Mar. 20, 2007, 2:42 PM

Fantasy Dancing with the Stars


You're welcome.

I'm about to do something for you that is a gift. A gift better than the likes of you deserve, frankly. But I'm a giver.

You see I assume you are like me. And by me, I don't mean a guy losing his hair while gaining pounds, but a guy who enjoys both fantasy sports and, ahem, "quality time" with the missus. … Well, what I am about to drop on you will help you in both regards.

"DWTS" is what the cool kids call "Dancing with the Stars," and the fourth season starts tonight over on the ABC at 8 ET. Chances are the wife already has made plans to watch it. Chances are just as good that you and whatever remaining shreds of masculinity you have left have made plans to do anything but that tonight.

Just as your wife doesn't understand your obsessive fantasy need, you don't understand the appeal of shows where celebrities do things they have no business doing, like cook or arrest people or, in extreme cases, attempt to act. But the most popular of these genres is the one where they dance, and it's so popular we're up to Season 4.

Watching this with your lady (that's right, I still say "lady" like Luther Vandross did) will get you boyfriend/husband points for, ahem, later. But, you say, you need some action to keep you interested. I hear you. And so do the fine folks at ABC, who, per my contract, could have me legally killed.

And that's where the Fantasy Dancing game comes in. You can learn to play here, but it's really simple. You pick the couples you think the judges will give the highest score and the lowest score, then a bonus category of something you think will happen on the show, like someone wears flowers or cries.

Here's hoping "loses a leg" will be a category soon. Because let's face it, it all comes down to the leg. Like those who watch hockey for the fights or NASCAR for the crashes, I'm watching for Heather Mills' leg. The one that might get detached from her body.

My feeling is she's the dark horse because expectations have to be low. That's the whole appeal, right? You don't expect the celebs to be any good at dancing, so expectations are already lowered and when they aren't horrible, you're excited and enjoy it. It's the same premise as improv comedy or my dating life.

And could there be any lower expectations than those for a woman with an artificial leg? Just getting through a routine -- no matter how pedestrian (pun sort of intended) -- is a victory. Fans will love her.

Aha! But it doesn't matter for the Fantasy Dancing Game! Audience voting is not included for the scoring of this game. You see? That's just the kind of fantasy expertise I bring.

So, here are my picks for Week 1. We'll be following all season long, unless -- again, per my contract -- I am legally killed.

Winning couple: Joey Fatone and Kym Johnson. Week 1 is a jitter week, getting all the bugs out, and you quickly figure out who has "it" and who should be remaking someone's house or something. (When do we get that fantasy game, by the way? Just bet over/under on how many times Ty takes his shirt off and you have something).

Fatone is a former member of 'N Sync. Formally known as the one from the group who isn't Justin Timberlake or gay, Fatone has moves. You don't become a member of 'N Sync without having serious dance ability. Trust me, I found that out the hard way. Here's betting his performing skills help lead the way in a nervous Week 1.

Losing couple: John Ratzenberger and Edyta Sliwinska. I almost didn't choose them because I didn't want to look up how to spell their names for this article. But the more I thought about who would be the worst, the guy who gave voice to a piggy bank in the "Toy Story" movies seemed like the correct call. And he was never light on his feet as Cliff the Mailman on "Cheers," and that was 20 years and lot fewer pounds ago. I like Ratzy -- I call him Ratzy -- but not for this.

Bonus: I picked Len Goodman calling a couple fabulous because it's the first night. Too early for feathers or a cape, the other choices, but certainly one couple will surprise tonight. One couple will have the kind of chemistry usually only reserved for myself and Eric Karabell. One couple will so charm Len that he will be forced to call them fabulous. This is as no-brainer as it gets.

So, what are you waiting for? Go sign up now to play. It's free. And sign up with the girlfriend or wife, too. Once she sees what fun fantasy can be, she'll want to play fantasy baseball with you, which -- as luck would have it -- is also free. On ESPN.com.

So you see what I have done? Given you an easy way to get brownie points with your significant other while teaching her about fantasy sports. I should get a Nobel Prize. Or, at least, not be killed.

Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- is the senior director of fantasy for ESPN. He was just as surprised as you to find out it's a real job. Cyberstalk the TMR: TalentedMrRoto@aol.com



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