If you are a sports fan, chances are you have found yourself playing the imaginary role of coach/general manager/president of your favorite team, believing that you can do a better job than the person (or people) who occupies that role in real life. Whether it is by yelling at the TV, calling into a radio talk show, ranting on social media, or chatting it up at the water cooler at work, diehard fans always have their opinion on how their team should be run.
So why are fantasy sports so popular?
According to research done by the Fantasy Sports & Gaming Association (FSGA), there were over 62.5 million fantasy sports gamers in North America in 2022. Of those who took up the role of general manager 66% were male and just under half were between the ages of 18-34.
As for what fantasy leagues are the biggest draw, the four major sports dominate the industry led by the NFL, NBA, MLB, and then NCAA Football and Basketball. However if none of those peaks your interest, there is always a league that will. Of the 62.5 million fantasy managers, nearly half of them participate in an NFL league. As for why the NFL dominates all other sports, most point out to the shorter season and the fact that there is only one game a week (save for the occasional quick Sunday/Thursday game), which means that you do not have to necessarily commit a lot of time to plan your roster each week.
You’re The Boss
Fantasy sports allow fans, both committed and casual, to be in charge. Whether you draft or bid on players, you get to build your team your way. Depending on how your fantasy league works, as the general manager, you will also be responsible for determining your strategy, setting your daily or weekly lineups, and then making any sort of trades or transactions as the season progresses.
Reason To Watch
If you already have a favorite team or a favorite player, you are likely checking out the game anyway, but now casual fans have even more reason to be invested. Depending on how you construct your team, you may also find yourself tuning in to watch different games each week or night, finding yourself cheering on a player on a rival professional team to your preferred squad. Now that you have an invested interest in a player or team, chances are you are more likely to tune in and possibly even create an emotional bond.
The tough part is on the nights when a player that you draft is playing against your favorite real-life team and you are torn as to who to cheer on. In a picture-perfect world, your player would have a career night statistically and your favorite team wins, but sadly that isn’t always the case.
Diamond In The Rough
Playing fantasy sports puts you in the position of both a general manager and a scout all in one. While there are obvious superstars for each respective sport, there is also a fair share of underdog talent. Being the first to draft or pick up one of these players off the waiver wire to help launch your team toward a championship is one of the greatest feelings a fantasy manager can have.
You vs. Them
If you love sports then there is a good chance you enjoy a certain level of competition. Whether it has to do with the strategic component of fantasy sports or the unpredictable outcome or just the straight-up race for cash/prizes, the opportunity to have bragging rights (and awards) puts you at a certain status level with friends or coworkers.
Fantasy sports offer fans the chance to connect with like-minded people. Starting with draft day, be it an in-person get-together or an online draft, the snappy banter begins. From the short sprint of the NFL season to the marathon MLB schedule, you are connected to the people in your league for anywhere from 150 to 250 days, and if you do fantasy golf, you are pretty much locked down for the entire calendar year. Between the trade offers, add/drop transactions, and huge game performances the opportunities to engage with your fellow GMs with shared experiences, questions, and what if? discussions and various other topics of discussion. And if you are in a head-to-head league, you better brush up on your trash-talking!
Escape From The Real World
This can be both a blessing and a curse. When you participate in fantasy sports, you will more than likely find yourself logged in nearly 24/7. While it can provide a much-needed distraction from the daily grind at work, school or home just be careful not to become too addicted. You don’t want to find yourself in trouble for pondering whether or not you picked the right quarterback or starting backcourt.
Chasing The Ring
Winning a sports fantasy league is sometimes just as challenging as winning your local men’s or women’s league championship. When you are competing against other fans who are just as or more knowledgeable than you, it just means you have to put in more work. Fantasy sports is just another method of sports betting, which has become more and more popular. Whether you are in a fun work league or a competitive league with friends or a random online league, chances are there is some sort of reward for the winners, whether it be monetary or product influenced.