The Fantasy Football Craze

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Let’s set the scene: It’s Sunday morning, and you’re ready to watch the day’s slate of professional football games. While your family may be rooting for the hometown favorite, you have an entirely different investment; rather than supporting one team, you’re rooting for players across all teams because your fantasy football team has a crucial matchup this week. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the cultist phenomenon that is fantasy football.

In the 1980s, fantasy sports made their debut in the form of baseball, where people could join a league with friends, “draft” their favorite players, then compete against one another all season long, being rewarded based on how their players performed in real life. Today, more than 60 million Americans play fantasy sports, with football standing head and shoulders above the rest.

Before fantasy sports, fans only had one or two games that would catch their interest from week to week, but the advent of fantasy football has now given fans incentive to watch most or all games, as there’s a good chance at least one of their players is on the field. Even in the early-to-mid 2000s, fantasy football was nothing compared to the media and societal giant it is today. In the past decade, tens of millions have jumped on the fantasy bandwagon, giving the genesis of fantasy football podcasts, talk shows, entire websites dedicated to the “sport,” and all new types of leagues, allowing players to craft their very own unique fantasy experience.

For many fans, the majority of whom are teenagers, fantasy football allows them to live out their wildest football dreams on a weekly basis. “The best part is getting to manage your favorite players on your own team,” commented senior Josh Seltzer. “I mean, who wouldn’t want [Green Bay Packers quarterback] Aaron Rodgers and [Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver] Antonio Brown on the same team?” Many others LHS students feel the same way.

The idea is simple enough: pick your favorite players and hope they play well. But why has this pedestrian idea been the catalyst of the more than $7 billion industry that is fantasy sports? “I think it’s so successful because of how unpredictable it is,” says senior Chase Zornberg. “Take this year for example. If you spent your first-round pick on [Pittsburgh Steelers All-Pro running back] Le’Veon Bell, who has yet to play this season due to a contract dispute, that was disappointing. But a guy like [Kansas City Chiefs second-year quarterback] Patrick Mahomes, who likely went undrafted in most leagues, has the most total points in fantasy football this season. So you just never know.”

As fantasy football has ascended to the top of the social media hierarchy, so has its outreach into other ventures. Websites such as FanDuel and DraftKings allow players to play one-week matchups and earn quick cash, giving some players the chance to participate in large tournaments where grand prizes can reach upwards of $1 million dollars. There are hundreds of ways to customize your fantasy football leagues, with dynasty leagues (lasts multiple seasons), IDP leagues (including individual defensive players), and auction drafts (where players a given a budget to spend on their team, as opposed to the standard draft format). With so many different ways to play, fantasy football seems like it will only grow in popularity for years to come. The only question is, how far can it go?

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