Mainstream Media's Embrace of Fantasy Football Amazing

Lee Johnson@FantasyFBSchemeSenior Analyst IAugust 16, 2008

Remember when you had to dig for fantasy football information?  When you actually looked at one of those old fashioned news papers for a box score?  When free live drafts online where a rarity?  There were a few fantasy football sites hidden away on the Internet and magazines on the stands that you could use to get your fix.  In 2008 Kyle Turley would not be able to swing a Jets helmet without hitting fantasy football related content on the main page or NFL page of a mainstream sports site.

Years ago I was working in the free weight room in the basement of a YMCA.  I overheard the membership manager giving a tour and he was assuring the prospective members that the muscle heads stayed down there.  It’s like, “Yeah, we have a free weight room but these monsters won’t bother you down here…”  That was kind of what it was like going to one of the mainstream sports sites when it came to fantasy football.  They may have had it but it was tucked away behind a single link on the main page.

Yahoo! had it and they were not afraid to flaunt it, making them the go to site for quite a while.  NFL.com had it for free and then thought they would cash in only offering pay leagues.  That didn’t last long.  Eventually everyone knew they had to offer fantasy football.  This even led to AOL taking over Fleaflicker.

I guess it’s a good thing.  On one side it’s kinda like when the public all of a sudden starts to like YOUR band that you have loved for so long.  Damnit, I was into Metallica way before the ONE video hit MTV.  They were mine.  On the other side, it’s great that there are all of these resources now.

One thing that bothers me, maybe not so much now that they are taking it seriously, is when writers would be assigned the job of being the local fantasy football expert.  I actually found it insulting to be told that I should listen to this expert when he would obviously miss on key components of the game.  These days it appears that they actually have people that play covering it.  I don’t know if that was a move on their part or the fact that more people are playing.

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Mainstream media has full on embraced fantasy football now.  Take a look at the main page at NFL.com (who were trying to pretend it wasn’t important for some time).  There are no less than six links or article previews for fantasy football.

CBS Sportsline has at least two on their main page.  Going into the NFL section there are seven more ways to access the fantasy football content, including video.

At ESPN fantasy football tops the “Must Read” section of the NFL page.  They have even added an awesome Fantasy Hall of Fame.

At Fox Sports the top reason given to sign up for a My Fox Sports account is that members can manage their fantasy teams.

All these examples given above are before you even make it into the fantasy section of the site.  They are now drawing people in.  The free weight room is no longer hidden away in the basement (it isn’t at that YMCA anymore either).  They are dedicating staff  to video and podcasts.  Offering cash prizes.  Yes folks, Fantasy Football has become a key part of their competition with each other and we benefit…for now.

How long before the NFL tries to make this their property and attempt to knock out the others?  Will it come to the point where we have to pay the NFL to play the game online?  Will we have to revert to the box score in the newspaper and using spreadsheets?  Sure, we may have a buddy that can whip up a nice little program to compile stats and fantasy scores.  There were grumblings in the past about them trying to keep it for themselves.  We’ll see.  For now you can have all the excess fantasy football you want.