Fantasy Football: The Good and Bad Aspects
While many of us play fantasy football, I'm not sure that we really know how far its reign reaches. According to research by the Fantasy Sports Trade Association (did you know that even existed?), 33 million Americans play fantasy football every year and that number is growing by an additional two million every year.
As a major part of millions of people's sports lives, let's take a look at some of the good and bad aspects of fantasy football.
Con: Conflict of Interest
We’ve all been there, so don’t deny it. It’s a dilemma that every fantasy owner inevitably faces throughout the course of a fantasy season.
One of your fantasy studs is matched up against your team this weekend, and you have to make a choice: the success of your team or the statistical success of your fantasy team?
Your love for your team won’t be able to keep you from smiling when your fantasy wideout catches a long bomb and takes it to the house.
According to LeSean McCoy, this conflict of interest doesn’t just apply to the fantasy guys (via CBSNews).
Pro: Increases Knowledge of the NFL
Even though I only really started following the NFL five years ago, my knowledge of teams and players is much better than that of the casual fan. I wholeheartedly attribute this to fantasy football.
Playing mildly serious fantasy football means that you have to learn about other teams and players or suffer the sting of losing. For most people, the fear of losing is a good enough motivator to make sure they do their homework.
Con: Fantasy Playoffs in Week 17
While most fantasy leagues have their playoffs in Weeks 15 and 16, there are some that still have the finals in Week 17—the season is so short that we have to maximize it for our fantasy purposes. This creates problems, however, for players on playoff teams that are resting their superstars for the stretch run.
I know it’s all part of the strategy, but it just seems wrong to make the playoffs on the shoulders of Aaron Rodgers, but lose in the finals because your opponent has Matt Flynn.
Pro: Increases Interest in All Games
If it wasn’t for fantasy football, I would have zero interest in 80 percent of the Thursday Night Football games. But there is fantasy football, and as a result I tuned in to watch the Dolphins vs. Bills game last week to gauge how much Ryan Tannehill looks Brian Hartline’s way.
Even in tonight's blowout win for the 49ers, I kept watching until the end due to the fantasy implications.
Fantasy football has seriously increased viewership for NFL games (via Los Angeles Times) by getting more fans to watch games that they wouldn’t have watched before.
Con: We Stop Thinking of Players as Humans
Football is a very dangerous sport, and it’s a huge risk for players to undertake. I know they get paid a lot of money and understand the consequences of their actions, but as fans we have a tendency to forget that these guys on TV are human beings with families and lives outside of sports, just like us.
Well, their lives outside of sports are a little different to ours, but you get my point.
It gets to the point that we start caring more about an injury’s impact to our fantasy team, than the impact of that injury on the human being concerned. Some players don’t care for that.
Pro: You Form Bonds with Your Players
Fantasy football gives you a chance to form deep emotional bonds with players on other teams that you normally wouldn’t care about. I’ve definitely developed a man crush on Brandon Marshall this year as a result of the work he does every weekend for my fantasy team.
The players who do well for your team forever hold a soft spot in your heart. Unfortunately, this is a double-edged sword…
Con: It Puts Bad Performances Under a Microscope
While fantasy football can lead you to develop man crushes, it can also lead to some hate-filled breakups. Great statistical days are remembered by everyone, but bad statistical days are burned into the memories of fantasy owners who suffered from them.
Everybody who drafted Chris Johnson this year hated him for the first few weeks of the season. While his performance was certainly very disappointing, it wouldn’t have been discussed so much if there was no fantasy football.
Pro: The Bliss of Watching the 1 P.M. Games
Playing fantasy football and watching the 1 p.m. games is a complete sensory overload. You can switch between games on TV and online gametrackers, tracking your players as the games go.
You see all the ridiculous days unfold in real-time, and while it’s totally overwhelming, it’s complete bliss at the same time.
Con: Reduces Productivity
Even though I am a very busy college student, it would have to take an awful lot to interrupt my football Sundays. I sit back, wear my jersey, soak in the games and monitor my fantasy team.
According to recent studies, I’m not the only one who suffers productivity losses from fantasy football. A recent report estimated that if the 22.3 million workers who moonlight as fantasy GMs spend one hour a week managing their fantasy teams, the cost to employers is a staggering $6.5 billion in terms of wages paid to unproductive workers.
Pro: The Joy of Making the Right Decisions
As sports fans, we all have opinions. That’s what is great about sports—you can find so many different opinions about any rumor, trade, player or coach.
When you go with your gut, make a tough decision and it pays off, you feel like the smartest sports mind out there. Any owner who started Matt Schaub this week is feeling pretty good about him or herself.
Regrettably, these plans don’t always come to fruition.
CON: The Pain of Making the Wrong Decisions
There are two types of fantasy mistakes you can make: you can start a player who drops a stinker, or you can bench a player who breaks out. My worst mistake this season was keeping Doug Martin on my bench for back-to-back weeks.
Which weeks? The two weeks where he scored 33.5 and 53 points, respectively because, of course, that’s how it worked out.
Missing out on a ridiculous day is gut-wrenching—especially if you lose because of it.
PRO: The Draft
A live fantasy football draft is one of the most fun and interactive sports experiences. We get to live out our dreams and play the role of GM, building a team from scratch. You have to do your scouting, and you have to plan your picks.
Then there are the mock drafts to get an idea of player values and average draft position. You develop your list of sleepers and players you want to stay away from. Throw in the suspense of finding out what pick you get.
To top it all off, you have to react on the fly to how the other managers draft. The draft is the best thing about fantasy football.