A Fantasized World: The Growth of Fantasy Football

Travis Benjamin, Tavon Austin, T.Y Hilton and Ted Ginn. These four players are incredibly valuable receivers to those who play fantasy football.

Fantasy football, a game that was started by a group of middle-aged New Yorkers before the age of the Internet is evolving into a multi-billion dollar industry.

How do fantasy football sites make money? There are two main revenue models. The first model has been implemented by, “The Worldwide Leader in Sports.” ESPN is one of many fantasy football sites that relies on ads to generate revenue while making it free to signup to play. CBS Sports, among other sports sites, charges a fee to join a league, which makes league homes on these websites free of bothersome advertisements.

A Lick student tinkers with his fantasy football lineup photo by George Dicke​

A Lick student tinkers with his fantasy football lineup photo by George Dicke​

Fantasy sports sites are not the only companies capitalizing on the fantasy football boom. The NFL has created a program that places viewers around the league into moments in which offenses are in the “redzone,” the area of the field between the 20 yard line and the goal line. Basically, the service gives viewers the opportunity to

catch every touchdown from around the league, since the most touchdowns occur when a team is in the redzone. At a whopping $49.99 per season, the service is aimed at serious fantasy football aficionados..

The implementation of the NFL RedZone service highlights that

A growing number of football fans solely cheer for their fantasy football squad, people aren’t watching games for the sake of rooting for a team. Instead, the growing number of fantasy football fanatics solely cheer for the one quarterback, two to three running backs and wide receivers, one tight end, a team defense and a kicker- that make up a standard fantasy squad.

In a fantasy football league, each team is owned by one person. Most leagues are comprised of 8-14 teams, each of which consists of players on National Football League teams. These athletes will give each team points depending on their performance. Two teams then matchup each week where the team with the most points from its players wins.

One of the main characters from the fantasy football inspired television show, The League, Pete Eckhart, exclaims, “God bless fantasy football. There are many things a man can do with his time… this is better than those things.” According to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, 56.8 million people ages 12 and over are playing fantasy sports, making Eckhart’s seemingly ludicrous comment seem true.

I participate in a ten team league with a few buddies from Lick, and there are leagues comprised of Lick freshmen, sophomores, seniors, and faculty. Fantasy football leagues give participants a chance to crunch numbers, simulate team management and of course, talk smack. In addition, young fantasy football players are thrown into trade negotiations, a situation that teaches mutual agreement.

Fantasy football teaches many life skills. Whether a fantasy football player becomes a lawyer, a politician or a farmer, chances are that they will have to perform negotiations at some point in their career. And fantasy football can help. A fantasy trade requires two team owners to communicate their needs effectively. For instance, if a team owner forgets to draft a quarterback the team owner will have to convince a member of the league to give them a quarterback. The ultimate goal is to produce a deal that is mutually beneficial, but in reality, the possibility of getting ripped off is very real.

Three time member of L-W Fantasy Football, Chip Thompson ‘17, commands the reputation of a hard headed trade go-getter. Thompson, who finished second last year, reveals that “the trick about fantasy football and trading is to never give any of your trading secrets away… period.” Fantasy football players can develop their very own trading and negotiation strategies that will translate to other aspects of life, especially in the workplace. As Chip, students and faculty embark on a 16 week trek, it’s a given that trades will happen, some more effective than others, and fantasy football competitors will develop negotiation tactics essential for success.

Andrew Manansala, Admissions Associate at LWHS, estimates that he spends three and a half hours each week bettering his fantasy team, not to mention the hours he spends on Sunday cheering on his fantasy players. He fills his Twitter feed with fantasy football, following 57 fantasy football experts to get advice. In fact, Andrew once even wrote freelance articles for numberfire.com, a website run by J.J. Zachariason, one of the writers Andrew follows on his Twitter feed.

For the jersey pic the caption is "The jersey given to the loser of Andrew Manansala's fantasy league" photo by Andrew Manansala

For the jersey pic the caption is “The jersey given to the loser of Andrew Manansala’s fantasy league” photo by Andrew Manansala

For Andrew though, fantasy football is fun. “I love watching football, and fantasy football gives me a reason to watch [the NFL] on Sunday” exclaims Andrew. The game also brings people together. He plays to keep in touch with his high school classmates from Lick, some of whom live on the East Coast. Like most fantasy football participants, he plays to win. The ability to brag to all of one’s friends is insanely fun and losing a league can be heartbreaking. In many leagues, punishments are given to the losing team. Andrew’s league awards the baseball jersey used by Lick alumni Nico Madrigal-Yankowski, an assistant baseball coach and JV tennis head coach at Lick, to the losing team. This is because Nico has a reputation for making unfair trades which cause him to lose. Known as “The Nico”, the loser is shamed by having to wear the jersey in public, as well as perform any (usually embarrassing) tasks ordered by other league members.

Fantasy football can improve communication skills through trading, strengthen bonds and bring happiness to those who play, but it can also make people lose money. Most leagues today have buy-in, and the only way to win money is to come in first place. The odds are against fantasy players. In a recent survey sent out to Lick students that play fantasy football, every respondent said they bet $15

or more each season on fantasy. A growing number of people are investing money in daily fantasy sites, most notably DraftKings and FanDuel. Unlike traditional fantasy football, users of daily fantasy sites such as DraftKings and FanDuel pick different players each week instead of sticking with one team for an entire season. Daily fantasy football players enter into contests with random people. Andrew loves fantasy and watching football, but he questions the legality of the emerging industry of daily fantasy sports. He asks a questions on the minds of fantasy critics. “With daily fantasy sports, how does that get away with not being considered gambling?” The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 made online gambling illegal while exempting fantasy football, claiming that fantasy football takes enough skill to distinguish itself from traditional online gambling. A diverse group, including people under 18, are betting on NFL players through daily fantasy, throwing gobs of money into pools with random people. Some people will win, but just like gambling, the majority of participants lose money, because the odds are stacked against them. Nevertheless, the the leading providers of daily fantasy sports, DraftKings and FanDuel have spent a combined $100 million dollars from August 1st to September 15th, according to iSpot.Tv, on television advertisements. With this aggressive marketing spending, the numbers of daily fantasy sports users have increased tremendously, and DraftKings and FanDuel’s projected value has surpassed $1 billion.

Additionally, DraftKings has struck a deal with the National Football League Players Association enabling professional football players to appear in their ads. The site has also introduced daily fantasy college football, which Roy Eisenhardt, a sports law professor at UC Berkeley, thinks will catch on very quickly. However, Eisenhardt reveals that the NCAA is “now worried [daily fantasy] is going to infiltrate the reason why people support college teams…and that is you’re not rooting for the college team but you’re rooting for particular players.” Additionally, the major conferences have sent a letter to DraftKings asking them to discontinue their college football services. With the difficulty of avoiding DraftKings and FanDuel’s ads, college football may yet embrace fantasy and change the way fans watch college games.

The general trend over the past few years suggests that fantasy football’s popularity will continue to grow. However, people have mixed emotions about what my mother calls “nothing more than a major time suck.” Whether that is a true judgement or not, millions of Americans are taking to their couches to track the Comcast Channel that takes viewers around the NFL to document fantasy relevant plays. Although these Americans may never be seen by the public on any given football Sunday, they will solidify friendships and gain the skills necessary to wheel and deal.

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About George Dicke

George Dicke is a junior at LWHS who is cowriting the sports section for the Paper Tiger. George started writing as a hobby in third grade, when he wrote a 13 page science fiction story which won an award for its excellence. He has a deep rooted passion for both following and playing sports, as well as drawing sports figures. His artwork has been published in Sports Illustrated Kids, and he has drawn Tom Brady, Arian Foster, Jermaine Jones among other athletes.

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