by Kenny Buck
& Thor Thompson
It’s Sunday morning as a group of friends gather around the television to catch the noon slate of football games.
Chicken wings and cold beverages are the selected choices to fuel the excited fans about to watch their team take the field.
Soon to follow will be a day’s worth of trash-talking and bickering back and forth to the tune of football pads cracking.
Friendships will be strained. Relationships will be tested. This isn’t just football, it’s fantasy football.
The competitive sports craze brought a new and inventive way to get the average football fan to not only watch their favorite team more attentively, but to be just as interested in every football game around the country.
But what is fantasy football?
Essentially, fantasy football is a competitive league of 10 to 12 teams, in which a fan, along with dozens of other fans, can select his or her individual players to cheer for on Sundays. The teams consist of 15 players in the skill positions.
One quarterback, two running backs, two wide receivers, a tight end, a kicker and a team defense usually make up the starting line-up.
There are many variations on the starting line-up from league to league as well. Some leagues also play individual defensive players or a flex player which can be a running back, wide receiver, or tight end.
The a fan’s selected players can earn his or her team points by racking up statistics like yardage, touchdowns, and even receptions against another fan’s players.
Defensive scoring is usually doled out in the form of sacks, takeaways, and the rare defensive or special teams touchdown.
Scoring systems can vary from league to league but the most widely used format is head-to-head match-ups.
So what’s all the fuss about?
There are leagues where fans can enter to win money or prizes by winning match ups against other teams.
It’s impossible to watch a football game without seeing advertisements for websites like FanDuel.com and DraftKings.com showing fans that have won thousands of dollars by playing fantasy football. But many fans simply do it for the competitive spirit.
MSUM student Dominic Paczkowski is a Pittsburgh Steelers fan who loves the competition between him and his friends.
“I love football in itself, but I also like to play fantasy football with my friends,” Paczkowski said.
Fantasy football can quickly become a passion and cause fans like Paczkowski to join multiple leagues and follow dozens of players.
“I’m usually in two or three leagues every year,” Paczkowski said, “I check it every single day.”
MSUM graduate Charles Slininger is also hooked.
“I’m in a couple leagues but there’s only one of them that I’m really competitive in,” Slininger said. “It’s a ‘keeper league with 3 players carried over from the previous year. Half of that league is family so there is a little extra pride involved.”
The competition, however, comes at a price. While Slininger said it makes the normally dull games more interesting, he notices a change in the games he used to thoroughly enjoy.
“It causes a level of disconnect with the game as you can easily get distracted from the game trying to watch your five or six fantasy league scores or the scores of one of your ‘league rivals’ hoping that they lose,” he said.
The way fantasy players watch the games isn’t the only thing that has changed either. The technology involved in the game has changed as rapidly as the popularity has.
Slininger, a Carolina Panthers fan, remembers the days of tallying his points in a notebook almost 20 years ago, using box scores from the newspaper.
He and his brother Brad competed for weekly bragging rights.
“Today you can have all games at your fingertips with satellite TV and DVR, not to mention any story you want to know about on Fox Sports, ESPN or elsewhere,” he said.
Despite football being a physical and testosterone-filled sport, fantasy football brought out the inner football junkie in women as well.
MSUM student Meghan Keim plays fantasy football and says her brothers are to blame for her infatuation with the game.
“My brothers got me into it,” Keim said. “I have five brothers and I’m the only girl.”
The Minnesota Vikings fan says fantasy football has even conflicted with her classes at times.
“Last year I had a class where all I did was play fantasy football,” Keim said.
As for the average football fan/college student, Paczkowski and Keim have some insight as to why fantasy football is great for college students.
“College is about making friends,” Paczkowski said.“Fantasy football is an easy and fun way to make friends.”
“It’s great,” Keim said, “because even when the Vikings lose, I still win.”