I was watching the Colts vs. Jaguars game on Monday night with my roommates, when during a third quarter interception by the Jaguars, my normally reserved and relatively quiet friends exchanged the following dialogue:Roommate T: Gosh (expletive) — [stands up and throwing his notebook on the floor] Peyton Manning, why the (expletive) are you throwing it there (long list of expletives mixed with angry gibberish. What was he thinking?
Roommate J: (laughs.) Yes, yes, yes! (He points and laughs at the screen, giddy at T’s obvious distress)
What would cause two roommates and friends to act this way toward a football game in which they do not care about the teams involved? After things had calmed down, I learned that Roommate ‘T’ was playing Roommate ‘J’ in Fantasy Football this week, and ‘T’ had Peyton Manning as his quarterback, while ‘J’ had the Jaguars defense.
This made me think of how influential fantasy sports have become in our sports culture, and how it has changed what it means to be a fan. The two roommates are a perfect example. They don’t care about the Colts or the Jaguars.
They are from Chicago and are huge Bears fans. Yet they still became so invested that when Peyton Manning threw the interception, ‘T’ reacted as if Peyton had stolen his girlfriend and then murdered his dog, while ‘J’ acted as if Walter Payton came back to life and offered to give his football skills to ‘J’s first child.
The effect that fantasy sports have had on how people watch sports and root for teams is incredible. People are starting to care about games and pay attention to teams that before would have been ignored.
This is a good thing for historically poor teams with little fan base, such as the Arizona Cardinals. And an even better thing for the leagues in which these teams play. As a result of the sudden interest in players from some of the lesser-known teams, the league as a whole gets a boost in popularity.
Anything that gets people excited about sports is a good thing. Fantasy sports do just that — through multiple sports. People involved in fantasy leagues feel a certain connection to the players they “own,” even if those athletes are not on a team the person likes very much.
That person still feels a certain satisfaction whenever their player has a good game. Also people, who compete in Fantasy Football, are likely to play other fantasy sports, such as basketball and baseball. This adds to the popularity of the other sports, and creates a kind of fantasy sport in-group, where sports information is traded between the sports.
The design of fantasy sports encourages people to follow the sports closely. It is convenient, easy to use, and free. For these reasons, they increase the general interest in sports by making them accessible to everybody.