Putting together the dream team
By Marqis Stokes and Pulse Staff
Ladies and gentlemen, the NFL is finally back.
This rendition of Thursday Night Football—pitting the defending Super Bowl Champion Los Angeles Rams up against the Buffalo Bills on Sept. 8—ensures that there will be at least one NFL game on TV every week for the next 23 weeks.
And with the arrival of a new NFL season comes renewed hope for fantasy football lovers across the country.
An ESPN report indicates about 40 million people in the United States played fantasy football last year.
University of Findlay Assistant Professor in Sports Management and Coordinator of the Business Solution Center Eric Stoller says fantasy football is a game within itself now.
“People get really into it having draft parties, watching the games, and then they have their own playoffs,” Stoller said. “Some play for money, pride, and other prizes.”
Much like the fans of each of the 32 NFL teams, you feel that maybe this year could really be the year your team hoists the championship in all its glory. Whether you were the league winner last year or injuries to your team made you give up halfway through the year, excitement is in the air.
Stoller says many fantasy football players enjoy the game because it’s bigger than just your favorite team.
“You are cheering for individual players on all different teams and you as the fan can try to put together the best group of players to win your league,” Stoller said. “You have the ability to trade, drop or add players. Fans have always cheered and booed a GM or owner because of the players moves they did or did not make. Now they can control it.”
Fantasy football player Kijana Caldwell, a UF graduate student and football player, says that at the end of the day, people may not be NFL general managers but there is a sense of empowerment and pride that can come from building a fantasy football team.
“It’s a way for people to be their own coach and make decisions,” Caldwell said.
Caldwell knows how it feels to win a championship in his fantasy football league as does Jalen Allen, another former college athlete. He says it’s the competitive nature that makes the game so great.
“It’s competitive with friends and a very easy way to keep in touch with friends without having to do a bunch of planning,” Allen said. “Anyone can play it too.”
Even those who don’t watch football or know any of the players can pick—or auto-draft—a team and participate in a league. And for the football fanatics, it makes a great sport even more fun and gives importance to every game no matter who’s playing.
While it’s fun for the players it has also been a boon for the NFL.
“This has been huge for the NFL especially. Having the majority of games on Sundays fans now go out to watch more than just their favorite teams,” Stoller said. “This means more people watching on TV, which is the increase in the TV revenue for the sports now.
“Some people like myself who like a team that is not local purchase the NFL Sunday Ticket to watch their favorite team, but I can have four games going on my TV at the same time to watch the other games,” Stoller continued. “It even has a feature to put your fantasy team in to pop up updates when one of your players does well.”
The impact has gone far beyond just supporting your favorite player and has played a significant role in marketing for the NFL.
“Fantasy, in my opinion, is why they are now allowing sports betting companies to be sponsors,” Stoller said.
Research company The Morning Consult reports that ESPN and DraftKings are the two most popular fantasy sports platforms.
“The in-game experience of actually attending a game has had to improve to compete with the fans who want to stay home and watch all the games,” Stoller said. “The stadiums now have TVs with other games on and the Wi-Fi in the stadiums had to be upgraded for fans using their phones for social media as well as streaming other games.”