Fans Dream of Pigskin When It’s Time for Fantasy Football

In America, it’s been said, there are two seasons: football season and waiting for football season. Mercifully for fans everywhere, the waiting season came to an end Sept. 5, when the new National Football League season kicked off with the Denver Broncos hosting the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens.

And while, for many viewers, the final score (49-27 Broncos) was of primary interest, for the tens of millions of fantasy football players across the U.S. and the world, the other numbers in the box score — like yards, touchdowns and turnovers — were far more crucial. In fact, for the legions of armchair warriors across the country and the world who wield their laptops and smartphones in virtual combat against their relatives, friends and coworkers, the final scores hardly count — much to the chagrin of some old-school sports journalists.

Photo courtesy of OneWayStock.com

Photo courtesy of OneWayStock.com

How serious is this fantasy business, you ask? According to a CNN Money report, the fantasy sports industry forecasts revenue of $1.2 billion this year, with the vast majority of that fortune generated from professional football. And according to estimates by the Fantasy Sports Trade Association (yes, there’s such a thing), there are more than 33.5 million fantasy sports players in the United States this year, plus another 3.1 million estimated in Canada, with more than three-quarters citing the NFL as their fantasy sport of choice.

Count me in — again. 🙂 As a longtime friend and fellow fantasy fiend recently pointed out to me, I’ve been at this fantasy football thing for almost 20 years now, which made me feel rather proud but exceedingly old at the same time. Of course, back in the dark ages of the mid-1990s, we didn’t have WiFi-enabled mobile phones and super-fast Internet connections everywhere, so I have fond memories of making my weekly NFL game picks on pen and paper under an almond tree as my fellow fantasy degenerates and I tried to escape the realities of college life. Ah, those were the days (cue the wistful music …).

Many of those same rivals from my college days are still in my leagues today, but online tools have replaced papyrus and ink as the fantasy medium of choice — which helps when you’re spread out over multiple time zones, countries or even continents. And, in fact, fantasy leagues have become the only link between myself and many of my co-participants — a few of whom I’ve never even met in person! Seven months off and five months on might not be the best prescription for a healthy friendship, but hey, it’s better than nothing. 🙂

This year I’m upping the ante by joining DC Fantasy Sports, a Meetup group created to unite enthusiasts of fantasy sports in the Washington, D.C., area. Founded by American University grad student Ethan Baron in the summer of 2013, the group has so far put together happy hours and a draft party, and even hosted an inaugural Rankings Summit at which members came up with their own 2013 fantasy football rankings for the 2013-14 season. I might be doing some blogging for DCFS as well, so stay tuned. …

Draft parties can be lots of fun -- and trash talk only makes them better.

Draft parties can be lots of fun — and trash talk only makes them better.

And speaking of draft parties ­— I regrettably missed the DCFS fiesta ­— my one wish every year, even more than to crush the competition, is that I could get all my leagues’ managers together in one place while we pick players. Once I got my first taste of said festivities last year — complete with a draft board, munchies and plenty of trash talk — I left feeling that I could lose every fantasy game and still end the season happy because of the draft experience. (I finished 5th, so I didn’t have to test my hypothesis. :D) I did take part in a couple such gatherings this year on a smaller scale (see photo), but satisfying as they were, I couldn’t help but wish that I were back under the almond tree in Kingston where it all started.

Hey, I can dream, right? This is FANTASY football, after all. 🙂