“It’s Fantasy SZN”: When Dream Teams Come True
Every Autumn, sports fans rejoice as football returns to the national spotlight. Whether it’s at the high school, collegiate, or professional level, the game of football captures the attention of millions of people, both domestically and abroad, each year. In recent years, Fantasy Football, a sort of game within the game, has become almost as big of a staple in the lives of football fans each Fall as the game itself.
At its core, fantasy football is a simple endeavor that requires a computer, tablet, or smartphone and no skill at all. To participate, you simply draft a team of current NFL players, pick a certain amount to be your “Starters” each week, and receive points based on how those players perform in their games on Sundays, Mondays, or Thursdays. Each week, your team is put up against another team in your fantasy league. The team of players that perform better come out victorious with more fantasy points. Simple enough, right? The hard parts, though, are the keys to success. Drafting a good team, working the waiver wire (adding players who were not drafted/are not on a team to your team), and deciding who to start each and every week are incredibly vital parts of the game that every good Fantasy GM needs to master.
As with anything, different fantasy services operate in different ways. Some, like Yahoo and ESPN, are free to enter, and all you have to do is sign up to play. Within each service, the league manager can finagle the league rules to his/her liking, and after enlisting people to join the league, a free league is born. Generally, the buy-ins, rewards, and losing consequences for these leagues are agreed upon by all participants. Websites like FanDuel and DraftKings have, somewhat controversially, risen to prominence in recent years, with the basis of their service being the ability to win boatloads of money if you pick your team correctly and do well each week. These sites have been embroiled in controversy and lawsuits for years, with DraftKings being ruled illegal, and then made legal again, in New York. Both DraftKings and FanDuel, the two most prominent players in a field of fantasy games known as “Daily Fantasy Sports,” have had their legality questioned in many states, but still remain popular for the opportunity they present for winning large amounts of money.
The popularity of the game has taken off over the last few years, with an estimated 59.3 million participants in the United States and Canada in 2017. For many, it’s a great way to bond with friends over a common interest, while in a competitive and exciting environment. “Fantasy football is appealing to me because it allows me to express my competitive nature and love for football,” said Libby Gardner ’18, “all while bonding with my friends.” Tyler Bahamonde ’18 shared a similar sentiment. “It’s really competitive,” Tyler said, “it’s fun to compete with friends like that.” The rise in popularity of the game also gives people more reason to watch games besides just the ones that their favorite team plays in. “Playing fantasy football gives me a great reason to watch a lot more football,” said Jake Rizzuti ’18.
A staple of every fantasy league is the punishment inflicted onto the player whose team finishes dead last in the league. Often times, this is some sort of public humiliation. A common route of punishment is forcing the loser to wear some type of apparel with the words “I Suck at Fantasy Football,” or a similar sentiment, displayed prominently. Conversely, the promise of winning a prize also drums up a lot of interest in the game. As previously mentioned, services like DraftKings and FanDuel provide the opportunity for players to win exorbitant amounts of money. For people who don’t want such high stakes, a trophy or small buy-in fee is preferable. “In the league I play in,” said Quinn Schneider ’18, “everyone’s supposed to pay 10 dollars at the beginning of the season, and eventually the money is given to the player who wins the championship.”
Fantasy football has also provided sports media outlets with a whole new avenue to appeal to sports fans. Companies like ESPN and Bleacher Report have significant stakes in the fantasy sports world, and this is especially true during the Fall. ESPN, in addition to having their own fantasy sports service, also has programming dedicated entirely to fantasy football, including The Fantasy Show. Both Bleacher Report and ESPN have a smorgasbord of articles and columns dedicated to the game, ranging from strategy and tips to full fledged mock fantasy drafts.
“I rely on ESPN’s updates about injuries and lineup changes to help me make my decisions on who to play,” said John Blumenthal ’18.
Fantasy football serves as a great way to further connect fans to the game they love, and has become a highly anticipated part of every football season. From the casual player to the dedicated expert fantasy GM, the game is played and enjoyed by millions around the country. With the presence it currently has in society, fantasy football has become essential to the football culture in America and looks to remain that way for years to come.