A good friend and actual reader of this blog asked me to address the topic which titles this entry, and I’m quite the obliging fellow, so here goes.
There are three types of people who are drawn to fantasy sports:
–one-time athletes (although current athletes are often fans),
–people who love statistics (and to a lesser degree, sports),
Me? I’m 60% the first person, 35% the second person, and 5% the third.
To explain the overall concept–regular people get to “own” teams of real players from pro sports (or just one competitor, like in fantasy golf or auto racing) and they earn points based on the players’ on-field performance. The “owner” with the most points wins their league, and often a cash prize.
Why is it so popular? Because regular schmoes like me get to pretend that they’re six-figure-salaried general managers/vice presidents-of-player-personnel for pro teams, adding and subtracting players from their rosters, trading them to other owners, and thrilling at the competition.
Even somebody like me–who briefly sat the bench for a Division III baseball team–gets to be a big important “owner” while pitting my alleged baseball knowledge and expertise against friends and rivals alike.
There’s a wonderful thrill in being the guy who spots a diamond in the rough, an unheralded player who suddenly explodes and has a career-best season.
And there’s a camaraderie between the millions of men and women who play fantasy sports–comiserating when a superstar gets hurt, getting excited when they have an MVP season, and enjoying life as a sports fan at a deeper level.
Of course, there’s also the lessons you have to learn along the way–like not always choosing players from your hometown team or your favorite team. Many Red Sox fans suffer in their fantasy lives from not going to get a superstud like Alex Rodriguez just because he plays for the hated Yankees, but that doesn’t hurt the Yanks –it hurts their team. Even though it’s very difficult to root for a rival player, fantasy owners realize that it’s not the whole Yankee squad you’re rooting for or even a victory for New York–just a homer or two for A-Rod.
Some will contest that fantasy sports detract from the enjoyment of the games, that it’s harder to appreciate an acrobatic touchdown catch when you “own” the defense and it means you lose your game that week. But I’d like to think that most fantasy players can get past that–because deep down, they’re fans first and foremost.