Losing Reality in Fantasy Football

Updated: November 11, 2013
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There is no denying the popularity of fantasy football. An estimated 19 million people play in public and private leagues nationally each year. Whether you’re 30 or 13, in the office or in home room, fantasy football has been making usually unwatchable games watchable believe it or not, since 1963. 

There is at least 1 or more superstars per professional team. Let’s be honest, unless you’re a Jaguars or Rams fan (who were both ranked the two least popular teams in the NFL from a May 2012 ESPN poll) would you really care to watch the game if they played? Of course not!  But if you have Maurice Jones Drew as your starting running back, you want to watch to see if he can break 100 yards and give you a touchdown or two. This is why we love fantasy football.  But if you have a rooting interest in a team this intensive focus on the players’ performances can make fantasy football downright terrible. 

For instance, if you’re a New Orleans Saints fan and your opponent has Drew Brees as his starting QB, then what?  Do you root for him to have a remarkable game or for him to throw a couple of interceptions?  If you’re a Giants fan and have Dez Bryant as your number one wide receiver, are you rooting for 10 catches for 100+ yards and 2 touchdowns?  Some fans will deny sacrificing team spirit for team wins, but other fans have a lot of money riding on some of these leagues and every win for them is crucial.  

Ratings for NFL games are sky rocketing year after year; 20.5 million to 28.5 million fans tune in to NFL games each week making nationally televised games 14 out 15 in top ranked shows on national TV since Labor Day.  Compare that to game two of the World Series this year, it had only 13.4 million viewers! Some of football’s high ratings have to be attributed to the number of people playing fantasy football. 

TV stations are adding packages such as the Red Zone channel so fans can watch every game played on Sundays around the nation. There were a lot of people who tuned in last Sunday Night, not to root for the Minnesota Vikings to beat the Green Bay Packers, but to root for Adrian Peterson to get in the end zone or for Aaron Rodgers to throw for 350 yard and 3 touchdowns; or vice versa. This is good for the NFL increased viewership means increased advertising revenue from companies like Budweiser or Chevrolet. 

The continuing growth of fantasy football within a younger audience means the trend will certainly continue for the foreseeable future.  It’s not as if the NFL would have anything to worry about financially when it comes to being the most popular sport in America, but having a few million extra viewers here and there certainly doesn’t hurt.  

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On the non-corporate level, there are some people, namely the athletes, who may feel differently about the fantasy football phenomenon. With the ever-growing popularity of social media, it is easier than ever to tell professional athletes how you really feel about their performances in a game. When Tom Brady throws an interception and you’re yelling at him about how much he sucks from the 27th row in Mezzanine B, high up in the rafters at Foxboro, it doesn’t really mean much.  But when you “@ him” on twitter saying you’re going to set his house on fire, that might be taking it a little too far. 

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A perfect example would be one crazy fan telling Brandon Jacobs on twitter that if he didn’t rush for at least 50 yards and 2 touchdowns, that he would kill him and his family.  Brandon Jacobs wasn’t even playing in the game!  The fan of course recanted this once it went public saying he was never serious and asked for forgiveness, but the sad truth is that some of these fans take it way too far, and you have to believe that it takes a toll on these athletes. 

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Baltimore Ravens superstar running back Ray Rice has been quoted on the record saying he used to love fantasy football, but in a game where he struggled and eventually left the game due to a hip injury that kept him out of the next game, he received so many hurtful and spiteful comments on twitter that it made him hate fantasy.  Matt Schaub who has undeniably had a bad season so far, has had fans show up to his house to confront him about his terrible play.  We’re talking about a 3 time pro bowler here who completely turned a franchise around to make them a contender the past 3 years.  True fans would never take it to that level.  

While these unfortunate incidents only tally up to a handful of unpleasant incidents as fantasy continues to grow in popularity so will the onslaught of hatred and mean-spirited jibes towards these superstars. Is there really anything the NFL can do to curb these harsh words from “fans”?  Of course not, fantasy football will always be played all over the US, and the NFL can’t make it illegal.  

These “fans” really need to control their emotions surrounding professional athletes who frankly can only take so many of these threats. There are a lot of crazy, and messed up people in the world, and all it’s going to take is one crazed person to follow through with one of these threats to really make fans start to think, “are we taking this game too far?”

Fantasy Football is meant to be a fun game for the fans to watch each game and sit on the edge of their seats whether their team is playing that day or not. These athletes go out every week and put their bodies on the line not just for their love of the game, but also for our entertainment. So let’s keep it sane guys and remember, this is for our enjoyment as civilized humans.  Now get back to beating John in the cubicle next to you in your office league. 

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