By Tanner Smith
For those passionate about sports without the physical abilities needed to play professionally, fantasy sports are the perfect outlet.
While sports are designed for the players, in contemporary times fandom is just as big a part of the game as the players themselves. For some, wearing the colors of their favorite players and wishing them well is the only incentive they need to watch the games. For many fans who want to feel more as if they are part of the game and do not want to simply place money wagers, fantasy sports are not just games; they are obsessions.
The concept behind fantasy sports is very simple: pick a cool team name, draft your favorite players and enjoy competing against your friends. There are two basic types of scoring systems along with countless numbers of variations: rotisserie and head-to-head. In rotisserie, teams competed to see who could have the best statistics for each category. Point values are assigned based on each teams standing in each statistical category and the points are totaled up to determine the standings. However, in newer versions of fantasy sports such as basketball, football and some baseball leagues, head-to-head has gained prominence, as it allows fantasy owners to directly compete against their opponents in a weekly format. Instead of having a point total for the year, the standings are determined by week-to-week wins and losses, just like professional sports leagues.
While the nuances of the games are fascinating to those who play it passionately, the question remains why the casual fan or even the non-sports fan should care. As my colleague Philip Schueler (’16) points out, to those who do not play fantasy sports, they can seem like Dungeons and Dragons for jocks. Jack Cranwell (’16), who is currently playing in two fantasy football leagues and plans to play fantasy basketball over the winter, has one explanation for why people play.
“It is a lot of fun,” he said. “It gives you something to talk about with your friends. It also gives you something to do besides just watch the games.”
From my own personal experience, I know that fantasy sports can connect families. I have played in a fantasy baseball league with my dad and brothers for seven years now and it is always a cutthroat competition. There is nothing that it worse than losing to your family, drives me to always look for an edge to propel me to victory. Along with the competition though comes communication, as I talk with my two brothers who are currently in college about fantasy sports as much as anything else.
Within the Smith Family League I found a passion for the game of baseball and the analytics that go with it. Before 2008, I had little to no interest in professional sports, as I had no team allegiance or rooting interest. Convinced to play because my brothers and dad needed a fourth player to have a league, I had no idea what I was getting into when I named my team the Roanoke Dominators and entered my first draft. That year, I selected Phillies star second basemen Chase Utley to be a part of my team. When he hit 11 home runs in the month of April, I decided he was going to be my favorite player and the Phillies my team. That seemingly innocent allegiance has turned into an obsession, as Chase Utley posters now adorn my walls and his number 26 is now the number on the back of my jerseys. Along with a passion for Utley and the Phillies, I gained an appreciation for the nuances of the game and for its history, as I have now read countless numbers of baseball books along with a daily regimen of online baseball reading. Along with my original family league, I now play in three other fantasy baseball leagues and even one football league this year. Anyone who knows me knows that is hard for me to even go through a conversation sometimes without referencing baseball in some way.
All of this has led to me wanting to pursue a career in the professional baseball industry. While Dungeons and Dragons may have its fans, fantasy sports can have so much more of an impact than simply rolling dice.