The Reality of Fantasy Sports: A Look at the Internet’s Greatest Pastime

Personal Finance

It becomes an obsession. Each and every morning you wipe the sleep out of your eyes, reach for the phone, tablet, or laptop and log on to track the progress of your fantasy sports teams.

If you play in weekly leagues, you track the latest injury reports and skim the transaction wire for players of interest. If you’re more of a daily player, then you over analyze the previous day’s results and maybe ponder a trade or two. Perhaps you are of the minority that’s just in it for the fun, and you pay little attention to the results.

This is Fantasy Sports, it’s a 4 billion dollar industry, and it’s the most dominating hobby in America. Just how dominant, you ask?

Well, consider that the interest in professional sports is at an all-time fever pitch. The nationally televised postseason games of each of the top 3 American sports (baseball, basketball, and football) are routinely amongst the highest rated television programs year in and year out. Attendance has skyrocketed and merchandise sales have followed suit. With a veritable media circus following each and every move our favorite athletes make, we have never been as connected to the wide world of sports as we are today. With instant game updates and team notifications, arm chair coaches no longer have to wait for tomorrow’s box scores for today’s results.

The Competitive Edge

The social aspect of fantasy sports participation  seems to be found in the underlying link that keeps even the most casual sports fan coming back for more. Whether it’s an office league or a much ballyhooed snake draft held in the your best friend’s basement, the opportunity to unite over advanced analytics and bragging rights is simply too difficult for most to ignore. The dedicated competitors start their own leagues, creating a vision of custom rules and yearly keepers. Friendships are strained and alliances are broken as arguments over voided trades and talk of league integrity ensue.

Testing your patience is the constant battle over which players to start, bench, drop, and add while simultaneously anticipating and reacting to your opponents moves. Staying one step ahead of your peers becomes essential, and before you know it, you’re typing in a credit card number to subscribe to the insider portion of ESPN.com or buying the latest fantasy magazine in hopes of god-sent inspiration.

Today, over 35 million Americans are part of at least one fantasy league. To put this in perspective, consider the effect on the target customer, the American man. Recent studies, have shown that an estimated one-fifth of the male population aged 12 years and older participate in fantasy sports leagues – hence, the transition of habitual male gatherings from bowling alleys to mancaves, elks clubs to living rooms.

Today’s fantasy infused-men (and women) not only admire the athletic feats of sports superstars such as Lebron James and Aaron Rodgers, but also the intellect of such (literal) game changers like Billy Beane of Moneyball fame.

For Fun or Fortune?

The financial gain is hardly an afterthought, accumulated by varying buy-in fees and, in some leagues, a cost to acquire new players during the course of the season. A pot begins to accumulate, and when the season is completed a pay-out is rewarded to the winners as dictated by the league rules. For some, this simply isn’t enough. Helping to feed the fire are pay-to-play leagues that exist on websites such as Draftstreet.com and Fanduel.com, which lure in many fantasy gamers with cash prizes.

Despite the recession, the fantasy sports industry has only continued to grow to titanic proportions. As an entertaining, accessible, and purely addictive vice, the average person has the perfect outlet for their social and competitive needs. With no sign of slowing down and the promise of riches to its participants, fantasy sports has undeniably become a mainstay in American society and has infiltrated our homes, offices, and everyday lives.