—after checking the cap space rules for the Blessed Virgin Mary (most leagues I know do not allow you to draft the Mediatrix of All Graces)—is not to join a keeper league where some dude can slap a franchise tag on Saint Anthony. I learned this from my father. People are always checking down prayers to Saint Anthony; he’s constantly on the field delivering measurables. This dude in your league is just going to hold on to him year in, year out, and you’re going to have to pay whatever fine or luxury tax to this guy every time you lose your keys. In standard scoring leagues, Saint Anthony is a beast. In P.P.I. leagues, he’s unstoppable. Remember, this is supposed to deepen your mystical union with the Communion of Saints by laying down the rules for a futures market on the treasury of merits. It’s not supposed to be frustrating and venal.

Think about the size and composition of your league. What kind of intercessions do you want a virtual ownership stake in? If you have a sixteen-person league of young and healthy people, but half of them are teachers and students, trading a second-round pick for Saint Thomas is no-brainer. You have to cultivate a kind of actuarial shrewdness. Now that they’re recommending colonoscopies for men around forty five, look around the league. See lots of health-conscious middle-aged men? Saint Peregrine could be a sky-limit high upside pick in the fourth round, or a total bust. There are plenty of spheres of life for you to practice charity and form indissoluble friendships. This is not one of them. The community of shared prayer intentions is simply the raw data the game runs upon.

My parish priest, a three-time Super Dulia champion, likes to say the intercession game has a supply and a demand side. If the prayers never go up, the intercessions never come down. I see lots of young Catholics dive into sleeper picks and underrated saints. Look, Saint Casimir may be the patron saint of bachelors, but that doesn’t mean all these bachelors out there are praying to him about whatever problems they’re having with their roommates in Corona Park. Heaven is bursting with surplus capacity. On the other hand, monitoring the performance of your roster against the other rosters in your league, you’re going to think about the saints much more than you otherwise would. These leagues increase the aggregate demand for particular intercessors. This must be the reason this devotional practice has stormed the hearts of millions of Catholics in the past several decades.

On the other hand, you have to worry about the perennially overrated saints. Just like you never bet on Notre Dame to cover the spread, you don’t draft Saint Patrick. He always goes off the draft board like he’s the patron saint of hangovers. (He’s not, that’s Saint Bibiana—very good production in my league.) You’re not going to have a snake infestation problem at home. Furthermore, do not—under any circumstance—draft a twentieth-century pope. Let the newbie in your draft grab J.P. II in the third round like a dunce: it’ll free you up to grab Saint Linus. On that note, never count out the guys and gals in the canon. They may not be flashy, but they’re consistent and you can trust them to get you points day in and day out.

Speaking from experience, you shouldn’t tell your Lutheran friends about this. Even some Catholics insist you can pray to all the saints all year at no penalty, and you don’t need to make side-payments to your friends every time to invoke a saint whom they own. I admit that old loosey-goosey attitude towards the sheer abundance of grace comes from a venerable tradition, I believe even back to the Dark Ages when all there was was Strat-o-Matic baseball. But then how are you supposed to win?

Last thing: if it’s your first time playing, draft Saint Blaise first. That way you won’t choke.

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