Popularity of Fantasy Football is rapidly growing and has bursted into the mainstream


Photo: Michael Kelley

Fairmont senior Jake Shook updates his fantasy team for the upcoming week.

Over the past 53 years, Fantasy Football has become a worldwide phenomenon and makes the average fan feel like they’re actually apart of the game.

When Fantasy Football was originally created decades ago, the purpose was to make watching professional football more enjoyable. From the start, the game was a big hit, attracting the attention of many Americans.

The game continued to progress and receive more attention and in 2010, the NFL released its own game on their website. An application for phones was created for people to access their teams, further driving industry growth. Fantasy Football is now the NFL’s most important marketing tool, raking in millions of dollars and attracting the interest of over 19 million Americans each year.

During football season, Fantasy Football consumes the lives many. It has become a distraction for employees, teachers, and students due to the easy access of online websites and phone applications. Fans are able to look at their team each day to follow and record all the updates for each of the players on their rosters.

Fairmont Social Studies teacher, Scott Byer has seen the toll that the Fantasy Football can take. “It can become an obsession, but it’s just sports.”

Byer is a huge fan of sports and played Fantasy Football for two years, but decided to quit due to the time and tremendous toll it carried on him. 

“I just enjoy being a fan and at times I found myself being so consumed with the fantasy team, that I lost sight of being a fan,” Byer said. “That’s why I stopped, because I found being a fan not as much fun.”

Even with the impact the game has on many, for some, it can be fun and enjoyable if played for pleasure.

Fairmont Math teacher, Daniel Boyer has played in two leagues with different people for many years and loves the game.

“I was hooked after the first draft, it was a lot of fun,” Boyer said.

Boyer loves playing and also loves being able to play with different groups of people.

“I want to participate in more than one because mainly there are different groups of people that run them,” he said. “It’s a way to stay connected with people that I don’t see often.”

When a group of friends get together and play Fantasy Football they often feel a sense of camaraderie.

“Just the sense of community it brings, I played with friends who watch sports,” Byer said. “It sounds silly but I think it brought us closer together – the idea of drafting, filling a team, and doing weekly lineups just brought a sense of community.”

Even with all of the advantages and perks, Fantasy Football wasn’t created for everybody.

Fairmont teacher, Cynthia Lewis and her family have a weekly poll that they created and love doing it each week. They all play Fantasy Football together as well but it never really caught her eye.

“I love football and love watching it but I’m not a big Fantasy Football fan,” she said. “Just the fact that I have to remember everything.”

The game has become much more popular with people competing against each other in weekly leagues. The NFL has created two online websites called Fanduel and Draftkings, which involve weekly drafts and large sums of money. Money has become the focal point of Fantasy Football and is one reason for the gambling obsession.

Fairmont senior, Jake Shook has been participating for the last four years and plays for money, strictly to make things more thrilling.

“It makes things more exciting, it wouldn’t be as much fun if there wasn’t any risk,” Shook said. “It’s just a risk, reward system.”

Shook has played in a league with the same participants each year and the stakes were always $10. This past year, the buy-in was raised to $20 to keep everyone committed to the league.

“Everyone now has a really good commitment and stays very competitive,” he said.

While some play for money, others  think the gambling aspect has taken some fun out of playing Fantasy Football.

“I think now with much more PR, it’s becoming more about money,” Byer said.

The NFL has seen an increase in popularity by others watching pointless or less enjoyable games due to the players on people’s Fantasy Football roster.

“It makes games that I wouldn’t be interested in normally, very interesting,” Boyer said.

Even if the game is boring, the excitement of seeing their fantasy team succeed is what people crave. “It gives you a tie in to all the games. It gives you something to cheer for,” Shook said.

Fantasy Football is impacting people’s work and school, especially those who cannot mask their competitive nature .

“I think you can get into trouble with that if you’re not responsible and thinking about what needs to come first,” Boyer said.

During the school day, some teachers can’t help but notice the new distraction added to some of their students.   

“I don’t think Fantasy Football is worse than anything else,” Lewis said. “It’s just an added distraction to a different type of kid.”

Senior Laith Rashdan who has played for four years has noticed the impact it can have on people’s priorities. Despite knowing this, he still enjoys playing and watching the games each week.

“It has impact, but I love Fantasy Football and I think others do too,” Rashdan said. “I think it also gives people something to talk about and something to relate to with each other.”

Rashdan feels that the game is very fun to play but the ones that take it overboard are missing the big picture.

“Competition is great and all but I think you should also have fun doing it,” he said.

Competition is what drives most people to play and occasionally gives participants a little bit of an edge.

“I trash talk my opponent each week, and post some hateful things on the message board,” Rashdan said.

However, even though participants argue defending their fantasy team, the talk is just talk.

“I wouldn’t say I actually get mad at anybody or actually think I accomplished much,” Boyer said. “I definitely talk a little trash but it’s all for fun in a joking manner.”

For the 19 million people who participate in Fantasy Football each year, most love the game and wouldn’t give it up for anything. 

“At the end of the day you set that lineup and just hope,” Boyer said. “It’s just a roll of the dice.”