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The Joys Of (Fantasy) Football

05 Sep

This evening the NFL season begins with a highly anticipated match-up between the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants.  As well as watching football, this also means that thousands of Fantasy Football Leagues will be commencing (mine included).  Millions of Average Joes (and Janes) will be trying to showcase their knowledge and potential skill as great football managers/owners/minds as they live out the entire football season vicariously through their artificially constructed teams.

But why is it that we love our NFL so much?  In turn, why is it that fantasy football is so popular?

Surely, there are a multitude of factors that contribute to the answers of these particular questions.  The game is fast-paced, it is full of exciting plays and players, and there is a lot of media coverage to simply name a few reasons.  With the understanding that there is no one correct answer to the above questions, I’d like to point out that the structure and scheduling of the league acts as a catalyst for its popularity, especially for fantasy football leagues and participants.

As many people know, the NFL plays a shorter, more structured schedule than most other mainstream professional sports.  There are only 16 games per team in the regular season and those games occur on Sundays and Monday nights (with a few exceptions: tonight, Thanksgiving, and a few Thursday night games later in the season).   What this does is create a concentrated amount of exposure and coverage on these two game days.  Sunday and Monday (night) are football days.  This makes it extremely easy for an average fan to follow his/her team.  You don’t have to worry about what day or time your team is playing nearly as much.

Do we have a day game or night game this Tuesday? When is our next game, Wednesday or Friday? Do we have 3 games this week, or just two?

No. One game. And it’s probably Sunday (a day that many people may have some leisure/free time).  And if you happen to be wrong, then it’s not too late, because then it’s Monday night, and you can still catch the game.  There’s not a lot of added work or complexity to follow your team.  Sure, if you want to be a really good fan, then you might check out your team’s schedule weeks or months in advance and scout out the opposition and how the bye week may or may not affect your beloved team.  But even the casual fan can find it fairly simple to watch all – or nearly all – of a team’s games throughout the season.  And with relatively few games played in a season, each of these games is important.

 

This is also a huge factor in making Fantasy Football so popular.  It’s relatively easy to manage and stay involved.  Even the average fan can generally find time on a Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning to set his/her lineup.  You can do it once a week and still be right in the thick of things.  Sure, you may miss out on the waiver wire and not get that newest wide receiver or free agent who has recently caught fire, but that’s probably not going to sink your team on its own.  As long as you find that little snippet of time, your team will probably be in reasonable shape.  The same can be said of the scoring in Fantasy Football.  It’s very easy to follow because all of the scoring happens on two days (and most on one day).

 

 

In other fantasy sports leagues, keeping track of how many of your players play on which days in which week and against whom can be a little exhausting and overwhelming for the average fan.  It can even be a good deal of work for the “hard core” fan.  Now you’re trying to manage separate schedules of multiple players who play on any given day of the week at any given time.  It’s more complex, and a little messier.  Some may relish that added complexity, but others may be turned off by it.

So simply the structure of the league as far as it’s scheduling has strengthened the allegiance of the average fan.  Fantasy Football has only aided that process.  The average fan who participates in Fantasy Football is generally fairly knowledgeable about a variety of players throughout the league, and becomes moreso simply by checking in on his/her Fantasy team a couple of times per week.  Without even realizing it, many average fans have been converted into quite loyal fans, and without much effort on their part.

From the NFL’s perspective, this is probably a wonderful (though perhaps, unintended) consequence to a scheduling necessity.  You see, the NFL almost has to schedule games that way.  Not because they were brilliant and thought that it had the potential to create such a strong fan base, but because football is an extremely physical, aggressive, high-impact game.  Players need those days in between games to heal and recuperate before heading back out to play another game.  Trying to play multiple games a week would certainly cause injuries to skyrocket while decreasing the quality of play on the field.  And so it happened to work out well for them.

Here’s to hoping that this year’s Fantasy endeavors work out well for me!  Go Team Trokski and Wendy’s Warriors.  Yes, I am in two leagues.  And why not?  It’s so easy…

Official mascot of Wendy’s Warriors

What do you think??

Other reasons that account for NFL and/or Fantasy Football’s popularity?

 

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6 Comments

Posted by on September 5, 2012 in sociology, Sports

 

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6 responses to “The Joys Of (Fantasy) Football

  1. William

    September 5, 2012 at 4:02 pm

    The answer to “why not…?”:
    It makes you less of a fan of your team. That you might root for a player on a different team potentially hurts your team. This is especially true for any player in your division and/ or conference.
    If fantasy football makes people watch more football, like the NFL hopes, it also begs larger social/ health questions. Like should people be watching football from 1:00PM EST until 10:00PM (I’m guessing here) (this also does not include pre-game and mid-week coverage). Seems like an unhealthy way to spend Sundays from September until February. Drinking, snacking, not participating in the community, etc.
    I hope you cheer for your colts instead of your fantasy teams.
    Who Dey!

     
    • trokspot

      September 5, 2012 at 4:24 pm

      I’ve heard the argument before…And you’re right in a lot of ways – it’s a pretty classic case of cognitive dissonance. But I (at least for myself) am able to get over that hump knowing that while I may root for some individuals on opposing teams to have good games, my true loyalty lies with the team of the Colts.

      This year will actually be tougher than most because I have Tom Brady in one league – sacriligious. He’s a huge FF point gain, but basically viewed as Satan to many Colt fans.

      The health issues/community involvement is certainly a fair point. Though you could make the argument again, that with FF, you can “set it and forget it” (a great line from an informercial there – I think for a turkey oven or something…). Basically you take your 10mins to check your lineup Sunday morning and then periodically check on your score (or just wait Monday night/Tuesday morning). You wouldn’t necessarily have to watch all of the games.

      Personally, I tend to watch a lot of them. This is largely because I tend to do a lot of grading on Sunday afternoons, which is easy to do while keeping football on in the background. I feel at least somewhat productive.

      As for your Bengals…we’ll see. I feel like they’re a tough call this year. I could see them being a legitimate force with some major upside, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if they’re a 6-10 team. They’ll be interesting to watch.

      The Colts have some work to do, but I think we’ll get there…may take a year or two, but it’ll happen.

       
  2. Jeff

    September 6, 2012 at 11:47 am

    I fail to see any real basis for the above critique. It has a few false assumptions and some observations that are a bit to generalized.

    First, we assume that NFL fandom only comes in the form of affinity towards a single organization. That’s simply not true. I am transient in my NFL fandom and take in the communal aspect of being a fan where I am as the highlight of my NFL experience. Wanting people to be “loyal” or “authentic” fans, makes sense, but it doesn’t accept the possibilities of other relationships to the NFL. Fantasy football allows you to create a team of players you admire, make decisions, and simulate owning a football team. It’s not about rooting for players, per se, but about managing an effective team.
    Second, this argument assumes that rooting for/against a team or a player has some influence on the outcome. No matter how much I yelled at Dez Bryant last night to get into the endzone, it just wasn’t happening. Also, I went to bed halfway through the 3rd quarter. That’s when those on my team scored the majority of their points. While I was sleeping. So, I know you are trying to get at establishing a criteria for “true” or “pure” or “authentic” fandom, but I see no way for your rooting to effect the outcomes. Seriously. It’s not a zero-sum game. My cheering for one player does not harm the chances of another player. Nor does his fantasy score impact anyone else’s (obvious exception is when the conflicting interests are playing each other).
    Third, there is the assumption that watching football is detrimental to your health. What an absurd argument when thinking about the plethora of things that lead to our sedentary lifestyles. Let’s not set up the NFL and FF as a straw man here. If you want, we can talk about the entertainment industry and popular culture in general, but the health thing is just ridiculous.
    Fourth, the solidarity that can come from sports fandom is skipped over. Again, we cannot set up the NFL as the reason that civic engagement isn’t through the roof. It’s part of a much larger system. Also, here in Pittsburgh, you see tons and tons of Steelers charity events and that sort of thing. I’m pretty sure people attend those things out of their shared sense of community brought fourth by their fandom. Also, having studied Stiller fans academically, I can tell you that congregating around the football team is a huge part of the identity making process and it bonds them with their geographic location. We can talk about economic impacts of sports teams, which are both negative and positive, but that may be even too nuanced for this discussion.
    Lastly, I have a financial stake in each of my fantasy teams. I do not in any NFL team. Why should I not root for these players?

    Fantasy football is just that, FANTASY football. It’s a simulation of the “what if” in football. I can exist in this liminal space between real-life football statistics and performed team ownership. I can discuss outcomes with my friends and analyze NFL football as a whole. I do not need to limit myself to simply one team. But, fantasy allows that to occur. Michael, er, Trokspot can hold the contradictory position of Colts fan and Tom Brady supporter (nice job Trok, game recognize game). I can be an individual and a part of a collective. I can express my fandom in a multitude of ways, instead of simple allegiance. I also go to the gym upwards of four times a week, avoid excessive intake of fried foods, and get 8 hours of sleep a night.

     
  3. William

    September 6, 2012 at 5:13 pm

    Great points Jeff and Trokspot.
    My view is definitely a generalization. It’s fair to say that I place less value on fantasy football than most people. I think the biggest fault was failing to consider the transiant fan. I took for granted that everyone has a team they cheer for and the fact is most people are not close to an NFL city and might not have a single team they are passionate for. The NFL also does a lot for commnities all around the country and at an individual level by bringing people together. Cheering for a common team is a great way to build relationships. Also, watching football does not require absolute focus and allows for conversations outside of the game.
    The only point that I cannot agree with you on is wanting a player on another team to do well. This mostly applies to players on rival teams/ division teams. I know actively cheering for a player does not have any bearing on whether or not he does well. My point is that when a player on a rival team does well, it hurts my team. The player from a rival team that’s on my fantasy team might score a touchdown that wins a game. Or he might make a big play that increases his confidence level so that the next time he plays my team he is more willing to take risks and increases his potential to have a good game.
    Great point on Sundays just being one day of the week. Even god rests one day a week.

     
    • set it and forget it

      September 6, 2012 at 11:59 pm

      Love it.

       

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