Fantasy Football – The True Modern Sport

Blog #2

Section 10

After a whirlwind of a Saturday afternoon filled with a Michigan Wolverine win (see my opinions on that program at The Fortuna of Michigan Football – Alex Dolik), I could not have wanted Sunday to come anymore than Daylight savings time could take it. No I am not talking about having to go to the library to write this blog post, what I am talking about of course is Fantasy Football!

Rafi from The League on FX. A Sit-Com revolving around Fantasy Football.

Rafi from The League on FX. A Sit-Com revolving around Fantasy Football.

The ritual of waking up at 11 AM on a Sunday Morning throwing the TV on to Fantasy Football Now on ESPN and grabbing your laptop to tinker, mold, and solidify your “Lineup” for the week is one enjoyed by millions of “fans” (men and women) across the entire country. According to Fantasy Facts, 26 Million Americans participated in Fantasy Football in 2013. The rise and emergence of Fantasy Sports and Fantasy Football specifically have drastically changed the landscape of professional sports. Fantasy Sports is a Multi-Billion dollar industry in which major industry players such as ESPN and CBS have targeted exactly the competitive nature of its fans. Using shows such as NFL Redzone, Fans can track their respective players “days” instantaneously. Fantasy Football has created the act of following a sport, an actual “sport” filled with just as much vicarious competition as the normal playing field presents the physicality.

These thoughts crept into my mind as I was reading over Eric Dunning’s article “The Dynamics of Modern Sport: Notes on Achievement-Striving and the Social Significance of Sport”. Why do I spend almost my entire Sunday devoted to this mindless game? Why does the average fantasy football player spend 3 hours a week managing their respective teams? Dunning defines the emergence of modern sport as being molded from

“a marginal, lowly valued institution into one that is central and much more highly valued, an institution which, for many people, seems to have religious or quasi-religious significance in the sense that it has become one of central, if not the central, sources of identification, meaning and gratification in their lives.”

While this phenomena could illustrate any modern “sport”, it specifically outlines the obsession so many have over Fantasy Football. Fantasy Football has transformed from a game started by a managing partner of the Oakland Raiders in 1969 to a multi billion dollar industry. The “religious significance” in Fantasy Football is clearly apparent whenever editing ones lineup. Speaking from experience, I once was facing an opponent who chose to start Frank Gore based on a dream he had the night before. Gore ended up running for 2 touchdowns beating my team by 5 points. Trust me folks, I don’t make this stuff up.  In the TV Show The League, the participants of the Fantasy Football Group worship a trophy called “The Shiva” often praying and committing sacrifices for the trophy that has dominated every facet of their lives.

Dunning outlines sports groups specifically as a form of “pleasure” for the participants giving them a relief from their outside lives. According to Dunning, Sport originated as an out for work by the elite British royalty. Fantasy Football is just an extension of this phenomena. According to the Elite Daily article linked above, Fantasy Football cost employers $13 Billion in productivity for the 2013-2014 season. Fantasy more so than actual sport can actually be performed AT work/school illustrating Dunning’s description of sport groups perfectly as a means of pleasure.

While pleasure and religious significance play a large role, I believe the main reason humans participate in Fantasy Football and sports groups in general is social belonging. As Dunning states in the definition above, Modern sport has transformed itself into possibly the central source of identification in human life. According to Dunning, one of the main points that many neglect to think about is the relationships people develop when participating in sport. As a Sport Management Major, the basis of the socializing aspect of modern sport lies in Social Identity Theory. Social Identity Theory states that people choose certain groups or organizations as a means of maintaining/boosting ones self esteem. Having the affiliation and association with a certain group or team allows the individual to be apart of something bigger than themselves, and Fantasy Football allows for the perfect platform. The online fantasy group filled with message boards and player to player communication allows for the listless Fan without athletic capabilities to actually be apart of Professional football a place to belong.

According to the Elite Daily article linked above, 20% of all Fantasy Football players are Women. So while that is a small percentage, it means that their is a large amount of women that are interested in Football as a sport. Fantasy Football allows for gender equality in a sport dominated by Men filled with interest from the opposite sex. According to Mika Lavaque-Manty in his chapter “Being a Woman and Other Disabilities”, Women while on the outside may seem like they perform “lesser”, they actually in many cases are better, just their are not enough platforms that exist to prove it. Fantasy Football has created the perfect platform for women to express their interests in football on a level playing field.

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So the next time you see the person sitting next to you in lecture hall looking at Ryan Fitzpatrick’s 4th quarter stats, remember the power that Fantasy Football truly holds on today’s society and withhold your premature judgements.

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5 thoughts on “Fantasy Football – The True Modern Sport

  1. Unlike some of the previous commenters, I would tend to agree with your classification of fantasy football as a sport. There is a certain skill involved, and it does fulfill the majority of the basic requirements that Dunning put forth as to meriting a classification as a sport. I do however have some question in regard to your figures. I’m not sure how anyone can accurately estimate a loss in workplace productivity of this nature. Additionally, even if you could, I’m not sure if this is relevant to the argument that you’re trying to make. I spend an inordinate amount of time tinkering with my fantasy team, certainly more time that I do focusing on academics, and I really appreciated this blog post. I was also curious where you pulled the statistic that it is a “multibillion dollar industry” from? This seems rather high, despite the growing participation in fantasy football across the country.

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  2. There is no doubt that Fantasy sports consume the lives of many Americans, but I agree with the previous commenter from the standpoint of it being a sport. It’s not. Fantasy sports are a game, there is no doubt about it, skill is required to win, and those who practice at it tend to be the best, but because it doesn’t require ANY physical exertion – I am personally deeming it not a sport. I wish you would have developed on your ideas of women playing fantasy a bit more. That is really a fascinating concept that should definitely be explored further. I liked your article a lot though. I agree with you about why people play – and I’ll even take it a step further. People love to feel attached to things. Have you ever tried to make a trade in your league, and haven’t been able to pull the trigger. I have. And it’s because when we are counting on our players to preform, and they do, we develop an attachment to them. Even though Percy Harvin isin’t having a great year, I’ve had trouble trading him away because he scored 10 points in Week 1 that got me a win late in the game. Just an idea to consider.

    Happy to have Peyton Manning on my team.

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  3. I found it interesting that you compared a relatable topic for many, such as fantasy football, to not only the definition we discussed of a sport, but also the states of natures we recently addressed. I think it would be interesting to expand further on women’s involvement in fantasy football. While I do understand where you’re coming from in terms of leveling the playing field, do women really compete that often in fantasy? However, I am interested in the idea of women being more comfortable competing this way. I am unsure why this may be, but I have one thought. I believe women may be comforted by hiding behind a screen and being represented by an emoji as oppose to their true self. It’s not too often you see women competing against men, and it is even less often this competition arises in football. So, I would assume that many women would still feel a bit uneasy about competing against men, but being able to do so through technology might make it a bit more reasonable. So maybe it is true that fantasy football levels the playing field between gender, but it still seems sad to me that women are competing with men through a computer screen, rather than in person.

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  4. i liked this post a lot. i was able to relate to your description of a sunday morning! your argument about whether or not fantasy football can qualify as a “sport” really intrigued me. Although all of your points make sense, i don’t think it is a sport due to the lack of physical exertion. You argue the rigorous competition of FF makes it comparable to other sports. While i don’t necessarily disagree, i don’t feel that exactly qualifies it as a “sport”. Plenty of competitions are just as, if not more, competitive as fantasy football. The show Survivor is an example- obviously the stakes are much higher and there is a huge competitive feeling, but no one argues that it is a “sport”. Nonetheless, i feel you argued your points well and kept readers very intrigued for the whole post. Great job

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  5. Alex,

    I find this blog very fascinating. As an avid participant in fantasy football and a fan of The League, I really connected with this blog and enjoyed the read. With that said, I have two questions about your blog:

    First, is fantasy football really a multi-billion dollar industry? Sure, it has a lot of money involved in it, but the NFL itself pulls in around $9 billion a year, and I don’t think fantasy football is even 10% as profitable as the entire NFL. Maybe I’m wrong, but there’s no link to support your claim.

    Also, for all of the arguments you made for fantasy football being a sport… is it actually a sport? Sure, the quote you pulled from Dunning applies to fantasy football, and yes, it does level the playing field for women, but I don’t think it can actually be classified as its own sport. There is no physical exertion whatsoever, and while you can prepare for fantasy football all you want, there is a bigger element of luck involved than in most other sports. I can see the argument, but I’d also think another blog from the “blogosphere” to support your claim would be useful.

    This is not to bash your blog at all – I really enjoyed the read and can relate to it more than almost any other blog I’ve read. However, I just feel more support for what you are arguing would go a long way. Great job though!

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