What’s Better? Real or Fantasy?

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By: Rachel Buck
Sports Information Assistant

Disclaimer: Fantasy football is highly entertaining and gives you the opportunity to pay attention to players and teams that you usually could care less about. On the flip side, it’s highly addictive and teaches fans strategy while also giving them an ego that they could actually run a team.

There is no question that fantasy sports (with a significant emphasis on football) have become a major part of the American sports culture.

During the lockout it seemed like some fans were more upset about not having a fantasy team in the fall than not having an actual NFL team. And now that the season is back, I’m pretty sure there won’t be a single NFL gameday that goes by where you won’t hear the words “that guy is on my fantasy team” multiple times, or have to endure friends, co-workers and the guy one table over at breakfast dissecting the weekend and who they should/shouldn’t have started.

Adding to the level of insanity that this multi-million dollar industry has already created (magazines, strategy websites, etc), the NFL is now directing teams to show live fantasy stats on its scoreboards.

Many questions ran through my mind as I read that article, but the top two follow:

1. Are bragging rights for winning a league (or the humiliation of finishing dead last, even after all of the smack talk and touting of their drafting skills) more important than bragging rights over anyone when your team makes the playoffs or wins a big game?

2. Do people really go to a sporting event and fret more about fantasy numbers than the game (that they paid for) going on in front of them?

If those questions are actually truths, I wish I could understand the rationale.

I realize that some leagues play for money. I know this, and that is a good reason to get excited. But a large number of fans play in leagues that are free. They play against their friends and no money is ever exchanged, just bragging rights. To get excited when your team is on the cusp of losing a game because one of your fantasy players just got six points? Well, like I said, it is a mystery to me how that kind of fan thinks. (And don’t even get me started on people who fret over starting a fantasy player because that individual is lining up on the opposite side of their favorite team and they are afraid of the player having a good game).

So what if I started receiver A instead of receiver B on my fantasy team and Player B had a better game…did my real team still win the game? Yes? Then it doesn’t matter. In my opinion, having my team win on the field will always trump individual fantasy accomplishments.

The biggest thing that bothers me about the NFL and its push to show fantasy stats at games to “replicate the at-home experience in the stadium” is the oxymoronic nature of that statement. Does the NFL really think the only way fans are going to attend games is if they make the stadium experience more like a typical Sunday afternoon on the couch with an HD broadcast and a bowl of pork rinds?

I don’t think the NFL realizes the unique position it has over other leagues…instead of having to fill a stadium for 40+games over a span of seven months like MLB, NHL and NBA, they have to fill eight home games over four months. I’ve always seen football as more of a Mecca experience than other sports, with the limited amount of home games for fans to attend. The economy has hit professional sports, especially in the ticket sales department. However, with the passion that resides in this country for the NFL, well, I don’t think that league will every truly hurt for fan support (or money).

So if I do decided to go to an NFL game, I want to soak in the au jus. I want to have an $8 beer and $5 brat. I want to see the super fans around me with their crazy gear (although I don’t always want to listen to their banter). I want to see the green grass and the players, and see/hear the hits as the teams march up and down the field. That’s a game, and something you can’t experience sitting in the comfort of a recliner, even with the invention of 3-D television.

Some may argue that the NFL is trying to create a “best of both worlds” by giving fans the actual gameday experience in addition to providing real-time fantasy stats. But if the fan’s focus is dedicated toward their phone and the fantasy football world, I don’t think they are really enjoying all the team/stadium has to offer.

Checking my phone every five minutes to see my fantasy team points isn’t going to change the outcome. I’ve gone to games with friends who have spent more time checking Facebook/Twitter/fantasy sports than actually watching the game, and it is often more frustrating than if the team on the field is playing terribly. They keep their eyes on their phone, but then when a big hit/play occurs, they are the first to turn and ask “what happened” and are upset when the arena doesn’t show a replay. You wouldn’t be in this situation if you would just watch the game! Sure, I’ll tweet during games (I’m a big fan of Twitter), but I always tweet during timeouts, play stoppage or intermissions. I don’t want to miss a minute of the action.

If you are one of those fans that are more concerned about your fantasy team than an actual game, please turn in your fan card and game ticket at the gate, I’m sure the team can find someone else who would be more than happy to fill the seat.

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