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Marketplace

Fantasy leagues are changing the way people watch football

Kai Ryssdal and Daisy Palacios Sep 21, 2016
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Nate Jackson used to play for the Denver Broncos, now he plays on a few fantasy football leagues. 
Allen Kee/Getty Images

Over the past couple of decades or so, people from all over the world have found entertainment in pretending to be the owners of imaginary professional sports teams on the internet. Many are making money out of it, too.

Fantasy leagues are a huge business – a business that has, in many ways, created its own economy. For instance, there are more than 30 million people in this country playing fantasy football alone. 

The fantasy football industry affects the real football industry. One study shows that fantasy football players are more likely to spend money on stadium seats, game tickets, and are even more likely to watch the game on television than general football fans.

Nate Jackson used to play for the Denver Broncos, now he plays on a few fantasy football leagues. His newest book is called Fantasy Man: A Former NFL Player’s Descent into the Brutality of Fantasy Football.

Jackson on how people watch football now:

It’s a big money maker for the NFL, for ESPN. They attract a lot of new eye balls, they get people involved that might not otherwise, so in that way I think it’s good. But it is changing the way people view the game. The loyalty to a particular team is kind of gone. What you’re loyal to now is your own fantasy team and you would rather have your own fantasy team win then the team that you grew up supporting, and so it creates a lot of fractured loyalties.

On how fantasy football changed the clichés of the game:

Some of the old adages in football is ‘it’s not about you it’s about the guy next to you, it’s about your team. There’s a lot of clichés about you being anonymous and being a part of this military force, essentially, of a football team. What fantasy football does it just kind of blows that to smithereens and says ‘it’s not about the team, it’s about you, your face, your name, your stats.’ 

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