A whopping 57.4 million people throughout the United States and Canada participated in fantasy sports in 2016 with football being the most popular. Fantasy football has exploded in popularity over the past few seasons, and more football fans seem to get involved every year. Perhaps it’s the humorous advertisements, or maybe it’s the creation of more fantasy sports programs such as DraftKings or FanDuel that make it easier to play, but for whatever reason, fantasy football has taken the United States and some other parts of the world by storm in recent years.

When you imagine fantasy football, you might think of a bunch of guys in a man cave drinking beer, hanging out and taking the fantasy draft way too seriously. For the most part you’re right, but did you know one in five women are part of the fantasy football craze? Almost one-third of fantasy football players are female, an unexpected statistic debunking the myth that football is for men.

Fantasy football is actually an official UTSA intramural sport in the fall time. Many students join leagues across campus and compete for the league championship title.

In case you don’t know, fantasy football is a type of game you play in leagues of usually six to ten people. Groups of fans get together and draft players in what is typically a 16 round draft. You can pick offensive players from various NFL teams, and that’s what makes it a “fantasy team.”

In standard leagues, you typically play one quarterback, two running backs, two wide receivers, one tight end, one kicker and one defensive unit.  Each week of the season you go head to head with another team in your league and you earn points based off how the players on your fantasy roster perform in real life. It may seem silly, but it’s a meticulous game that requires strategizing. Since you don’t get to play all 16 or 17 of your players, you must choose which nine players you would like to play based off of your own performance predictions.

Nothing compares to the frustration of having a player you decided not to play, go off for 20 plus fantasy points while he’s on your bench. Meanwhile, the player you decided to start over him is struggling with only four fantasy points on 60 rushing yards and a lost fumble. People enjoy the excitement of picking and choosing, and because most leagues play for money, people go all-in in the hopes of walking away at the end of the season with a nice wad of cash. With millions of people getting on board on fantasy football, the million dollar question must be asked: does it change the way we watch the game?

Fantasy football seems to be changing the way fans’ watch the games. Loyalty to their favorite team comes into question as they may have one of their fantasy players playing against the team they support. In that scenario, for whom do you cheer? You want your player to do well but not well enough to beat your team. You want your player to score, but then you’d be cheering against your team. It creates a bit of internal conflict. The classic “you cheer for one team or the other” way of watching a football game is slowly dissolving and fantasy football is complicating the simple activity of watching an NFL game.

The integrity of the game also comes into question, because many NFL players themselves play fantasy football. The thought that a player would intentionally hurt his team to earn fantasy points is a bit ridiculous, but it is not out of the realm of possibility.

With injuries, waiver claims, trade proposals and more, fantasy football is enough to keep you busy and stressed out.  Everyone that participates gets to pretend they’re the general manager of an actual team and have fun doing it.

With nearly 60 million people participating in fantasy football, each league of eight or ten people is like a grain of sand in the Sahara desert.

Who knows how long the fantasy football craze will last, but for now it’s a creative way to face some competition, test your football knowledge and have fun while doing so. If you’re planning on joining in next season for the first time, or if you’re a 5-year veteran, good luck and have fun.

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