That time of the year is here again: the time when sports fans who play fantasy football gear up and try to win and dominate in their leagues. Fantasy football is by far the greatest leisure activity that simultaneously stresses people out. Coming from me, a three-time champion, I’ll be the first to say it is definitely worth the stress. Dedicating 17 weeks of your own time and coming out victorious is an amazing feeling that everyone should have the opportunity to experience.
Fantasy football is practically your own version of football. To get your team started, you have to join any website that offers fantasy football leagues such as ESPN, NFL and Yahoo Sports. Whether or not the league is with people you know is up to you. Your league will have a “draft day” — a day and time your league selects — where you can pick any player who is currently playing in the NFL to be on your roster. Your team will consist of a quarterback, two running backs, two or three wide receivers, a tight end, a flex position (where you can play either a running back, wide receiver or tight end), a kicker, a team defense, and around six bench players. These players collect points based on their actual performances during NFL games. Each week, fantasy teams go head-to-head to try and win their matchup against a team in the same league. To win a matchup, one team’s players must score more points than those of the other team. The game becomes more exciting because doing well does not solely depend on picking the best player; it is also about strategizing and making choices based on opponents and projected game flow.
According to Fox Business, over 59 million Americans and Canadians play fantasy sports. Despite the rollercoaster ride that is fantasy football, it still remains the most popular fantasy sport along with fantasy baseball. Since the NBA and MLB seasons are much longer than the NFL season, fantasy players — like myself — tend to lose interest in fantasy basketball and baseball.
A great thing about fantasy football is that age does not matter. According to the Fantasy Sports and Gaming Association, 34% of fantasy sports players are teenagers. Another thing that does not matter in fantasy football is gender, as according to Sports Business Journal, 29% of people who play fantasy football are women. Anyone can join fantasy football, but it becomes more enjoyable if you are following the NFL as well as your fantasy football league when gathered with friends and family who are equally thrilled throughout the season.
Another perk to fantasy football is the opportunity to make money. DraftKings and FanDuel are daily fantasy websites that are great examples of how fantasy football can be used to make some extra cash. Instead of a season-long commitment, players can buy-in for one week and get enough points to finish in a high enough percentile to win money. These sites also offer season-long leagues. Each member of a league can pool money so the winner takes all at the end, or leagues can offer a grand prize at the end. Leagues can also offer prizes for whichever team has the most points overall, or smaller prizes for second and third place. For example, in a contest on DraftKings, titled “Winner Takes All,” a 10-person league that costs $15 to enter allows the winner to attain $135. Another tournament called the “Fantasy Football Champions” gives $150,000 to the winner of the whole tournament and gives $10,000 to whoever wins their individual league.
Besides the money, you can use fantasy football as a way to meet other sports fans or to do something fun with your friends. As fun as fantasy football is, you also have 17 weeks (the NFL regular season) to understand what it’s like to be a general manager. You have control over a starting lineup, which can give a player a sense of responsibility and power over a team.
You do not need any experience to join a fantasy football league, although it will most definitely help. There are blogs, shows, podcasts and more that offer tips and tricks from professionals at fantasy football and give out advice to people based on what they would do. An example of a fantasy football podcast would be “Fantasy Focus Football,” where three fantasy football experts give strategy ideas, injury updates and a preview for the upcoming NFL week. ESPN also offers a television show, “The Fantasy Show” which consists of players the experts think you should sign, what they believe will happen next week and more.
Fantasy football did a lot for me when I played it. For those three years, I learned responsibility, how to stay organized and how to make tough decisions. I was initially hesitant to start playing fantasy football, but looking back on it, I have zero regrets. Currently, it is still possible to join fantasy football leagues for this season, but it will not be long before the opportunity is taken away.