Connected Why we play fantasy sports


A few weeks ago, I wrote about the Northern Ohio Fantasy Football Alliance, or NOFFA. NOFFA is a group of men who have been gathering to play fantasy football for nearly 25 years.

When that column appeared in the Sept. 7 edition of The Vindicator, a reader wrote:

“I get that [fantasy football] is a big deal for some people. But it looks complicated. How much free time do these people have? I wouldn’t even know where to start.”

All are legitimate points, but the last statement seemed to be more of a question: Where would someone with an interest in fantasy sports get started? I turned to the experts for some answers.

Sports media scholars Nick Bowman (West Virginia University), John Spinda (Clemson University) and Jimmy Sanderson (Arizona State University), recently published “Fantasy Sports and the Changing Sports Media Industry,” a collection of studies on the phenomena.

“You have to decide your competitive level up front,” Bowman said. “If you’re a casual fan and you want to have fun and support your favorite players, be upfront about that and settle into a classic league.”

A classic league is for those who want to draft and manage a fantasy team, but may not be interested in the grind of daily fantasy sports (DFS) play like FanDuel or DraftKings.

“The DFS contests can be aggressive and competitive,” Bowman said. “If you’re competitive and looking to make some money, you really need to invest time.” New “competitive” fantasy owners should find a comfort level by finding others with similar skills.

For most fantasy owners, the connection to others is more important than competitive play.

“It’s ultimately a social endeavor,” Spinda said. “Even in hyper-competitive leagues, people develop social bonds over time.”

For a few owners, the social connection is the last thing on their minds.

“No matter who is playing, that camaraderie is often linked to vicarious achievement,” Spinda added, suggesting that a primary motivation for some fantasy owners is to win.

No matter the motivation, if you’re just getting started, it takes some time to figure out the rules, statistics, and if you’re playing online, the settings. But don’t give up. “Just like a real player or owner, you need to stick with it,” Spinda said.

“Even if it doesn’t end up becoming your ‘thing’ or you have bad luck with drafting and injuries, you should set lineups and battle to the end. Other owners tend to get angry when someone quits midway through a season,” Spinda added.

If you’re looking for a leg up, try using social media.

“Social media has blurred the lines between fantasy and reality,” Bowman said. “Fantasy sports owners can follow their athletes, ask them questions, and try to get the inside scoop on the players themselves.”

For fantasy owners who use social media, the locker room door is wide open.

Adam Earnheardt is chairman of the department of communication at Youngstown State University. Follow him on Twitter at @adamearn and check out his blog at adamearn.com.

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