The first ever Fantasy Football draft kicked off over 50 years ago in Oakland, CA with George Blanda selected as the first pick. But the craze didn’t take effect until the Internet started connecting the country back in the 90’s. As a 14 year old, my first draft took place at a local baseball card shop in 1994, and a quick stroll down memory lane reminds me that the 49ers won the title after manhandling the Chargers, 49-26. Steve Young was the MVP and SAP Ambassador, Marshall Faulk was the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Compiling Fantasy Football stats back then required a good ol’ fashioned newspaper and lots of patience because the box scores for the Monday night game were never posted until Wednesday’s newspaper. Watching the games, I still remember how “bright-eyed” I would get every time the jingle came on, signaling that a breaking news highlight was coming up. This was the only way to gather semi-real-time insight on non-televised games… archaic right? Fast-forward a few decades and the cult is continuing to grow:
- Over 33 million people play Fantasy Football, most are in multiple leagues, and 20% of players are women.
- The average Fantasy player spends about $110 per year on the hobby, equating to roughly $3.6 billion in productivity this season.
- San Francisco’s Levi Stadium is the first to offer a Fantasy Football lounge, encouraging fans to come to the game without sacrificing their Fantasy cravings.
- Believe it or not, Fantasy Football participants can buy insurance on their players, AND hire lawyers to settle league disputes.
- 39% of male Fantasy Football players would sacrifice beer for an entire season to win their Fantasy league, 19% would ditch their mobile phone, and a shocking 16% would give up ***.
But what if this fad never existed? How would that change the dynamic of the season? Has it become larger than the sport itself?
Fans like scoring – Fantasy Football fans love it. Sure, player safety is important, but so is racking up massive yardage and points. Is it safe to assume recent rule changes (favoring the offense) were at least partially created to appease the growing Fantasy fan base?
Would we se a diminished fan base in states that don’t have a “home team” like North Dakota and Delaware (the two most intense Fantasy Football states)? Perhaps more people would go to the stadium as the need to monitor other games diminishes. But today, every single game is important because of the Fantasy Football implications. Would TV ratings drop once a fan’s favorite team is eliminated from contention?
The Seahawks/Packers season opener beat last year’s ratings by 4%, proving that the NFL brand is stronger than ever. And Marshawn Lynch’s Fantasy owners rejoiced as they watched their bruiser rack up 25 Fantasy points to start the season. The Monday night game also provided relief for Calvin Johnson (aka Megatron) owners as he torched the Giants defense for 164 yards and two touchdowns, probably allowing many to come from behind in their fantasy games. But, while the hunger to win the Fantasy Football championship is immense, a recent poll I conducted in the office (purely work related, of course) showed roughly 80% of Fantasy players preferring to see their favorite actual team win the title, instead of their fantasy team. How would you vote? Comment below on how eliminating Fantasy Football might change the game, for better or for worse.
Since Fantasy Football clearly isn’t going away any time soon, check out the Player Comparison Tool on NFL.com to make those difficult lineup decisions for you. Just think, it’ll do all of the research, so you can focus on increasing your productivity at work. And while you’re at it, follow me on Twitter @airsomers.