No one wants summer to end, the long days, the sun, the endless nights of fun. However it has to end and it gives way to my favorite time of year. That’s right, the beginning of the National Football League (NFL), which means one thing: Fantasy Football! It is said that fantasy football cost employers over $16 billion in lost wages over the 17 week season (1) This is due to people researching players, setting their line-ups and checking how their team is doing, all while on the company dime. I can attest to this as I work most Sundays and constantly look at my phone to see how my team is doing. According to Dzodom & Shipman, “33.5 million people played fantasy sports in the United States in 2013 and this number is expected to rise in subsequent years” (2014). The majority of people who play fantasy are said to be more then 75% male (Hirsh, Anderson, & Caselli, 2012). I have been in four different leagues, in two different sports, over the last four year. All have been exclusively male with only one exception.. The average player is also said to be white, married, 18 to 45 in age, Bachelor’s Degree, and $78,000 annual income (Lee, 2011; Dwyer & Kim, 2011). An estimated $1.5 billion is said to be spent on fantasy football each year and another $3.5 billion is said to be spent media products and services that relate to playing the game (Lee, 2011; Dwyer, & Drayer, 2010). I fall perfectly into the demographic, being a 26 year old, white, university student, (the annual income and Bachelors Degree coming soon). This year I spent a total of $125 to join two leagues, and who knows how much data I have used checking my teams while at work. Since this is such a big demographic of hard to reach people an estimated $1.5 billion is spent annually on marketing to this audience (Lee, 2011; Dwyer & Kim, 2011). With so money and time being spent on fantasy football there is now programming geared to it. On television there are dedicated shows talking about fantasy football, commentators will talk at will about their team on sport casts, and there is even “RedZone” which is apart of “NFL Sunday Ticket.” “RedZone” shows all teams once they reach the red zone of the field (25 yards to the end zone)
What is Fantasy Football?
If you do not know what fantasy football is I will give you a crash course in what it is. Fantasy football is an online game where you use real life players making real life plays to gain points. The goal of fantasy football is to give regular people the opportunity to pretend to be a teams front office by deciding which players you want on the team and who to start each week. A league normally has 10-12 owners, you can have less but having more makes the league pretty thin in high scoring players. Before the NFL season starts your league will hold a fantasy draft. This draft is a lot like the real draft held each year by NFL teams. However, rather than picking new players coming out of college you pick the best players in the league. One difference in fantasy football is you do a draft called a snake draft, which means if you pick first in the first round you pick last in the second round. You go back and forth like this through the whole draft. There are a couple different ways to have teams but the most standard way to have a team is having 1 quarterback, 2-3 wide receivers, 2 running backs, 1 tight end, 1 kicker, 1 defence, and sometimes a flex spot where you can put a wide receiver or running back in starting spots. You also have 4-6 bench spots where you can place other players on your team who you do not want to start that week. Once the season starts you can trade with other owners, drop players, sign players off the waiver or free agency, just like real teams do. Each week you have a head-to-head match up with another team in the league; the goal is to start a team that you think will out score your opponent. To help choose your lineup, reports are available with numbers beside the players name which represent what a computer analyst thinks that player will score that week.This helps you with your chooses. However the computer is not normally right, doing your homework on match ups and league stats will help you with better outcomes. The season lasts 13 weeks and three weeks of playoffs. Only teams with the best records make the playoffs to battle out to be champion. Most leagues have a buy in or trophy, where the winner gets the money and bragging rights for the year.
Below I have added a photo of what a head-to-head match up looks like.
Why People Play Fantasy Football?
Like real life sport teams fantasy sport teams can cause interaction, and consumption of sports among other fans. In 1995 Daniel Wann developed a scale to measure sport fandom and consumption called the Sport Fan Motivation Scale (SFMS). The SFMS has eight categories “eustress (i.e., arousal and stress relief), self-esteem or personal enhancement, escape or diversion, entertainment, economic factors (i.e., gambling), aesthetic value (i.e., artistic characteristics), group affiliation, and family affiliation” (Dwyer and Kim, 2011, p.72). In 2000 Trail, Anderson, and Fink updated the scale adding “motives, identification, event expectations, disconfirmation or confirmation of those expectations, self-esteem behaviors, and the individual’s affective reactions” (Dwyer and Kim, 2011, p.72). Finally in 2001 Galen Trail and Jeffery James extended this work making the Motivational Scale for Sport Consumption, “vicarious achievement, acquisition of knowledge, aesthetics, social interaction, excitement, escape, family, physical attractiveness of the players, and the skill exhibited by the players.” (Dwyer and Kim, 2011, p.72-73). Below I have bullet pointed the key motivations and how they connect to fantasy football.
- Economic factors: most leagues you have to buy-in, the winner of the league either takes all or spilt up over the top three
- Escape: people want to escape from the real world and the hardships of life, fantasy can be a place where you find happiness doing something fun
- Acquisition of knowledge: people want to know what players and teams are the best in the NFL
- Skill exhibited by the players: a lot of times you like players who play for other teams. This gives you a chance to root for a for someone you like, who is not on your favourite team
- Vicarious achievement: winning your week or league makes you feel like you accomplished something even though you have not done anything yourself
- Social interaction: a huge part of fantasy football is using social media apps to talk to one another and and office banter
In a study done by Dwyer and Kim showed that for 90% of participants that were surveyed, the most important aspect of fantasy football was friendship, and 60% of people said the second most important reason they played was for fun (2011). They also found that playing fantasy football made watching the NFL more enjoyable, that fantasy owners found enjoyment in their knowledge of players, and team strategies (Dwyer and Kim showed, 2011). One of my favorite parts about playing fantasy football is the social aspect. One of my leagues is at my work and it makes work a lot more fun when you have a win over your fellow colleagues. It has allowed me to become better friends with the people I work with and makes time at work go by faster. I also like the escape factor of fantasy football; most times when I am in class I am doing research of players. This leads to acquisition of knowledge, I get enjoyment by finding out stats and figuring out who I should start so I can win.
A study by Farquhar & Meeds found that three most common types of fantasy football players are said to be, casual players 31%, skilled players 21%, and isolationist thrill-seekers 9.5%. (Hirsh, Anderson, & Caselli, 2012). The casual player did not do a lot of research and thought the game was one of luck. Where by the skilled player spends up to four times the amount of research for his team. The isolationist thrill-seekers play fantasy football for the trill of winning. I would put myself in the skilled player position as I spend about and hour or more a day doing some sort of research. I normally listen to a podcast of experts who go over the numbers/stats of player and break them down more easily for me to get the information. I also read articles on what players trends are, and use stat tool and simulators to help with my choices. Currently it seems to by paying off as I am second and third in my to leagues going into the last week before playoffs.
According to Lee (2011) 41% of fantasy owners’ would rather see their fantasy team win rather then their favourite team. I would fall into one of these 41%; I will root for players on the opposing team while facing my favourite team. If they are on one of my fantasy teams. My roommate constantly gets mad at me when I do this. It is not that I want my favourite team to lose; it is that I want to win. My competitiveness over takes my fan loyalty, however I do try and pick up players from my favourite team so I can cheer for them to win. In a study done by Dwyer & Kim “The competition motive… is very similar to that found in the actual sport participation context. That is, because this unique sport experience occurs in the virtual environment, the motivational dimensions of fantasy football participation reflect similar motives to the competitive needs of traditional athletes” (2011, p.80). By getting people to focus more on the NFL as a whole, can cause people to lose attachment to their favorite team (Dwyer & Drayer, 2010).
Web 2.0, Globalization, & Fantasy Football
Web 2.0 does not have set principles or practices but it had core elements. Web 2.0 is a version of the Internet that allows users to post, create, and communicate using and Internet browser rather then software (O’Reilly, 2009). Even though the interface of fantasy football does not fully meet Web 2.0 criteria does not mean it is not about of the fantasy football experience. On the web browser you cannot import your own data, rather you select from data that is already there. However the web browser does have chat feature that does meet the Web 2.0 criteria. Personally I never use the chat that is provided for you on the fantasy football interface. Rather in both my leagues with we have Facebook groups and Facebook is a classic Web 2.0 platform. In these groups we post articles about how bad a team is doing, or injury updates on star plays, in order to make fun of other peoples teams. We also post funny photo or memes about player and teams. The most important is our group chat, where we talk and banter with each other.
The standard definition of globalization in regards to the Internet is, “a process through which space and time are compressed by technology, information flows, and trade and power relations, allowing distant actions to have increased significance at the local level” (Miller, Lawrence, McKay and Rowe, 2001, p.131). Rowe & Hutchins go on to say, “an online sport fan ought, at least technically, to be able to access any mediated sport text that they desire, and to interact freely via computer mediated communication with any fellow fan, irrespective of their physical-spatial location” (2014, p.7). This is what fantasy football is all about. I can go on and check how my team is doing while the game is still in play. If am watching a football game on television I can and see one of my players make a big play I can instantly go on and look up how many points he scored on my behalf. Also the NFL only has teams in America so for me to be in another country watching my fantasy update adds to the globalization of this media. The fact the NFL is still huge in Canada just shows how huge the brand is globally. But the NFL is not just big in Canada, the past couple years the NFL has played a couple games in London England. I can still get real time updates (however really early in the morning) about how my players are doing. In two weeks I am going to Thailand and will be on the other side of the world and I will still be able to connect to my fantasy team by the Internet. I will still be able to talk to my friends back home and connect with them about what is happening that week in football.
The Use of Stats in Fantasy Football
Statistics have been around for a long time in sports. One of the first sports to use stats was baseball. They collected stats to help with on base percentage. According to Millington & Millington, “data could be collected and analyzed more rigorously and comprehensively so as to yield objective insights into the game” (2015, p.141). Millington & Millington go on to say, “Big Data presumes, on the one hand, that data can be collected in relation to virtually all aspects of life. It promises, on the other, that data can be ‘crunched’ on a scale once unimaginable, and at remarkable speed as well. The outcome for Big Data’s proponents is ostensibly ‘progress’ – including progress in the realm of sport” (2015, p.141). This is accentual for the formation of fantasy football; with out Big Data you could not play the game. You would not know how many points where scored, and who gives you the best chance to score points.
When picking players team owners use online tools to help them with their selection some of these tools are sports sites, social networks or blogs. The owner will use strategies that analyze the players’ statistical data to help with their selection with online or Excel tools (Dzodom & Shipman, 2014). Like me most owners do not rely on site rankings but use their own knowledge and find their own data (Hirsh, et al., 2012). When you are mid way through the season you know what you got, and what you need as a result of the knowledge you have attained from the accumulated stats. However when I play fantasy football I rarely make trades, as I do not want to make a bad trade that will hurt my team. So I mostly look to the wavier wire and look at stats of what players are doing there. This is because most owner are untrusting of trade offers and do not think there is good enough tools to help predict the out come of trades (Hirsh, et al., 2012). In a study done by Hirsh, et al., one person reported a participant saying they wanted “to know why another team wants my player” (2012, p.855).
With the use of stats reducing the chance of luck, fantasy football is said to be less like gambling and more like the stock market (Hirsh, et al., 2012). Recently I have wanted to get into the stock market, and this is because of my research and involvement with fantasy football. It is hard coming up with all the stats and figuring out who you want to start, so I get help with going to blog websites. One of the blog websites I go to has a daily podcast and one of the sections is called “Buy, Trade, Hold” (2). In this article they talk about what players you should “buy” because they might not have been putting up good numbers. However that might be getting lots of snaps, touches on the ball, or they have a favorable match coming up. In the “trade” section they talk about what players have been good but they think might slow down and to get value for them before it is too late. In the final section “hold” they discuss players that have been doing well and if they think they will continue to do so. If so they will be rated a “hold”.
This is just like the stock market where you buy low, sell high, and hold if you think the stock will continue to go up.
Below I have added examples of game charts that demonstrate your team’s performance in the last game vs. the other team.
Anderson, C., Caselli, M., & Hirsh, S.G.. (2012). The reality of fantasy: uncovering information-seeking behaviors and needs in online fantasy sports. CHI Extended Abstracts.
Dwyer, Brendan and Drayer, Joris, (2010). Fantasy Sport Consumer Segmentation: An Investigation into the Differing Consumption Modes of Fantasy Football Participants (2010). Sport Marketing Quarterly, 19, 207-216.
Dwyer, B., Kim, Y. (2011). For Love or Money: Developing and Validating a Motivational Scale for Fantasy Football Participation. Journal of Sport Management, (25) 70-83
Dzodom, G., & Shipman, F. (2014) Data-Driven Web Entertainment: The Data Collection and Analysis Practices of Fantasy Sports Players. WebSci ’14 Proceedings of the 2014 ACM conference on Web science. 293-294
Millington, B. & Millington, R. (2015). The Datafication of Everything: Toward a sociology of sport and big data. Sociology of Sport Journal, 32(2), 140-160.
Miller, T, Lawrence, G., McKay, J. and Rowe, D. (2001) Globalization and Sport: Playing the World. London: Sage. MyFootballClub (MFC) (2012) Retrieved fi:om http://www.myfootballclub.co.uk/
Rowe, D. & Hutchins, B. (2014). Globalization and Online Audiences. In A.C. Billings & M. Hardin (eds.), Routledge Handbook of Sport and New Media (pp.7-17). New York: Routledge.