Sports enthusiast discusses benefits of fantasy sports for community-building

September 16, 2015 by John Bihn, Staff Writer

Last week marked the start of classes, the start of cooler weather and, for many at the College, the start of the fantasy football season.

Fantasy football is a game where owners draft National Football League players for their “team.” Each week, owners try to outscore their opponents, receiving points for touchdowns, rushing yards and other statistics accumulated by their players. Yet for a seemingly virtual game, with scoring and lineup decisions all online, there is a surprising amount of camaraderie that comes from fantasy football.

I say all this from experience. During my first year, I went to my Junior Advisor to organize an entry fantasy football league. With orientation trips and classes keeping people busy, our draft night was an excuse to bring the entry together again. I still remember the 10 of us huddled in the common room with our laptops, excited about our teams and trash talking those who put too much faith in their hometown squad.

Over the rest of the fall, our fantasy league gave my entry a common talking point when we saw each other in the hallways. Even entrymates that were not in the league would ask me how my fantasy team was doing. Over winter break I anxiously watched the final game of the regular season to see who would win our league and looked forward to getting back for Winter Study to congratulate the winner.

My experience playing fantasy football at Williams is very different than my experiences in middle school. Back then, I would often have to explain what fantasy football was and why I was yelling at Tom Brady to throw to Wes Welker instead of Randy Moss. I remember being incredibly excited to find a classmate that just knew what fantasy football was, let alone one who ran his own team. Now, watching ESPN for an hour without seeing an ad for fantasy sports is a difficult task. Even non-sports fans do not bat an eye when they overhear me talking with friends about our fantasy league.

I believe the main reason fantasy football is so popular is that it gives us a feeling of control over watching sports. Fans watching from home have no influence over the performance of their favorite team, despite the arguments to the contrary made in recent Bud Light commercials. In fantasy football, owners have the final say over who they choose to draft and start, which makes wins and losses in fantasy football feel much more personal.

This also adds to the experience of watching a game with friends. My favorite memories of watching football all come from times where I was watching with a fan of one of the teams playing. With about 10 players on a typical fantasy roster, there is a great chance that even when watching the worst teams play each other, at least somebody will have a vested interest in the outcome of the game.

One of the best feelings in fantasy football, even greater than winning, is the feeling of getting a decision right. Whether it is starting an unknown tight end that scores 20 points or picking up a running back from the waiver wire that turns into a star, all fantasy football fans can point to a time where their decision-making led to a dominating performance.

I believe this makes fantasy sports especially appealing to students at Williams, where students are constantly striving for success. Fantasy football gives me the rush of accomplishment each time I make a smart decision, and I’m positive that I am not alone in this. Ask anyone who has played fantasy what their greatest accomplishments are, and I’m sure they will bore you with stories of narrow wins and late-round draft day steals.

So as the semester continues and “Which classes are you taking?” is no longer an appropriate conversation starter, try asking “Are you in any fantasy leagues?”

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