Professional football’s popularity has been on a constant crescendo in large part because of fantasy football.
This virtual world allows fans to take a hands-on approach by selecting the players on their own teams, managing who starts and who sits on a week-to-week basis and competing against their counterparts, practically playing make-believe general manager. Fans become much more attentive and engaged in every game because of the personal impact it has on their teams, but what significance does this commitment have if it is for the wrong reasons?
Fantasy football further perpetuates the individualization of the most team-oriented sport of the big three: basketball, baseball and football. Basketball teams only have five players on the court at a time, justifying the star mentality that a LeBron James or Derrick Rose has around the NBA. Baseball is merely an individual sport masquerading as a team sport, with emphasis being placed on pitchers who stand alone and players up to bat, who are also alone.
Football, on the other hand, is the ultimate team sport, where it takes a collection of 11 players working in unison to attain victory on a consistent basis. The egotism of fantasy football waters the game down of its clarity, with an unnecessary focus on statistics rather than team success and achievement. Watching an NFL game with a group of friends on a Sunday afternoon — or Monday or Thursday evening — has become a sideshow of people checking their ESPN apps on their phones for the latest touchdown of their players, rather than enjoying the game for its unbelievable feats of athleticism and competition.
While the ego of some fantasy football owners can be stroked by the performance of their players on the field, the idea of competing against their friends is even more enticing. The individualism extends from how fantasy fans isolate players while watching games, to placing credence on the success of their fantasy teams over the action in real life.
A fantasy fan will, more often than not, root for the individual to be the catalyst in order to boast to their peers, rather than the teams in action. The concept of placing an individualistic approach is easy to grasp in the professional ranks, but what if it was this way in college?
Imagine watching the Buckeyes’ game on Saturday night, only to find someone in the crowd cheering for Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook just to facilitate a fantasy win. This idea is beyond asinine because of the loyalty and passion that exists in college sports. If this is considered taboo on the college level, then why is it acceptable in the professional ranks?
One aspect that is incredibly flawed with fantasy’s system is its obsession with statistics.
Stats are not the end-all and be-all in sports, and also can be rather misleading. For example, players, especially wide receivers and quarterbacks, can generate enhanced stats in blowouts because of their need to throw the ball more. These late-game stats are useless in the big picture simply because the game has already been decided.
The lack of importance on situational football is also a huge flaw of fantasy football. In no other realm of competition are garbage-time stats significant to the final outcome like in fantasy football. That late touchdown with two minutes on the clock as the outcome is already clear is irrelevant in every other spectrum of competition, except fantasy football. But why?
The purpose of football and sports in general is to win by any means, regardless if it’s pretty or not. The stat-obsessed fans of fantasy fall into an illusion of what is significant about the game — blinded by yardage and touchdowns, rather than placing value on wins.
Fantasy football allows fans to generally become more knowledgeable about the game, however the emphasis on stats takes away from the purity of the game, and ultimately what it’s about — a victory in real life.