Friday, September 5, 2014

Welcome to Fantasy Land!

I can't believe it's taken me almost four and a half years to write about this topic. Excuse me while I give the "oh my God, you might be stupid" face to myself.

It's time to set the mood for this post. How about some Earth, Wind, & Fire? Don't like them? That's okay. Groovy things just might not be for you.

Have you ever wished to be a part of a sports organization? Did you ever want your dreams in Madden or in NBA 2K to become a reality? Has your tendency of being an armchair coach or analyst gotten to a point where any of your friends or family members have to leave the room or throw something at you to shut up? If that last part is true, I'm laughing at you in my corner. But I digress.

Have you ever thought of joining a fantasy league?
...No, not that kind of fantasy, you silly goose.

Fantasy leagues are extremely popular among sports fans in the realms of American football, baseball, soccer, and even basketball and hockey. [Fun fact: Through asking my friends on Facebook, I've found out that there is fantasy NASCAR. Yes. You can wrinkle that eyebrow.] The most common fantasy leagues take part in the workplace, as many offices and groups have their respective leagues for their employees to participate. Others can include groups of friends, or even church groups. You can either do these leagues for no charge, or you can participate in a league where there is money involved and the top teams get cash prizes. It may be risky, but people do like that rush sometimes.

Originally, they weren't referred to as "fantasy leagues," but back in the 1950's and 1960's, groups of men would keep track on stats on particular players in sports like baseball and golf and do the math. The trend on keeping baseball stats originated in the 1960's at Harvard University--are you really that shocked--and slowly but surely spread from professors and students, to people around the whole region. By the 1980's, the phenomenon caught the eye of USA Today. The science of keeping stats and checking them by newspaper or magazines became a religion to hundreds of thousands of baseball fans.

Once the Internet took off the water wings, fantasy sports took flight and sites like (now belonging to CBS Sports) and became a mainstay for fantasy sports. The kind of sports covered now blanketed the NFL, NHL, and other major sports in the US and across the pond. In fact, social media is also being afflicted with the fantasy bug, as you can access stats and gameplay through apps and even while watching another program on television.

Draft days for these leagues are usually preceded by a boatload of research and planning for drafting particular players. Even today, magazines are still a necessity, and others check online resources for what the "fantasy experts" say on websites like ESPN, FOX Sports, and CBS Sports. Then on draft day, "commissioners" will park themselves on their computer chairs or couches or whatever they sit on and begin warfare. If they don't do that, they all attend a full-out party at a friend or co-worker's house and do a draft with laptops, white boards, and copious amounts of alcohol and snacks. It's as big as the Super Bowl, when you really think about it--I mean by the snacks and booze and stuff. I don't know how seriously everyone else takes their drafts, but I've seen the big parties before, and they're quite intimidating.

To get some input on what kind of people do fantasy leagues and why, I "took it to the streets," as it were, and asked the question on my personal Facebook page. Interestingly enough, I got all of my answers from males, even when I know that there are a number of girls that do fantasy leagues as well, myself included in that fold. Anyway, based on what I got, the answers on which leagues they played ranged from a number of sports, including Arena Football, NASCAR (as I had mentioned above), soccer, and the most common were baseball and football. It seems like the way they all began was that they were talked into it and found it to be more fun than they had originally thought. Some who had answered had only begun fantasy leagues recently, while others have been doing them for well over a decade. It gave the participants a reason to watch the sport and in watching, they either learned something about the game, or they had more of a drive to work on their team. As one mentioned, "It's a lot of luck" when it comes to taking part in these leagues, as sometimes your research may not always bring you the best results. It also brought a sense of community and understanding among the participants of the league, and it also shakes off poor habits that one may have, especially in the world of gambling.

Admittedly, I got roped into doing fantasy football myself, and to tell the truth, it has really helped me write recaps on the NFL season. Since I have to pay attention to what is going on and how certain players and teams are faring out, it's as if I'm doing homework on these posts weeks in advance. It's like I'm cheating, but I'm totally not. Am I good at fantasy football? I think the best I ever did was a 7-7 season, and that was because I had the common sense to draft halfway decent wide receivers. Anyway, it works a part of your brain when it comes to common sense, strategy, and the part to love every athlete and give them a chance. It sounds really cheesy, but it's totally true. There are some players that others want nothing to do with, but they'll get points where it counts most. Tough love, I suppose.

Fantasy leagues are a fun way to compete with others, money or not, and it also helps people learn more about the sport. While you may not like the idea strictly for the fact that you're afraid you won't stick with it, you may be wrong. I have gotten competitive on numerous occasions with people I have never met before. It really is a different experience that I would recommend. If you want to learn more about a sport and want to develop a different bond with friends, a fantasy may be a good idea for you. Ha ha ha.


(Many thanks to Billy DeRosier, Alex Hamell, Andrew McErlean Jr, and Brian Barrish for their input on this post. Invisible fruit baskets will be delivered to your door soon.)