TEXT OF INTERVIEW
Kai Ryssdal: Whether you’re ready for some football or not, the NFL season is upon us. Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts start their defense of their Super Bowl title against New Orleans tonight.
Last week, Sports Illustrated ranked Manning as the best player in the league. Number 1 out of more than 1,600 guys who play football for a living. Which makes him a sure-fire top pick for the millions of fans playing fantasy football leagues.
Diana Nyad’s here to tell us about that. Hey, Diana.
Diana Nyad: Kai, how you doing?
Ryssdal: I’m all right. Give me the 30-second version of what a fantasy league is.
Nyad: Well, I guess it runs really parallel to what a real league is. There are real Joes out there in the world — and Joannes — who buy in to a league where they become the owners. So if you and I are two of the owners of a 10-league team, we have a draft. So if I go first, I get to pick any active player in the National Football League.
So let’s say I want Peyton Manning. He’s my quarterback. So at the end of the week, I see how my guys did, and they score points by kicking field goals and throwing certain numbers of touchdowns, et cetera. We add ’em up at the end of the season, and if I’m the winning team, I win my Super Bowl, so to speak.
Ryssdal: If you’re in it, you know it’s huge. But I’m not in it. So tell me how big fantasy leagues are — specifically fantasy football.
Nyad: It is, it’s bigger than huge — it’s Leviathan. I mean, the reason statistics are . . . and according to commissioners, like there’s a guy named Ed Fitzgerald, who by day is senior manager, biotech firm, by night . . . and by weekend, he’s the commissioner of a big league that’s here in Los Angeles. He says that the 15 million people that are recorded as being owners and participating in fantasy leagues is way underestimated. He thinks it’s up to about 30 million people.
And $150 million, more or less now, coming in as revenue to just the magazines and the Internet sites. So that’s not the sports bars, that’s not the leagues themselves, that’s not the cable and satellite packages that have blossomed and burgeoned just because of fantasy.
Ryssdal: You know, this all started organically enough with some superfans 30 or 40 years ago, I guess it was. But my other guess would be that Roger Goodell, the commissioner of the NFL, and all the team owners who have hundreds of millions of dollars invested in their players, are excited as you can be for more fantasy leagues to start out there, because it just keeps bringing fans into their game.
Nyad: Oh, it does, it multiplies the fanbase exponentially. Now the fantasy league guys — and women, I shouldn’t leave them out ’cause that group is growing. It used to be zero, now it’s growing to about 11 percent of the fantasy leagues, the owners are women. Those people want to watch every game, every week and follow every step, because every game has a meaning to them.
Ryssdal: Not to be left out is the fact that, we’ve been talking about revenue and hundreds of millions of dollars. All that revenue comes from the players. None of these leagues really — unless they’re, I imagine, sort of friend leagues among some buddies — are free. You have to pay to join.
Nyad: You have to pay to join. Every league has a different set of rules. The league I was talking about here in L.A., run by Ed Fitzgerald, they have a particular set of rules whereby you pay to get in — you pay 50 bucks to get in, that’s not much — you pay $3 for every transaction. So the end of the week, if I want to make a trade, if I want to make a cut, I gotta pay 3 bucks. So all the owners paying that, it’s not much money — at the end of the season, it’s only gonna be $500 to win. But it keeps the . . . those little cha-chings keep people interested, you know?
Ryssdal: The business of sports with Diana Nyad. Thank you, Diana.
Nyad: Thank you.
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