To this day, I can still remember the starting running back on my 1999 fantasy football team. With 2,400+ yards from scrimmage and 87 receptions (yes, we adopted PPR early), Marshall Faulk was a fantasy workhorse.
As I look forward to my upcoming fantasy football draft, though, it’s impossible for me to ignore the fact that the landscape of fantasy sports is changing. To me, part of the beauty of fantasy football comes from the relationships you build with fellow players – from the trash talking, to the ridiculous “what-if’s” and the crazy punishments bestowed upon losers. The financial rewards of winning are great, but not essential from my point of view. Case and point: two years ago, I won the regular and post-season titles in our league and was handsomely rewarded with a cash prize. Then, I did some simple math and realized those winnings meant I’d made the equivalent of about $1.93 an hour that season (perhaps even less).
The comradery created, however, was priceless, and is what keeps me salivating for each upcoming NFL season. Last year I delayed my move to grad school so I could attend the draft. I’m even considering making a one day ten-hour drive just to get back for draft day this year.
Unfortunately, many of the current crop of “kids” are going to miss out on this type of fantasy experience, thanks to daily fantasy leagues like FanDuel and Draft Kings that are taking over the industry. From 2008 to 2014, the number of fantasy sports players in the US and Canada increased by nearly 12 million. In 2015 alone, the number has already increased to over 15 million.
Also in 2012, of money spent on leagues by fantasy players, 92% was on traditional leagues, while just 8% went to daily leagues. In 2015, that ratio now stands at 39%/61%. In my opinion, these daily fantasy leagues are robbing players of the benefits that come from spending an entire season engaged with a league of like-minded peers. Instead, their players are focused on making money quickly, and picking and dumping entire teams with no regard for who you are competing against. This, to me, sounds more like gambling.
I believe the shift to daily fantasy is due, in part, to the needs and wants of millennials. Millennials thirst for immediate feedback and gratification. This generation isn’t willing to wait 17 weeks to crown a champion. Instead, they need to see results right away, and that means playing in daily, quick-gratifaction leagues. My question is where does this stop? Already, 21 NFL teams are sponsored by daily fantasy leagues. With in-stadium Wifi becoming more prevalent, I could see the next step being in-game “prop betting” (i.e., guessing which player will get the next first down, etc.). While this type of gambling isn’t legal yet, it’s only seems to be a matter of time before it is.
If millennials think daily leagues give immediate gratification, wait until you can bet on the length of the national anthem, the most likely injury, the score after each quarter, oh and of course your fantasy players- right from your phone while you’re in the stadium watching it unfold. I believe this is in the not-too-distant future, and am curious to see which team or league condones, or capitalizes on it, first.