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The Student News Site of the Latin School of Chicago

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The Student News Site of the Latin School of Chicago

The Forum

Is This The Real Life? Is This Just Fantasy?

Michael Gross

Co-Editor-in-Chief

“Hello, my name is [insert name]”

“I’m [insert name], nice to meet you. What do you do for a living?”

“I own and manage a football team.”

“Little league?”

“Fantasy League.”

This is a typical first encounter between one of the 25.8 million American adults who play fantasy football and a complete stranger.

Well, that is not exactly accurate, but what is true is that the majority of these 25.8 million Americans consider Fantasy Football a job. With this “job” comes not only a significant time commitment, but also a monetary investment. If you perform well, and have a great deal of luck on your side, the financial rewards can be as high as fifteen times the initial investment.

For those who have been living under a rock, Fantasy Football is a simulated professional football league where the participants form teams to draft and manage a group of players throughout the NFL season. Each week the teams shuffle their starting lineup in attempt to form the strongest team for the week’s matchup. Roster adjustments may be the result of trades with other teams, or benching a player due to injury or poor performance.

The Fantasy Football industry has long surpassed the $1 billion mark, as fans have become addicted to the never-ending chase of building a perfect team, and ultimately winning their league. The business has been around since 1962 and has escalated with the growth of the Internet over the past two decades, as the number of participants continues to increase at an astounding pace. The fastest growing cohort is the under-18 age group, as many of these kids grew up watching their parent play. As a result, many Fantasy Leagues are formed by a group of friends in high school and stay intact through college and beyond, as they eventually pass it on to their own kids.

This booming “hobby” has had a significant economic impact, and has generated their profits from cable deals, advertisements, draft guides, and buy-in fees. In addition, it has spawned several ancillary businesses that look to profit from devoted fantasy fans. Redzone, for example, is a TV network that specifically targets fantasy football fans, as it broadcasts any play in the course of the week’s games that would generate points for a certain player or team. There are also smaller businesses nationwide that profit from fantasy participants’ desire to protect the players on their rosters. FantasyDispute.com, for instance, resolves disagreements within members of fantasy leagues for $14.95, and Fantasy Sports Insurance (FSI) provides disability coverage on star players. Because of Fantasy Football, fans have a newfound intensity – watching meaningless games and focusing more on how a certain individual does than the actual outcome. Without Fantasy Football, fans would only watch their favorite team, and not spend money on extra TV packages like Redzone. It is without question that Fantasy Football is popular, but what draws all these participants?

Reasons to join a Fantasy Football league go far beyond the monetary incentives. In today’s heavily broadcasted sports world – focused on highlight reels and star players – kids grow up with the dream of becoming a professional athlete. When I was younger, my biggest dilemma was whether to be in the NBA, MLB, or NFL (I finally picked NBA for those who are wondering). Now, 95% of these kids are hit with a crushing reality in their early teens, as they recognize that their size, lack of coordination, and mediocre athletic ability will prevent their dreams from coming true. The obvious replacement for being a professional athlete is to be in control of professional athletes, and that is exactly what Fantasy Football offers. Another benefit is that being a part of a league provides the opportunity to create and maintain lasting bonds with a group of friends. Latin junior Charlie Cox believes that the relationships created through Fantasy Football stem from the “smack talk” throughout each season, as he said, “this forges closer and long-term friendships.” Although it may seem like it is all fun and games, Fantasy Football is very educational as well – it involves endless statistical analysis, trading strategy, negotiation techniques and even leadership opportunities, as each league appoints a commissioner with the vital responsibility of monitoring trades and maintaining fairness in the league. This past week, I had the chance to speak with Latin junior Brennan Besser, one of the many commissioners at the high school, as we discussed the challenging but rewarding aspect of the position. Brennan said, “Being the Commissioner feels like the burdens of the world have been placed on your shoulder, as you are ultimately responsible for the livelihood of all your friends.” While Brennan may have exaggerated the intensity, the overall message is accurate, as the members in the league look up to the commissioner to ensure that everyone has an equitable chance of victory. Brennan’s passion for the hobby is a mere microcosm of its resounding presence at Latin. Senior Hedy Gutfreund said, “I walk in to school every Monday morning and watch guys yelling what absolute nonsense to each other.” The outsiders of the Fantasy community, like Hedy, typically do not understand how something they view as nonsense can be so intense to others. Once one becomes a part of the community, however, the reasons are suddenly clear, as the simple competition between friends creates a new way to enjoy football.

While it certainly has economic and educational benefits, many still contend that Fantasy Football has a negative impact on society, arguing that it decreases productivity both in the workplace and at school during the 15 week NFL season. However, these adversaries fail to recognize that everyone needs a break from their work or studies, and Fantasy Football is simply taking the place of other distractions that exist throughout the year . In fact, studies show that productivity increases if meaningful breaks are taken, thus refuting this opposing argument. If you are going to take a break from your work or studies, Fantasy Football, with all the advantages it brings, is certainly a great option.

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    jmartinOct 16, 2013 at 1:02 am

    Fantasy Football taught me economics, I just didn’t realize it until class with Greer this year.

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Is This The Real Life? Is This Just Fantasy?