A JustUs Geeks Editorial on the culture of fantasy football and the NFL.
Fantasy football is bad for the NFL. There, I said it.
Fantasy football is also great for the NFL; so what’s the problem?
Let me preface all of this by saying that as far as loyalties go in the NFL I really don’t have any. No one particular professional football team quite holds my attention and admiration like that collegiate team from Tuscaloosa. Pro ball versus college ball is an issue that can be discussed and debated, but for me it’s not even close. Given the lay of the land, I do tend, however, to really hope that the Titans pull out a victory on Sundays, but that’s about as deep as it runs.
I’ve been playing fantasy football for quite a number of years; I think I first played back in the early 2000s in high school online because it seemed fun. I’ve played on and off again, been a part of leagues here or there with friends and strangers. I have always loved the strategy and competition involved in fantasy sports, and that’s honestly one of the only things keeping me involved in the game.
The last 3 straight years I’ve gone out on a limb and used my Round 1 pick on Aaron Rodgers. He’s the most consistent quarterback in the league, and has proven over and over that he’s in the same category as Manning and Brady. My strategy has pretty much been to build around Rodgers, and I’ve had some pretty great success.
I like Aaron Rodgers, I mean, what’s not to like? Great sense of humor, pretty great arm, and he just loves to win. As a whole, I’d rather see Rodgers and the Pack (now loaded with Eddie Lacy in the backfield, Roll Tide) succeed just about more than any other team in the NFL because my weekly success in a game depends on it.
The vast majority of the fantasy football world either cheered or cursed violently last Monday as Rodgers scrambled into a 4-6 week trip to the sideline. I cursed violently. Loudly. Angrily. Why would Rodgers do this? He had a guy streaking open across the middle? He had no reason to scramble? Didn’t he know my entire fantasy game depended upon his success?
Wait. What? “How could Rodgers do this to me?” actually came out of my mouth.
In 2011 the best back in the league was Arian Foster. Foster was just coming off a hamstring injury when he said this via his Twitter account:“Those sincerely concerned, I’m doing OK & plan to B back by opening day. 4 those worried abt your fantasy team, u ppl are sick,”
The social media and fantasy football world exploded. Foster went on to say in a later interview that “What I was saying that people who value a digital game over a human being’s health is just kind of weird to me,”.
He’s right, but it seems that it’s even gone a step farther than that in the last couple of years. As we decided last year to debut our JustUs Geeks Fantasy Football League, Mikey and I had several discussions about which online home for fantasy football we should choose. Between Yahoo! Sports and the official NFL Fantasy Group at nfl.com; ultimately Yahoo! Sports won out.
The NFL, Fantasy Football, and gambling have long been tied together, and the league always stands to profit from the overall success and defeat of the players in the NFL. Don’t even get me started on paid leagues. The league does all it can do to keep every single dime that it makes off the work and sweat from your favorite and most-hated players; most people don’t realize players really don’t see any profits from jersey sales bearing their name. Of all the people who deserve to profit off this work, the average player in the NFL doesn’t see a dime of this.
Are some of these guys already overpaid? Sure, but the vast majority aren’t; they aren’t making NBA Veteran Minimums here.
This is what’s bad about fantasy football for the NFL: the league expects that player to perform to produce money just as much as we sit at home and expect that player to perform to our “expectations” as fantasy players. Fantasy players and fans at some point begin to feel a sense of entitlement that just honestly isn’t there.
Remember that school from Tuscaloosa that I mentioned earlier? You can Google classic example after example of what length “fans” (short for ‘fanatic’ for a reason…) go to when it comes to Crimson Tide football, and reaching out to the players and coaches. These fans do ridiculous things, hurt their institutions, and really leave a bad taste in your mouth about the sport and the school as whole. (I’m looking at you, Updyke.)
Fantasy football is also incredibly good for the NFL, as the league has seen a dramatic increase in viewership, income, and game attendance over the last 10 years. People love football, and even if your team is the Chicago Bears, there are still people out there who are going to go sit out in the freezing cold and watch them play. American football has never been as popular as it is now, and yes, a lot of that success has to do with fantasy football. People take an interest in the game, then the players, which leads to jersey sales and paying for special Red Zone TV packages. The NFL has become so popular that the league is now scheduling several games in London in the coming season, as it’s seen great success playing in the UK over the last couple of years. Daniel Radcliffe even talks about how much he loves the NFL because of Fantasy Football on his episode of the Nerdist Podcast.
Harry Potter, people.
So what’s the answer? What can be done? This issue clearly has two great sides, as well as very stark contrasting successes.
Honestly, nothing, well, on a major scale.
Take fantasy football for what it is. Don’t be jerks to players on social media. Find a great group of people to join in with have some fun with a league. The bottom line is to not take it too seriously. These are real people, and this is their job; it’s their 9 to 5. I know I certainly don’t want someone betting on my graphical performance, or yelling at me on social media because they didn’t like my font choice.