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…
What do you think??
Other reasons that account for NFL and/or Fantasy Football’s popularity?