Are fantasy sports ruining true fandom? This is a question I ask myself frequently, as I find myself desperately hoping for a certain player or team to do well, before realizing that the team I “support” could be negatively influenced as a result. Almost all fantasy sports participants will be able to relate to this scenario.
For those who are unaware of what exactly fantasy sports is, the premise is simple. Participants select professional players in a draft style format, and based on their performance in a variety of areas during professional games, they gain points for their fantasy owners. Sports like football, baseball, and basketball have more quantifiable statistics, which allows players to accumulate points more easily. However, fantasy sports have expanded to many others sports, including soccer, hockey, and even golf.
The history of fantasy sports is quite complex and heavily disputed. The first evidence of any form of fantasy sports surfaced in 1962, when Wilfred “Bill” Winkenbach and members of the Oakland Raiders organization created the basic structure for fantasy football that is still used today.
Baseball fans may argue that fantasy sports didn’t truly start until 1980, while members of the golf community will trace its roots all the way back to the 1950s.
Regardless of when the phenomenon began, the industry has taken off in the last few decades. The invention of personal computers in the early 1980s saw fantasy sports popularity drastically increase, as fans were able to access information and statistics from the comfort of their own homes. As technology has continued to advance, so has the industry, spreading throughout the world and expanding to include many more sports. As of September 2015, the Fantasy Sports Trade Association estimated that 56.8 million people age 12 and above in the US and Canada alone participated in fantasy sports.
Largely responsible for the rapid rise of this industry is the use of advertising. The two largest fantasy football companies, FanDuel and Draftkings, spent a combined $206 million on TV advertising in 2015, despite only raking in $87 million between the two of them the year before.
While this may reflect naive marketing, it also reveals how confident these two companies were in the growth of the fantasy football industry. That being said, in 2016, both groups significantly cut their advertising expenditure as they realized that it was unsustainable, and both companies could coexist in the fantasy market.
Some of the main supporters for fantasy sports are the leagues in which the sports take place. Both the National Football League (NFL) and the Premier League sponsor their respective fantasy leagues. Playing fantasy sports has been shown to increase the number of games the average fan watches, as they are interested in watching the players in their fantasy teams in action, not just the team they support. Obviously the leagues are in support of this, as it leads to increased ticket sales and TV revenue.
Having somewhat thoroughly recounted the history of fantasy sports, I still have failed to answer one simple question: Why do people play fantasy sports? Surprisingly enough, there actually has been some research done on this very question. One conclusion researchers have drawn is that the popularity is a result of the fantasy aspect.
Participants love stepping into the shoes of managers by selecting their team, and, in essence, coaching them to victory. Studies have also found that fantasy sports offer competition, and potentially a way to make money, which only heightens the excitement.
The reality is that fantasy sports are fun. They are fun because they almost always connect you with your friends and your family, who are the most important people in your
Assuming you are not such a competitive person that fantasy sports will ruin all of your relationships and consume all of your free time, I would highly recommend your participation. So far in my fantasy career I’ve lost in every league I’ve ever participated in, and lost around fifty dollars in the process. But I can promise you: this year is going to be different.