The Explosion of Popularity in Playing Fantasy Sports!

Shashwat BaxiCorrespondent IAugust 12, 2008

As any seasoned fantasy sports player can attest to; there is so much more to the game than just showing up at the draft, taking the guys whose names sound familiar, and then waiting to see who wins at the end of the season. Fantasy sports have exploded into a very popular past-time as thousands of men and women join different leagues every single day. Why are fantasy sports so popular? Is playing fantasy baseball the same as fantasy football? What are the different types of leagues? Why would someone take a Jets player if they were a die hard Dolphins fan? Will Adrian Peterson live up to his #2 Draft ranking? All of these are very legitimate questions that get asked every single day.

With fantasy football leagues currently getting underway, this column will focus on football and not so much on the other sports. Fantasy football gives avid fans more of a reason to watch every single snap of every single down. Fantasy owners buy DirecTV so they can watch every game and pay attention to the stats of their fantasy teams. This gives them a greater connection to the game, besides just being a fan of one team. A true fantasy football player, and fantasy sports owner in general, will pay much more attention to players and stats around the league just because of his/her fantasy team. For example; Jon, a huge fan of the Atlanta Falcons, knows that he cannot draft Michael Vick anymore to be his fantasy quarterback. For this reason, Jon drafts Carson Palmer of the Bengals and now watches Bengals games to keep track of how Palmer is doing. This way, Jon now knows everything about the Falcons (his team) and the Bengals, just because he has their quarterback on his fantasy team. There is no doubt that real fantasy sports players become better fans of the game, just by participating in a league.

There are major changes in strategy when playing one fantasy sport to the next. Fantasy baseball requires that you draft players in every position and check on your pitchers daily to see who is starting. Baseball also involves more singular match-ups, depending on who is pitching for the opposing teams that are facing your hitters. Carlos Pena, 1st baseman of the Tampa Bay Rays may not do so well against knuckleball pitcher Tim Wakefield of the Red Sox, so you substitute Aubrey Huff of the Baltimore Orioles.

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Football, on the other hand, has a much different approach. With the NFL only really playing one day a week, with the exception of Monday night and the occasional Thursday, fantasy managers have a whole week to tweak their starting offensive and defensive lineups to get prepared for the weekend. Changes are made based on opposing defenses, ground vs. air schemes, and a player's physical status. A player marked as D for Doubtful or Q for Questionable will be benched for someone marked as P for Probable. Then, the strategy totally changes when one particular player has a bye week. QB Tom Brady has week 10 off this season, so his fantasy manager would even put in 49er QB Alex Smith in to replace him for that one week. The strategy changes from week to week and makes Sunday much more interesting to watch.

The type of league also plays a major role in how fantasy managers go about drafting and participating, in general. There are head-to-head leagues, points only leagues, and rotisserie leagues. Head-to-head leagues have specific fantasy teams (ex. Brett's Jets and Brady2Moss4Six) that will go up against each other in week 1. Their points will count against each other and then one of the fantasy teams will win on Tuesday morning. Each team will then play another team the next week. The team who wins the most head to head match ups, will win the regular season in that league. The playoffs are then seeded and continue from there.

Points only leagues do not match up one team against another. Every stat is counted for a certain number of points at the end of every week, and the team with the most points on Tuesday will then be #1 for that week. This goes on for the entire season, as each team plays against the entire league in the battle for supremacy. The playoffs are seeded with the top teams from the regular season and can continue that way, if the playoffs are set-up in the points only league.

In a league using Rotisserie scoring, fantasy teams are ranked from first to last in each of several statistical categories. Each fantasy team receives points in each category based on how they rank in the league. Each team's category points are totaled to determined their overall rotisserie score. This is close to the points only system, but this uses different statistical categories and not an overall score.

Finally, the best part about being a fantasy sports manager, is actually drafting the players. Men and women spend countless amounts of time and money preparing for their league's draft day. Whether it is an on-line or offline draft, real students of the game have watched every analysis and read every word about the league and the predictions made by the pundits. The fantasy managers show up to their draft with pencils, printouts, magazines, and sports almanacs. At this point; they know every team, every player, every stat, and prediction from the last 2 seasons along with for the entire upcoming season. They have their sleeper picks ready, they know who they want and how to get them, and already have potential draft day trades set-up just in case.

The will to win, in fantasy sports, usually surpasses even team loyalties. Many fantasy managers have to overlook the fact that the best fit for their team may play on their rival team. Fantasy football players in Dallas know that some of the best fantasy players play in New York and Fantasy football players in Green Bay may have to choose Brian Urlacher of the Bears to fill their whole on Defense. There is nothing more fun and gut wrenching at the same time, than pretending to be a professional General Manager for one day. Once the draft has been completed, it is officially time to play ball. Even though it is titled fantasy sports, it is more of a reality to some than anyone would know!

P.S. Yes, if he stays healthy, Adrian Peterson should have another amazing year and live up to his preseason #2 draft ranking!  


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