Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

27 Sep 2005

Attack of the Fantasy Football Clones

There's nothing wrong with rooting for your fantasy players along with your favorite team. But Peter Schrager is a little annoyed by people who root only for their fantasy team, especially because there are lots of people playing fantasy football now who don't really know anything about football otherwise. Are they ruining your trip to the sports bar too? And who is this Brian Leftwich guy?

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 27 Sep 2005

22 comments, Last at 30 Sep 2005, 6:51am by TrySaraTops


by B (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 4:06pm

I have no love for fantasy football, but this article sounds like a "They're nerding up football!" screed. Is there a rule that only people who have a favorite team can enjoy football? It looked to me like the fantasy football fans were hving just a good a time as the drunk Eagles fans, so why single out one group?

by MCS (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 4:08pm

It's ruining an entire generation of football fans.

My wife and I, avid footabll fans, have both been playing FF since the late 90's. My 12 year old son watches football but seems to be only interested in personal statistics and FF value.

I presume he is just trying to bond with his parents, but he is missing so much of what makes football a great sport.

It doesn't help that we're Packer fans and there hasn't been a whole lot to cheer about this season.

by Nuk (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 4:41pm

I've been a football fan for about 20 years, but this is my first year playing FF. Suddenly, instead of rooting for Oakland because they're the underdog, I'm rooting for TO and Akers to score because they're on my team. It's strange to see how flimsy my motivations are for prefering a game that doesn't involve my team (Indy).

by ABW (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 4:43pm

As a fantasy player and a fan, it does discourage me a little bit that some of my friends seem to be actively DISinterested in the actual football aspects of the game and only interested in stats. But hey, if they get enjoyment out of reading box scores but not watching a perfectly executed play-fake or a great block, who am I to say that's wrong? It's a damn sports bar. People go to drink and have a good time. If that means rooting for your fantasy players instead of a team, well, I'm sorry your missing out on the best parts of the game IMHO but life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness right? Find yourself a new, less popular bar if it bothers you that much.

Besides, my girlfriend started playing fantasy this year, and she's shown a lot more patience with watching games that don't directly involve either the Pats(my team) or the Packers(hers) and just watching more games she's picked up on a lot of other aspects of football. Admittedly, she'd shown a willingness to learn about football beforehand, but now that she has a reason to watch the games she actually is. Give the fantasy players a chance - those who are just in it for the stats will probably lose interest eventually, but some of those people will notice that football can offer a lot more than stats and a way to compete with your friends.

by Mike L (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 4:46pm

At least they're not as bad as the degenerate gamblers.

by Jerry P. (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 5:12pm

"It’s ruining an entire generation of football fans."

Go go hyperbole!

I mean, because it's not like by sitting in front of 3-9 hours of football every Sunday he's going to pick up the aspects of the real game. Children's minds are much too underpowered for that.

by Justus (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 5:18pm

Because we all know fantasy football is incomparably worse than rooting for Team X just because you had the dumb luck to be born somewhere within their television market. How dare they try to remove the last vestiges of our tribalistic/nationalistic xenophobia dammit!

by CaffeineMan (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 5:48pm

I'm another long-time football fan who just started a fantasy team this year. In the past, I've actively ignored it, since info aimed at fantasy football seemed largely irrelevant to understanding success at reality football. I changed my mind partly because my co-workers play and I wanted an excuse to talk trash with them. I did it also because I wanted to see if reading FO's site and books and KC Joyner's site and books could actually allow a confirmed reality football fan and willful FF ignoramus to have a respectable season in a fantasy league.

One good thing about FF is that it makes you pay attention to other games. Of course, that's why the NFL and media is now targetting fantasy players, to get fans to watch more than their favorite teams. The bad part is that it makes you root for weird shiznit, like wanting TJ Housh to light up Chicago's D, but wanting Chicago's D to shut down the entire rest of the Bengals. I'm currently undecided on whether I'll do it next season. But this season, the Rented Mules are 2-1, so at least I'm not flailing.

It's hard to really address the whole issue of whether it's ruining a generation of fans, because information is hard to come by. I think the fans focussed on individual performance long before FF or video games. Individuals always attracted attention. How many Bart Starr fans were there versus Jerry Kramer fans? If it wasn't for the Ice Bowl, how many people would even know who Jerry Kramer was? I think FF focus on individual players may be more of an effect, rather than a cause, of fans focus on individual players.

by Mahatma Kane Jeeves (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 5:54pm

I tend to think that if someone is into FF and personal stats and not a football fan in general, it's too superficial an interest to really last. They'll probably either eventually get into football for real or find something else to occupy their time. That's not based on any real evidence, of course, I'm just grasping here.

This year I'm in a fantasy premier league for the first time, though I've never followed the game before and I haven't heard of any of the guys on my team. But it's pretty cool so far, and maybe I'll start paying attention to the league now (if this Henry guy I picked up the other week pays off when he comes back from his injury).

by SLB1 (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 7:41pm

RE: 9

If by Henry you mean Travis Henry, he is not hurt. He is suspended because he violated the League's substance abuse policy. Also, he shares time in the backfield with Chris Brown. Drop him immediately and pick up someone that will produce for you!

by Doug (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 8:00pm

I'm not a fantasy player, but objectively, why is rooting for your fantasy team somehow less noble than rooting for your favorite team? It's not better or worse, just different, and in any case this is already a 15-year old argument for many baseball fans.

by Ned (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 8:35pm

I have mixed feelings about the takeover of fantasy. One thing that struck me about the article, however, was: "They don't care about the score, the teams, or the over/under." Rooting for "Brian" to pass it to Jimmy is horrible, but hoping for that meaningless last second score is indicative of a true football fan.

by LaRoacha (not verified) :: Tue, 09/27/2005 - 11:14pm

I've been an on again, off again, football fan since I was a kid(and I'm 41 at this point). Every year I intend to repeat the fun years when I was totally immersed in football, but more and more, that hasn't been the case. (concidering my affinity for the 49er's I'm sure you can understand) I started playing FF this year and I'm more into football in general than I have been in 10 years. I had that NFL package on Direct TV last year and barely used it, god I wish I had it this year.

by marc (not verified) :: Wed, 09/28/2005 - 1:01am

I watch as much NFL football as I am physically able to in my own home and I think fantasy football is one of the dumbest things I've ever heard of to be honest. I really don't care if people play fantasy football but I agree with the general sentiment of the article. It's just a matter of personal preference but it bugs me when people get more worked up about a WR getting a ton of yards because his team is losing badly and they have no choice but to pass than if a player actually contributes to a win.
But honestly the biggest complaint I have with the explosion of fantasy football is that it has caused even more people that don't have a god damn clue what they're talking about to offer their dumbass opinions about football.

by Fnor (not verified) :: Wed, 09/28/2005 - 1:31am

We started a family FF game this year. My brothers-in-law and I had done it before, my sisters, parents and uncles/aunts hadn't.

At one point I heard "watching football used to be fun." Wow. I think there's a lot to be said about watching a game without actively rooting for a team, much less an individual player. You see so much more that way... formations, play calling trends, blocking and QB progressions... 52 seconds of clock time....

by Ryan Carney (not verified) :: Wed, 09/28/2005 - 1:39am

To prove that there is still some loyalty in some fantasy football leagues, my league is a bunch of guys from Buffalo, and this year we introduced a "No Bledsoe" rule, (self explanatory) Sure enough, despite him being rated 6th overall in our league, no one has picked him up, I don't know how comforting that is, but its gotta be good for something.

by Mahatma Kane Jeeves (not verified) :: Wed, 09/28/2005 - 2:30am


Sorry, I wasn't clear on that. The fantasy premier league is for UK football, and Henry is Thierry Henry of Arsenal (out with a groin injury).

I started playing FF in 1990 (birth of the French Taunters), and by then I was already a longtime football fan. Playing FF just got me more interested in watching games that didn't involve my Raiders. I've since pulled for the Bills (w/ Kelly as my first QB), the Rams (had Warner during the glory years), and now the Panthers (I enjoyed that Delhomme-Smith connection over the weekend). And to prove once again that there's still loyalty in FF, I've never allowed any Broncos on my teams.

by JG (not verified) :: Wed, 09/28/2005 - 3:55pm

I agree that there is still loyalty in FF. I know a number of other Bears fans that refuse to start anyone playing against the Bears. It avoids conflict of interest come game day. On the whole I think FF can enhance football enjoyment. I mean, why not have 7 teams to root for on sunday instead of 1? If it's a bye week or you don't live in your team's home market atleast you might have some personal interest in the games that you actually get to see. In Wisconsin I get to see generally about 3 or 4 Bears games a year (including 2 against the Packers). What am I supposed to do the other 13 weeks? Paint the house?

by Carl (not verified) :: Wed, 09/28/2005 - 6:26pm

My beef isn't with Fantasy Football, but with the way the leagues are structured. It really over-estimates the value of running backs and kickers, while diminishing the very real stats that are important to winning, such as field position (special teams), yards per attempt for QBs (instead of just junk yards or TDs) or defense, which isn't really highlighted well in fantasy leagues.

As for Travis Henry, snap him up while you can! King said he's worth a second round draft pick!

by B (not verified) :: Thu, 09/29/2005 - 5:16pm

I hope in a few years the Fantasy Football guys are writing columns about those pesky "Loser League" guys who are rooting for the latest incarnation of Fred Taylor to fumble, or another Kyle Boller interception.

by zlionsfan (not verified) :: Thu, 09/29/2005 - 8:08pm

Comparing Cadillac to Chris Moneymaker? Uh, okay. Whatever.

I agree with #5 and #7. It's hard to tell if the author was joking about the gambling comment, but really, fantasy football players and gamblers are two of a kind - rooting for something specific within the game - which he should know from his own fantasy team. Of course, no gamblers ever root for another team over their favorite team ...

To me, this article is just another way to say "The way that I follow football is acceptable. The way that you follow it is not." Hey, like what B said ...

I suppose that next, someone who knows nothing about football except that his/her child plays can't root for the kid? "Sorry, Mr. Williams, you'll have to root for Tampa Bay. No hoping that your son will get 35 carries this game."

Maybe fantasy football has joined Texas Hold 'Em. It's been around long enough that even mainstream media types are picking up on it, so now it's cool to dis it. Next thing you know, the best pickup line in a bar will be "I'm not even watching this game, because, you know, I don't play fantasy football."

Personally, I think playing fantasy football gives me more reasons to learn about more players. If I didn't play in any leagues, I'd probably watch the Lions, maybe the occasional late or night games, and that would be it. I wouldn't have as much of an interest in the other articles on this site, because I wouldn't have as many reasons to apply the knowledge I get from FO. It isn't the only reason I read FO, but it helps.

And what's wrong with wearing braces and glasses? :)

by TrySaraTops (not verified) :: Fri, 09/30/2005 - 6:51am

I would agree with this article if the author weren't a fantasy player himself. Fantasy football is completely retarded, it has absolutely nothing to do with the actual football played on the field. The growth of fantasy football into a national phenomenon is nothing but another sign that people are stupid sheep that latch onto a fad.