Mostly whimsical reflections on life
Real fans cheer at the games. Fantasy footballers are fixated on individual performances that could mean the difference between a payday or a flame-out. They are too busy checking out game statistics on their smartphones to applaud a great play.
If the National Football League is a gold mine, fantasy football is the gold rush. Millions may be watching NFL games in their hometown stadiums or on TV, but fantasy football devotees are doing their own version of rushing.
At the core of fantasy football isn’t sport; it’s the prospect of gold. Miners may get some exercise panning for gold, but fantasy football players are bettors, pure and simple. They play to strike it rich.
The size of the pot may not be the driver. It’s the vicarious thrill of picking winners. Instead of horses with jockeys, fantasy football bets on humans in jerseys.
Betting on individual performance, instead of a team win or loss, brings bettor and player into a more vicarious relationship. Your favorite team may get plastered, but your “player” caught two touchdown passes and made you a winner.
Lest you think fantasy sports is an amateur pastime, think again. It has turned pro with the likes of DraftKings and FanDuel, which advertise almost as often during sporting events as beer companies – $500 million so far through the first four weeks of the NFL season.
The exploding popularity of fantasy sports has attracted billions in venture capital to DraftKings and FanDuel. It also attracted sports franchise owners who want to cash in on the craze. Teams are lining up with one or the other fantasy sports sites to deepen fan engagement and rake in money.
It is probably just whimsy on my part, but I picture fantasy football leagues as a way to occupy the minds of young men who try to keep alive their youthful dreams of a being a sports hero. But clearly, fantasy sports has evolved quickly into something more like a sports hustle.
Yes, you have to outwit your fellow online league owners with your player drafts. But what’s at stake has less to do with bragging rights than house rules. Fantasy sports has emerged as little more than a slick form of online betting. Your wits are less important than the wad you post on your online account.
Betting has never been my thing, so I can’t really judge the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat when my fantasy players fall on their face and I lose the family food budget.
Slate.com published a piece about fantasy sports betting, noting that it has caused a lot of moolah to splash around, but also pointing out that statistics indicate 80 percent of players lose on average only $10 per month.
That was before we found out employees at DraftKings and FanDuel may be playing along with us with house odds.
One analyst suggested that professional sports leagues and teams are investing on DraftKings and Fan Duel because fantasy teams are a way to keep fan interest until the last play. That sounds like a reach to me. Big-time sports moguls are investing because they say another lucrative revenue stream to tap – without having to pay any more in salaries to players and coaches.
Human beings like to bet. Betting on how well one player does versus another at least involves a modicum of skill and requires someone to read the newspaper everyday for the injury report and police blotter.
I don’t bet because I hate losing money. Always have. Probably never will change. If I did bet, it wouldn’t be on whether a player caught a touchdown pass, made the winning 3-point shot, turned a hat trick or homered with the bases loaded. It takes a lot of talent to do those things, and a lot more luck to predict they will occur.
I don’t want to be one of the minnows lured into the deep water and swallowed by sharks. That’s the reality of fantasy football.