As the Michigan weather makes up its mind, thoughts have drifted toward the fall season during those chillier recent days – people’s feet brushing through crunching leaves, sipping hot apple cider, and checking your phone relentlessly for ESPN updates if you’re one of the millions immersing yourself in fantasy football.
I am one in those millions. I do remember a time when I didn’t care much for football – perhaps because I didn’t understand it, but mostly because I didn’t take the time to understand it.
Now in my third season and drafted in three leagues, I am happy to say I recognize more players and their positions than I did just a couple years ago. I definitely don’t claim to be an expert by any means but I have been known to be competitive.
For me, there’s more to it than the sport itself and understanding the jokes made in the TV series, “The League.” My family lives across the U.S. and fantasy football became one of those traditions to keep us connected, and yes, the smack talk does add to the fun.
However, while my family league competes for bragging rights and our traveling trophy, other leagues can generate large sums of money, contributing to the multi-billion dollar industry. According to an August 2013 Forbes article, an estimated 32 million Americans spend more than $15 billion playing in fantasy leagues each year, and the numbers continue to grow. That’s not even including the money spent toward advertising and fantasy gear purchases.
In some states, however, the act of playing fantasy sports for money and prizes is illegal because it is considered a form of gambling. I never thought too much about throwing $20 into a pot. Some people throw in more money but can end up winning millions. Who would have thought that?
Part of the controversy stems from the difference between an activity being “based on skill” or “based on chance.” If based more on skill then it’s not considered gambling, but in certain states, playing fantasy sports online is considered to be based on chance, making playing for money and prizes illegal. For those who are involved with fantasy football, whether whole-heartedly or more for fun, there is definitely an aspect of skill, especially when it comes to drafting your team.
The Fantasy Sports Trade Association estimated that the average fantasy sports player dedicates about three hours a week to managing each team, and that doesn’t include the time it took to draft the team, keeping up with the players during the off-season, and discussion spent on talking about the sport itself.
However, if someone doesn’t want to keep up with the NFL through the entirety of the season, there are options to draft weekly, or even daily. Draftkings.com is completely legal (in 45 out of 50 states) because it is a skill-game based company. But according to their website, Arizona, Louisiana, Washington, Montana and Iowa, cannot participate in the cash prize contests because it is against some of their state regulations.
Dave and Rob Gomes, brothers from Boston, split the $27 entry fee for one of DraftKings weekly fantasy football contests in November 2014. The brothers built the team together using a “salary cap,” with each player costing a certain amount of money (not real money). Without going over the salary cap, the brothers managed to draft the million dollar team.
While all fantasy sports success stories don’t end this way, some can. Playing fantasy football isn’t just about the money, or the wins, but also about bringing people together stretching from Michigan to California, keeping loved ones connected – and in some cases, getting that traveling trophy in the mail to keep on a mantle until the next helmet-bashing, touchdown-scoring, football-loving season. Happy drafting and be ready for September 10 kickoff.