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Financial Fantasy Baseball, Top Prizes Guaranteed!

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If you like fantasy baseball, and want to earn, say, a billion a year, here's a career tip: come to Wall Street. No, please, don't be intimidated. The rules are exactly the same, I swear; playing the synthetic CDO game will be second nature to you. And it's really the perfect time to join the Financial Fantasy League. Our top prizewinner last year grabbed $3.7 billion, and the next 25 guys averaged a billion each. So, let's get started!

First, of course, as a new Financial Fantasy League manager, you have to pick your team. As you understand perfectly well, the team is comprised of various players from around the league that otherwise have no connection to each other, or to you. And, of course, it's totally imaginary; the real guys don't even know you're picking them.

Oh, sorry, I should've mentioned: in the Financial Fantasy League, you don't choose baseball players; instead, you select packages of bonds, called CDOs. But otherwise it's precisely the same idea: they have no connection to you or to each other, and your actions have no impact on them. In fact, nobody outside our League even knows we're playing.

And how do you win? Well, you already know. You simply sit back and watch the real players -- um, CDOs -- every day over a predetermined period of time. At the end of the season, you total up their individual statistical performances to get the overall score for your imaginary team. If it exceeds a certain threshold, you win; if not, you lose. Just as you're accustomed to, the Commissioner (a guy named Goldman) takes all the entry fees, holds them till the end of the season, and then pays out the winner.

Naturally, the really best managers are those who understand the performance statistics of the players --shoot, I mean CDOs -- that they pick: how they've done in the past, how they'll fare in various conditions, which might be past their primes and have a bad year (in fact, subprime experts seem to win the most). But anyone can play, and don't worry a bit if you lack the experience to select your own team: Goldman will be very happy to put one together just for you.

To be frank, not everything about the Financial Fantasy League is perfect. First off, for some reason, the teams have really crummy names. Forget Sam's Sharks or Mark's Marauders; you have to pick something like "Abacus 2007-AC1". And some people complain that the entry fees are kinda high... maybe $100 million or so. But, heck, where do they think that prize money comes from?

Oh, one last thing. You might have heard a nasty rumor about the Commissioner lately. Seems that one of the losing managers from last season is complaining to League Headquarters. Apparently, the guy took one of those teams Goldman put together, and now he claims the Commish knew it was gonna have a terrible season all along, and maybe even had a sidebet on it. Well, I do have to admit that the group didn't look great on paper: the equivalent of the Astros' hitters, the Royals' infield, and the Mets' pitching staff...well, minus Santana. But c'mon, it's just like baseball, and nobody can see the future. Whatever. With the payouts in this League, baby, who the hell really cares?

So, you already know all the rules. Here' my advice: if you're smart enough to have Pujols but not Soriano on your current squad, then you're playing in the wrong league. Get down to Wall Street and join the bigs.