With the NFL Super Bowl just around the corner, I wanted to share my thoughts on fantasy sports.
What is Fantasy Sports?
For those of you not familiar with fantasy sports, it’s basically a competition between a group of sports fans (although being a fan is not a requirement) who form a virtual sports league. Generally, there would be a “commissioner” who creates a “league” (espn.com or yahoo.com hosts this service for free) where a group of people create their own teams through a drafting process, similar to a real professional league. All teams in a league are drafted before the start of the real life regular season and the team you draft plays against the teams that other people from your league draft. During the season, teams can trade players with other teams and they can also pick up unclaimed players from a pool called the “waiver wire” if their players get hurt, demoted or sometimes arrested (unfortunately, this happens from time to time). What these athletes produce in their real life league is used to calculate the fantasy points and determine the winner of a weekly match-up. For that reason, fantasy players must be aware of what’s going on in the real life league. People not familiar with this “game” wonder why people are so engaged, competitive and sometimes obsessed with fantasy sports. Let me tell you as someone who’s been in both corners, it is THAT MUCH fun.
How I became Obsessed with Fantasy Sports & American Football
My closest buddy from law school (also my former roommate) is as fanatic as a sports fan gets. He has general knowledge about most major sports, but has PhD level knowledge when it comes to pro football and basketball. During the NFL season, he would never leave school work for Sundays, because those were his “football Sundays.” He has played fantasy basketball and football for quite some time and naturally introduced me to both. I’ve always loved sports. I love watching sports and I’ve played a lot of different sports. Growing up in places other than the US, however, my passion lied in soccer, ice hockey (I grew up playing ice hockey), tennis and squash. Although I went to a BigTen school (think Drew Brees) and have been a follower of the ND Fighting Irish football team since high school (my brother, a ND alum, forced me to become an Irish fan), I never found American football or the NBA to be truly fun. This all changed once I started playing fantasy sports.
How Fantasy Sports Affected my Life
How fantasy sports would affect my life wasn’t something I had put much thought on before starting to play. However, fantasy sports affected my life in two different ways. First, the real life game of football became a heckuva more fun. Before playing fantasy football, I didn’t care about the teams, the players, and therefore the game. If it was on TV, maybe I’d watch it, maybe I won’t. Fantasy football helped me understand the factors that affected my players and the players of my competition. For example, when you understand why all of a sudden the quarterback of the team that’s 3 touchdowns behind with 5 minutes left starts to throw the football like a hot potato, and the opposing team starts to only run the football, the game comes alive. When your fantasy team is down by 2 points on a Monday night and your kicker misses a 32 yard field goal on the game’s last play, you are IN THAT GAME, jumping around like Jim Harbaugh. Call me crazy, but it’s one of the most fun things I’ve ever experienced. And fantasy football makes it happen every week during the NFL regular season.
Second, fantasy sports created a new way to bond with other people. In the US, American football is what cricket is to India, what soccer is to Brazil and perhaps what Starcraft is to Korea (I’m joking, maybe not). Anywhere you go in this country, it’s very likely that you’ll encounter a huge football fan. Universally, sports are great conversational topics. For instance, here in Arkansas, there’s a great pride for the University of Arkansas Razorbacks football. Even if somebody doesn’t know a lot about the team or the game of football, you can always talk about how bad or good the Razorbacks are doing. In my case, I’ve found myself in many discussions with friends and strangers (most of them huge fans of the game) how bad the Giants/Cruz/Eli were playing, how Chris Johnson was a bust, or how LeSean McCoy and Jamaal Charles were bombarding their fantasy owners with precious fantasy points. Fantasy football is uniquely American. It opens up people, and it’s supremely entertaining.
Is it Worth your Time?
I don’t know if there’s a right answer to this question. Some people refuse to play fantasy sports because it seems too time consuming. While that may be true, how much fun and value a person gets from doing something is completely subjective. For instance, if someone enjoys rock climbing or fishing, and spends all his free time doing that, who am I to judge whether or not that’s worth his time? I do think it’s important to strike a proper balance between fantasy sports and the rest of your life. But that’s true for everything else in life.
Do you feel passionate about sports, whether fantasy or real life? What’s your favorite sport?