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Steve Phillips' new reality is 'Fantasy'

It was near 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, and Bob from Michigan had an urgent question:

Should his fantasy team go with the Giants' Barry Zito against the Dodgers that night?

Other people's fantasy rosters have replaced other people's vacation pictures as the worst form of social torture, but Bob's question was not directed at a friend or relative. It was all business.

Bob was calling in to talk to a former pennant-winning major-league general manager and former multi-platform analyst at ESPN.

Steve Phillips' answer - go with Zito, who would pitch well but lose, 2-0 - was not as interesting as this question:

What was he doing on Sirius XM's three-week-old Fantasy Sports Radio in the first place, logging yet another three-hour shift in his five-nights-a-week schedule?

Not to mention appearing regularly on WFAN and working for Fanhouse.com. Last Sunday, he turned up as Bruce Beck's guest on Mike Francesa's TV show.

It is part of an aggressive effort to rebuild a career that a year ago had him near the top. Phillips isn't complaining.

"I am grateful some opportunities have been presented by people willing to stand next to me as I work on my own recovery to [also] try to recover my career," he said Wednesday before participating in Sirius XM's fantasy football draft in Manhattan.

It is a gradual process, now nine months since ESPN fired him after his affair with a young production assistant became public in all its sordid detail.

After emerging from rehab Phillips decided that to return to his media career he had to face the media, first on NBC's "Today" show in February and later in a long, bluntly candid interview with Francesa.

"Most shows I go on for the first time still have some reference to it, and that's OK," he said. "It's the nature of where I am right now. I've pretty much surrendered the outcome."

Phillips, 47, said he hopes speaking about his situation will help others and educate those who roll their eyes at the notion of sex addiction.

He said he attends seven to 10 meetings a week as part of his recovery and that while he and his wife, Marni, are "effectively separated" he still hopes to salvage their relationship.

"I'd give my left arm to try to find a way to make my marriage survive," he said. "I don't know if that's going to happen. But my wife has always been there for me and I've put her through some real tough times . . . It's what I want to do more than anything."

Some in the audience booed Wednesday when the former Mets general manager was introduced, but most of the time, he said, he has been greeted warmly.

"There's part of it that's paralyzing because part of walking around worrying about what people were thinking about me was part of my defensive character that I need to work on," he said.

"But the result has been far better than anything I could have anticipated with the response from people on the street and in the media."

Talking baseball has helped. On the fantasy show, the fact he and co-host Jeff Rickard are on while games are in progress offers immediacy and helps Phillips keep up with the sport.

For now it's a nice fit, but what about the longer term? Can Phillips make it all the way back, as others who have suffered public embarrassments have before him?

"I honestly can't put expectations on any of that," he said. "For my recovery as a person, it is one day at a time. My career is the same thing."

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