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Fantasy Football – Why it’s good for the sport and good for the fans!
Every Sunday, millions of viewers tune into nationally televised NFL broadcasts and watch some of the biggest teams in the sport go head to head. Many people even drop some extra monthly dollars on the NFL Network in order to have access to every game at the touch of a button. Everybody wants to see their favourite team pick up a win each week. This has always been the case and will likely never change.
However, in recent years if you walk into a random living room on a Sunday afternoon you might see a Lion’s fan engrossed by Ben Rothlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers. You might see a hardcore Patriots fan go crazy for a Indianapolis Colts touchdown hook up by Peyton Manning and Reggie Wayne. How and why can this be? Two words can sufficiently answer the question.
Fantasy Football was created in 1962 by a member of the Oakland Raiders organization but didn’t really take off publicly until around 1989. It began to spread, and by 1995 it started to benefit from the introduction of the internet, which made finding players and keeping track of scores much easier and more accessible and appealing. There was no looking back from this point, and there are now estimated to be close to 20 million players per season in the United States.
What makes it so popular?
How many of us football fans sit there on a regular basis and say things like, “Man, why don’t they start him over that guy” or “Wow, if I was the GM we would win every game!” We all do it, and we all know people who do it. Well guess what, now we can all prove it. Fantasy football gives us the opportunity to own our own team, and prove to our friends that we know more about the wonderful game of football than they do. Not the mention, in many peoples opinions the very best part of fantasy football. The Live Draft. Who wouldn’t want to draft their very own NFL team against other real people across the world? There is no better feeling than snagging that stud running back with the number one pick, or picking up that sleeper who puts up huge numbers in the 12th round.
What Fantasy Football does for the sport?
What many people sometimes fail to realize is just how important fantasy football is to the NFL, especially the TV networks who broadcast and cover the sport. In days past, fans may only want to watch their own team play and then maybe perhaps a game involving two of the better teams in the league. Now we have a situation where a New England Patriots fan has every reason to watch the terrible Browns square off against the woeful Lions. Why would they do this? It’s because they have Calvin Johnson and Peyton Hillis on their fantasy team! What this provides is genuine reason for fans to watch all games and never lose interest despite what a teams record or the score of the game might suggest. A game well into the fourth quarter, with a one sided score can still mean everything to a fantasy football player. Therefore, they remain glued to the screen. This is inevitably good for the NFL. Anything that generates interest is a positive, and Fantasy Football does this to an extent that nothing else has been able to do in the history of televised sports.
What it means to the fans?
In short, what fantasy football does for many fans, is keep the sport relevant and exciting. Not all fans have the luxury of being a Colts fan or a Steelers fan. As a Detroit Lions fan I know this as well as anyone out there. No matter how loyal of a fan someone may be, sometimes the blowout losses take their toll and one loses the will to continue to torture themselves by watching it. However, fantasy football keeps the sport fun and relevant and gives us all a reason to watch when we can’t find any other.
Not only this, but Fantasy Football provides a platform for friends to enjoy the sport of football together, in a fun and competitive way. There is nothing quite like meeting up with a group of great friends for the annual fantasy draft and taking on your best friend in a fantasy battle for the playoffs. Some of my best memories from college are related to fantasy football and the laughs my friends and I shared as a result of it.
Impact on popular culture and entertainment: Magazines, Websites & TV
Fantasy football has continued to grow and it’s impact in all aspects of media and entertainment. We see magazines dedicated to fantasy football tactics and draft boards. There are entire websites available, breaking down player rankings and trying to give players a chance to gain an edge on their competition. ESPN, the nations premier sports broadcaster, designates entire programs, television and radio slots, to fantasy football. People, such as ESPN’s Matthew Berry are hired specifically to provide insight into the fantasy football world on national TV. These aren’t just shelf and timeslot fillers either. They are some of the most popular things on the market in their respective areas.
Now, on top of all this, there is even a comedy sitcom, parodying fantasy football and the extreme measures some people take to win. Known as “The League” it was an immediate hit, and was extended for a second season. Showing the everyday happenings and fantasy warfare that takes place between a group of friends, including cameos from some of the sports best athletes, it is a show that is definitely worth a watch!
All of these facts serve to highlight just how big fantasy football has become and some of the wonderful positive effects that have occurred as a result of it. This stretches beyond football also, and you would be hard pressed to find a sport that doesn’t include some kind of fantasy gaming.