Next time somebody tries to convince you that fantasy sports are only for the warped and self-centered, here is some ammunition for a counter strike:
Jim Rosenbeck and Larry Macdonald are baseball junkies who love both the sport's present and past. So on-line classic fantasy leagues were a natural for this pair.
Rosenbeck, a 52-year-old guidance counselor at Pembroke High School in Corfu, and Macdonald, a 41-year-old senior data analyst from Toronto, were frequently placed in the same computer simulation leagues -- in ESPN Classic games, on Stats.Inc and simnasium.com.
They began conversing on league message boards and once they realized they lived only 130 miles apart, they and their wives struck up a fast friendship that included trips to the Rogers Centre -- only about two blocks from Macdonald's home -- to watch the Blue Jays.
"[Rosenbeck] was up for a Saturday game, and was going to stay for the Sunday game, but was sick and decided he'd rather be home if he was going to have a bad weekend," said Macdonald, who played in the 1986 Canadian national baseball championships as a teammate of current Blue Jay Matt Stairs. "The fact he was missing the Red Sox -- and I think [Curt] Schilling was going to pitch the next day -- made it clear how serious it was getting."
"It" is polycystic kidney disease, which Rosenbeck was diagnosed with 3 1/2 years ago after experiencing severe back pains during a jog. About a year ago he entered renal failure and became dependent on peritoneal dialysis, which he performs on himself, four times a day for 45 minutes a crack, at home.
"Typically a kidney is the size of a fist," said Rosenbeck, a die-hard Red Sox fan who has coached high school varsity track, cross country and girls basketball, as well as junior varsity baseball. "Mine are somewhere between a fist and a football."
There is no cure for PKD, and without a transplant Rosenbeck's prognosis is grim.
"It would be really hard for me to ask somebody for a kidney," said Rosenbeck.
He didn't have to ask. Macdonald volunteered to use his vacation time for three days of testing at the Cleveland Clinic as a possible donor. Pembroke High principal Keith Palmer had been rejected after testing first, but Macdonald was approved as a match.
"I'm not doing it for gratitude but because a good friend of mine needs a kidney," said Macdonald, who will give Rosenbeck a kidney Sept. 27. "It doesn't scare me and I don't have any second thoughts."
Several doctors have told Macdonald the process will be very painful. He's liable to experience lethargy as his body adjusts to a single kidney. He'll be in the hospital two days, off the job for two weeks and unable to play ultimate frisbee -- his participatory sport of preference these days -- for four weeks.
If all goes well, Rosenbeck will be back at school after eight weeks, around Thanksgiving and most thankful.
"I'm almost embarrassed to accept," said Rosenbeck. "What some people are willing to do just blows me away. I could only hope I would be so altruistic. I am humbled by Larry's sacrifice. He treats it as if he has offered to loan me a clean pair of socks. How can you ever say thank you?"
Macdonald calls himself a "man of faith," who first met Rosenbeck face-to-face on a trip to Lewiston with his wife Virginia to view the Our Lady of Fatima Shrine. He just wants to help secure a healthy reality for his fantasy baseball pal.
"There are very few times in your life when you get a chance to do something important, and for me, this is the right thing to do," Macdonald said. "So I have no hesitation, no reservations and no doubts."
Said Rosenbeck: "You might not pick him out of the stands as a hero, but he sure is one. A friend of mine put it this way: 'when I hear that people are capable of this level of giving it restores my faith that we will survive as a species.' I'd say that pretty much describes a hero."
Start your engines
*Elliott Sadler is right at home on road courses, including Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., site of today's Toyota/Save Mart 350 (3:30 p.m., TNT; Radio 550 AM).
Sadler, 22nd in the 2006 Nextel Cup points standing, placed eighth at Infineon last June. In eight starts there, his average finish is 15.9 despite an average starting position of 29.6. He'll go off from the No. 12 spot in today's race.
*Today's inaugural Iowa Corn Indy 250 (1 p.m., Ch. 7) may not be the best tonic for Danica Patrick, who will start 11th. The 0.875-mile Iowa Speedway in Des Moines is one of just three short ovals (a mile or less) on this year's IndyCar Series schedule.
At the Milwaukee Mile and Richmond International Raceway (0.75 miles), the other short tracks, Patrick's average finish in five career races is 11.2. She placed eighth, then engaged in a pit-lane dust up with Dan Wheldon, in Milwaukee earlier this month for just her second top-10 short track finish.
When the series moves to Richmond for Saturday night's SunTrust Challenge, the smart money will be on Sam Hornish Jr., who has two victories (2002, '06), a runner-up ('01), a pole ('05) and a fourth-place finish ('03) in six starts there.
*The pole winner has won five of the past eight Cleveland Grand Prix races in the Champ Car World Series, including AJ Allmendinger (2006), Paul Tracy ('05) and Sebastien Bourdais ('03). That bodes well for Bourdais, who occupies the top spot for today's race (1 p.m., Ch. 4). He will be looking for his fourth consecutive win.