Fantasy Sports: road to fame, glory and bragging rights

Trevor Crowell & Zack Rosenblatt, Sports Editor & Page Editor

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The commencement of the fantasy sports season draws groups of people together to have their draft. It leads to hours of trash talking. Online leagues provide fans a medium to manage a team and potentially lead that team to the splendor of winning a championship.

“If you are in a league with someone, you can talk about fantasy for your entire life,” senior Kyle Shea said. “You rant forever. You get into heated conversations. Feelings can get hurt. It’s a good time.”

In these year-round virtual sports leagues, members draft professional athletes to create a team. The team manager will then trade or cut players depending on their real life success. The individual performance of the players during the season is converted into points and then totaled by a host website or by the “league commissioner,” who also establishes the points system and coordinates the league.

“Fantasy sports is a forum to interact with your friends and a different way to watch and appreciate sports,” Student Activities Director Corey Uhalde said, an avid fantasy sports participant.

According to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association (FSTA), in the United States and Canada alone, around 56.8 million people (roughly 16 percent of the combined populations) participate in fantasy sports.

“It’s actually pretty educational and you get more out of it than any other game that you might play on the internet,” sophomore Zach Bene said.

For team managers, constantly viewing updates for their players and teams has become an everyday routine.

“I check my fantasy team around 5 to 10 times on an average day, but on game day, I’m checking for updates 24/7, and I feel like I have to be watching sports and looking at my players’ stats,” sophomore Paul Garcia said.

Some also use fantasy leagues as a way to stay in touch with old friends.

“I don’t always have an opportunity to talk to or see a lot of my friends from high school and college. Our lives are busy, and we live in different parts of the country,” English teacher Jason Drogin said. “Getting together in person or on the phone to draft is a good way to ensure we stay in touch.”

Operating virtual teams is taken anything but lightly.

“It’s supposed to be fun and we all have a good time doing it, but there is also that competition factor,” freshman Kyle Spottiswood said.

This game has even led to the creation of a Fantasy Sports Club at Sequoia.

“I play a lot of fantasy sports and I am in a lot of fantasy leagues, so I thought it would be fun to try and get people more involved,” said freshman and fantasy sports club co-founder Dominic DiGrande. “I also wanted to introduce new sports to other people that don’t necessarily understand them.”

There is some controversy on the aspect of putting bets down: In 2006, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act banned nearly all forms of online betting. For the most part however, fantasy sports remain unregulated, and fans continue to place bets on their teams.

According to the FSTA, the average American fantasy sports player over the age of 18 spends an average of $465 annually on league-related costs, betting, single-player challenge games and materials.

“Betting on fantasy teams ups the stakes and makes everything more interesting and the people playing get more involved,” Garcia said. “It makes the games more competitive and it’s almost like you get everyday adrenaline from it, knowing you have money on the line.”

Aside from cash, there is something many players find equally or more important.

“Obviously bragging rights are big part of playing,” Bene said. “You can trash-talk other people and when you beat someone else in a game, it’s pretty cool because they have nothing to say back to you.”

This can contribute to minor conflicts.

“There are never any physical punches thrown, but definitely verbal abuse. Complete verbal harassment over texts and sometimes in person,” Shea said. “There are a lot of insults hurled and basically anything is fair game to trash talk an opponent about.”

Trash talk is not usually excessively malicious, but fans find that playfully smack-talking their opponents is a common thing to do in order to spice up the action.

“Fantasy sports is all about the pride and the bragging rights, and with that comes the ability to talk a lot of trash,” Drogin said. “It is never meant to be mean-spirited; it keeps fantasy sports exciting.”

In some cases, desire to earn fantasy points has even led some fans to turn their backs on their hometown teams that they would usually root for.

“With certain teams such as the 49ers I have never really been a super passionate fan. So there are situations where I think that the fantasy world supersedes the actual sports world for me,” Uhalde said.

Fantasy sports can take up a significant amount of time, but student athletes who take part in leagues still find that their priority is with the teams that they personally represent.

“The nice thing about fantasy is that it’s not something that you have to do all the time,” Di Grande said. “With a real sport, you have to go to practices and you have to go to games, but with fantasy you can just do it whenever.”

Whether their motivation comes from a desire to earn obtain money, earn bragging rights or for pure enjoyment, fans return to checking scouting reports and working on the ins and outs of running a sports team season after season.

“It’s not like a computer game that you play for five minutes and then get bored,” Garcia said. “It is an entire season of playing and using a lot of strategy to win games.”