What makes fantasy football so addictive?

Fantasy football is a game within a game — an additional layer of interaction between fans and their favorite teams and players. Fans can become more involved in their favorite sports than just sitting on the sidelines and cheering; they can try and use their knowledge and insight to get one up on their friends, work colleagues and other sports fans around the country. The fantasy concept doesn’t just relate to football, it has been adopted by various other sports such as baseball ,basketball and soccer. It’s even become popular in the minor leagues, which fans have used to keep an eye on up-and-coming prospects in the world of baseball and beyond.

For those entirely new to the idea of fantasy football, it is a format where fans pick their roster or squad of players from the league at the start of each season with a set budget. Entrants to a fantasy league earn points each round of fixtures depending on their players’ performances in the real-life action. After each round of games played, fantasy managers can make changes to their team, introducing players that might be entering some form and removing those that are either out of sorts or injured.

It’s also an opportunity for fans to feel even closer to their favorite teams, allowing them to experience every kick, field goal and injury with the team coaches. Most fans will never get the opportunity to become a professional coach, so fantasy football is the next best thing for supporters to channel their passion and prove to themselves that they know what they are talking about. Manchester United did something similar for their soccer fans in the U.K. by designing social games to improve interaction between supporters and the club. First-team Manchester United stars Wayne Rooney, Rafael Pereira da Silva and others were on hand to help launch the social casino-style games that enable fans to interact with the club and each other on a more regular basis.

Another reason why fantasy football has increased in popularity among sports fans is that it provides a cheaper and safer adrenaline rush than betting on matches with sportsbooks for real money. With fantasy football, fans can enjoy the feeling of predicting correctly the outcome of a game, or which players would perform best on the weekend, without the stress of winning and losing hard-earned cash. It also makes every round of matches entertaining. When you’re striving to stay ahead of your friends or work colleagues in the fantasy football standings, there are no longer any meaningless fixtures.

Often, the larger-scale fantasy football competitions will also offer up significant prize pools for entrants. For a small one-off cost or monthly fee, fans that put in the research can compete for life-changing sums of money without having to risk much of theirs. For instance, one of the leading networks DraftKings offers guaranteed prize pots of more than $1 billion. Also, there’s more skill to fantasy football than meets the eye. Statistics can only help you so much. In some cases, fans must look beyond the data and make a judgment call on whether a player just had an off day and if they are capable of more in the next game. Although fantasy sports is considered by some to be a rebranded form of gambling, it is viewed as a game of skill, which is why it is excluded from the 2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act.

According to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association (FSTA), almost 57 million people in the U.S. and Canada participate in fantasy sports. However, it’s almost impossible to estimate how many fantasy leagues are in operation across North America, especially with so many different competitions held in offices, online forums and with the top fantasy sports sites. And even though most acknowledge that their hobby offers a negative expected value in the long run, sports fans still enjoy the thrill of fantasy sports. Despite knowing that they’re unlikely to win big, the thrill of staying tuned in to the widespread media coverage and opinion pieces far outweighs the costs incurred. One thing’s for sure: they will exist for as long as professional sports do.

James Thomas

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Part-time writer, full-time sports fan, and lifetime fantasy sports fanatic.