Fantasy Football: fans find lucrative thrills in following their lineups

The score was 45-7, an absolute blowout. Backups were in and even die hard Carolina Panther fans were turning their TVs off as their beloved football team was getting crushed at the mercy of the Philadelphia Eagles on national television on “Monday Night Football.”

So who in his right mind would choose to watch the final quarter of this absolutely gut wrenching, abysmal, depressing Panther offense try to score against an Eagle defense that collected nine sacks, two fumble recoveries and three interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown?

Me.

I laid in my bed in disbelief on Sunday night staring at my iPhone as the voices of Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth uttered commentary in the background as they desperately tried to come up with something to say as the Bears and Packers Sunday night game was finishing with a score of 55-14.

Coming into the week I was so confident with my team, a six win and three loss team tied for first place in the division. The opponent was a 3-6 team that seemed to give up on his season. I felt puzzled, lost and let down as I gazed upon my screen. My fantasy football team wasn’t just losing to a guy who’s lethargic game plan had two players on bye weeks in his starting lineup, meaning they wouldn’t even play. I was getting blown out.

After the fantasy football gossip seeped through the hallways on Monday morning, I chalked this one up as a loss as I was down by 32 even though I still had the Eagles defense and special teams to play. My highest scorer of the day had scored 18 points, so I didn’t put much faith in getting 33 more for the win.

I got home late on Monday night and was scrolling through my Twitter feed when I saw that the Eagles had just returned a Cam Newton interception for a touchdown. I optimistically checked the score just in case there was any chance of comeback and couldn’t believe my eyes. I was down just one point 103-102. Moments later Darren Sproles returned a punt for a touchdown, and I had just done the improbable. I was winning.

I had a four point lead slashed down to one after a Newton to Kelvin Benjamin touchdown early in the fourth.

After an Eagles punt, the Panthers got the ball with seven minutes left. They were down 45-14, but my eyes were glued to the TV, hoping and even praying for one more defensive stop. Newton sat back in shotgun formation on third and 19. One more stop and I would win the game. Benjamin broke open across the middle of the field, caught the pass in the endzone and broke my heart; 40 yards through the air, his second score of the night. My one point lead turned into a one point loss, and I was devastated.

Many of the estimated 30 million fantasy football players in the United States won or lost their game on that garbage time touchdown against backups. But that’s fantasy football.

The NFL is driven by money. The average NFL team is worth $1.4 billion, and with 32 NFL teams, that adds up to a league worth $45 billion. Millions are handed out to players, and tickets cost hundreds. For the 30th straight year, the NFL is the most popular sport in America, and a lot of that has to do with fantasy football.

How can a simple hobby have an effect on a multi-billion dollar industry like the NFL?

Fantasy football is all about scoring. Now with an entire channel dedicated to watching teams score, NFL Redzone, fans have much easier access to watch their fantasy players rack up touchdowns.

The NFL has also made the actual game more scoring orientated with rule changes that benefit the fantasy football player. Statistics have evolved to find any potential insight a player can have to help win the game.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is actually a fan of fantasy football and likes how it helps the league. “Even if your team isn’t playing well, you’re still following your fantasy league or you’re following the Red Zone or your mobile device,” Goodell said in an interview to a New York radio station. “So it has created more interest for a longer period of time.”

Fantasy football has changed the game, but now fantasy football might be undergoing a change. Normally fantasy leagues would draft before the season started, and that would be your team for the remainder of that season. Now with the emergence of daily games where you are able to choose your team for one select day, the fantasy realm is beginning to evolve. After the NHL partnered with DraftKings, a daily game website, the NBA partnered with a competitor, FanDuel.

While betting on fantasy sports is illegal in Iowa and four other states, there are players across the country who have struck it rich thanks to this “hobby.”

While the world of fantasy sports may be a fake collection of players, the millions of dollars in revenue produced are thriving and as real as it gets.

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