The Popularity of Fantasy Football

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Sean O'Brien , Staff Writer

“Every draft selection is vital.””

With the winding down of summer and the return of students to school, it can only mean one thing: football is back. As another season of football kicks off, so does a sports tradition rivaled only by the filling out of brackets during March Madness. This, of course, is fantasy football.

Fantasy football was created by Wilfred Winkenbach, and the first league consisted of eight members and competed in 1963. Its popularity grew slowly, until the first online version of fantasy football was launched by CBS in 1997, causing its popularity to skyrocket. Other sports sites began to host fantasy football, including NFL.com and ESPN.com. It became so widespread that a television show called The League aired in 2009, which follows the exploits of the members of a fantasy football league.

The rules of fantasy football are simple enough, as there is a draft held before the NFL season begins, in which members of the league choose what players will be the most successful that season. Members draft quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, kickers, and a team’s defense. Rules can vary per league, but there are usually fourteen selections, with nine starters and five back-ups. Line-ups are selected before the beginning of a new week, and members earn points based on how well their players do. At the end of the season, the member who has the most points wins.

While fantasy football has simple rules, those who want to be successful invest a substantial amount of time in their teams. There is lots of research done prior to the draft, as there are many factors that go into the selection of a player, including the previous year’s stats, previous injuries, and strength of schedule being just a few.

There are also negotiations between league members, which are extremely important to the success of a team. After the draft is completed, members can trade players to one another. Each trade is a risk for both members involved, as the unpredictable nature of football can mean that a great acquisition can lead to tragedy if a player is injured.

Injuries are common in football, so every draft selection is vital. If a star player is injured and is out for the season, a poor selection for a back-up can mean disaster for one’s team.

The popularity of fantasy football is so widespread that there are many West students who partake in the playing of fantasy football. Duncan Williams, a junior, says he enjoys fantasy football because, “It’s fun to feel like you’re in control of your own team and it’s fun to compete against your friends. Also, you can win money, which is always a bonus.”

Money is indeed a driving force of fantasy football’s appeal, as winners of leagues can win thousands of dollars, depending on the amount of members involved and the price of the buy-in. Prizes can even reach the millions, with the first place prize on FanDuel.com being $2 million.

In only the first week of the season, there have already been major events, such as Rob Gronkowski scoring three touchdowns for only the third time in his career, earning big points for members with him on their teams. The injury of star wide receiver Dez Bryant has hurt many fantasy teams, as he is out for four to six weeks. These occurrences are just going to be a few of the many that will unfold this year, which is just part of the large amount of fun that is to be had with fantasy football.