Players in the NFL argue that fantasy sports are ruining the game and the fanbase, as fans are more concerned with how an individual is performing than the performance of their favorite team. The players recognize it as there being no “true” fans of the NFL anymore. Someone would rather have Seattle Seahawks’ Russel Wilson throw four touchdowns against their favorite team, than have a DB pick-off one of his passes, as they would lose points in their matchup. Offering an opposing view from the players in the NFL, I argue that fantasy football is beneficial to the National Football League and its players.
“Get Connected for Free”
As a child, I was a diehard fan of the Green Bay Packers and I was fortunate enough to be able to witness Brett Favre at the helm before he “retired”. I would drool over watching the young-gun replacement Aaron Rodgers flick a ball 60 yards; as easy as me turning the page of a book. I lost connection with the game when I entered my pre-teen years and I thought football was “boring”, “dull”, “lame” and a sport that had “very little excitement, as a sport that stopped every 10 seconds for a commercial break”. Though in Grade 10, I entered a fantasy football league for my Sports & Entertainment Business class and it instantly reignited that passion. It was love at first-sight all over again. I was more invested in the Packers than I have ever been in my life. I went from knowing three players, at the most, to knowing every player at every position, as well as every staff member. To this day, four years later, I partake in fantasy football and I have never enjoyed football more—noticeable in this blog post. The fantasy platforms enable people to get back into the game as a fan and enjoy the excitement that the sport brings.
Know What You’re Dealing With
Fantasy Football can be used as a service that diehard fans use to scout players for their favorite team. When you track the individual process of a player and the benefits of having them on a team (I.E. in fantasy), you know what your favorite NFL team is bringing to the table when they sign or trade for that player. If I wanted to understand just how good rookie WR Terry McLaurin is playing for the Washington Redskins, I can just check the ESPN Fantasy Football app and see that he put up 26 points for my team in Week 6 against the Miami Dolphins. Seeing this kind of production makes me inclined to draft him next year, as well as it creates a fandom for the player. Another example is Christian McCaffrey; for some, unknown reason, I did not like the Carolina running back who is currently playing in the NFC—probably because I knew he could single-handily beat the Packers. However, fantasy football might have made me a fan of his forever, as every Sunday I watch him dominate NFL teams. He is an absolute stud. My fantasy app allows me to follow and understand how players perform. Therefore, if I see the Packers trade for veteran WR Emmanuel Sanders at the 2019 Trade Deadline, I can see it was a solid pickup, as he is ranked #22 at his position and averages 11.5 PPG (in a PPR League in ESPN Fantasy Football) on a Denver Broncos team that has accomplished little to nothing in their 2019 campaign.
Harms of Fantasy Football
With everything in the world, there are of course, drawbacks to the fantasy sports platforms. In Week 7 of the NFL season, many bashed L.A. Rams RB Todd Gurley because he allowed himself to be tackled at the 1 yard-line late in the fourth quarter. Gurley successfully and strategically killed the clock, but did not give his fantasy owners an additional seven points for an easy touchdown. Gurley was very open about how he felt about the reactions, as he stated “Man, forget fantasy, forget Vegas. We got the win, so that’s all that matters” in a postgame interview. The competition between friends and co-workers can drive emotions and frustrations felt towards the players. Despite the negative responses, It must be recognized that fantasy football increases viewership to NFL games, as fans and participants tune in to watch their players perform on the big-stage. It transforms people, who may not have a particular interest in a team, into long-term fans. An individual may find out that WR Michael Thomas is pretty good at football; turning them into a New Orleans Saints fan *snap*, just like that. While emotions may drive participants to call out players in the league for making them lose in their Week 10 matchup against their father-in-law, it does not diminish the fact that fantasy football brings people together to enjoy one of the greatest sources of entertainment the world has to offer through a competitive venue.
Fan for Life
Fantasy Football took me, a kid who could not care less about the American sport, and made me a diehard fan until the day I no longer know what football is. If I never joined that Yahoo! Fantasy Football league in Grade 10 of High School, I never would have been in love with the sport to the point of becoming a blog owner of A Hit to the Head and a contributor to the Fansided sports blog. The platform reignited the passion I had for the game of football and I haven’t looked back since. While NFL players may not appreciate the criticism they face when they don’t score a touchdown to give their owner a win against their opponent, it can not be denied that fantasy football attracts people of all fandoms—people who may not even understand what Intentional Grounding means—and turn them into fans of the sport, bringing in viewers and listeners to the game.