Fantasy football costs the U.S. $6.5 billion but I’m not giving a penny back

It’s 8:30 on a Wednesday evening in mid-August and I’m sitting in a backyard in Sherman Oaks, California. I’m with six other guys neck deep into their 30’s, three of whom are arguing with people over their phones and one of whom is trying to keep tabs on his nine-year-old son. There is enough Pizza Hut to feed a small army. The sun’s been down for an hour and it’s still so hot out here in “The Valley” that we’re peeling layers of clothing off. No wonder the center of the porn industry is just minutes away. Why am I here? For my fantasy football draft.

This is a tech site, and I’m sure the very mention of fantasy football elicits an eye roll from many of you – I know I can actually see my wife’s attraction to me physically leave her body any time I bring it up. And I get the criticism; it’s just Dungeons and Dragons for jocks. But this is a tech site! We love Dungeons and Dragons – am I right?!


It’s just Dungeons and Dragons for jocks. But this is a tech site! We love Dungeons and Dragons!

Look, fantasy football is a digital trend. Last year, a firm actually went through the trouble of calculating how much money the U.S. economy loses every year to otherwise productive workers managing their fantasy teams when they should be putting covers on their TPS reports. The number? $6.5 billion, with a “b.” How could the number be so big? First of all, because there are a ton of us – at least 32 million – and second of all because we’re all online. All day long. See? Digital trend.

I’m sure most people who are addicted to fantasy football have a story similar to mine. I grew wanting to play professionally, but being the smallest kid in Pee Wee football year after year made me realize it wasn’t in the cards. Teams don’t seem to be looking for Jewish cornerbacks that can run a 40 a hair under 6 seconds. Also, this looks like it hurts.

But being blessed with the not-so-rare combination of no size, no speed, and/or no athletic ability whatsoever doesn’t preclude a guy from being a General Manager, right? Of course not; the complete lack of wealth precludes that. So that leaves me – and 32 million of my closest friends – with fantasy football.

Fantasy football league

That brings us back to the draft. There are no shortage of places online to play fantasy football, but our league has always used Yahoo Sports. They’ve added new features this year, including a mobile app, a “sleeker” design, keeper league improvements, and even draft grades. Of course, the whole draft can be done virtually, but we always choose to do it together as a group.

Part of the appeal of fantasy football is that it keeps me connected to friends I’ve had for years but don’t get to see very often because we all have careers or children or are making careers for our children (hey, this is Los Angeles). The draft gives us a reason to all get together, talk a bunch of trash on each other, and eat pizza. Like, mountains of pizza. Did I mention there was pizza? Because there was a lot of pizza.

And once the draft’s over with, you have the whole season as an excuse to connect and just keep the lines of communication with old friends open. And by communication, I mean this.

There’s also the investment factor – fantasy football makes NFL games you wouldn’t normally care about much more interesting. I’m a Giants fan, and I’m totally into any Giants game all year long. But Bengals versus the Buccaneers? Not so much … unless I have Bengals receiver AJ Green on my fantasy team! Now that game is enjoyable. It’s a great incentive to watch and much safer than putting $500 on the game when I only have two bills in my checking account (although that’s a very special kind of excitement, too).

Why do I need to watch the Bengals versus Buccaneers at all? Hmm … I never really thought about that before. Uh … moving on…

It’s now the sixth round of the draft and, with 10 more to go, our enthusiasm is fading. Gone are most of the players we actually wanted and now it’s slim pickins. We’re picking up a team’s third-best receiver, a tight end; I think someone just drafted Director of Player Personnel. The nine year-old speaks up.:“This is boring.” Out of the mouths of babes …

Fantasy Football Board

Ten rounds, four slices of meat lovers and a shocking amount of bread sticks later, our draft is done. We each look at the draft board and tell ourselves we like our team. This is how it happens every year. We’re each geniuses. We’ve each got all the good players on our team. We each have a stomachache.

The next day Yahoo Sports provides us our draft grades. My draft gets a D. Then it gets worse. My two starting receivers miss preseason games with injuries and my defense keeps getting shred like a stack of paper. I make a switch, pick up a new defense. And I begin looking at other rosters to negotiate a trade. I’m forced to face the harsh reality that my team might suck. Then I realize my team does suck. I know it sucks. Another season down the drain before it even started. Why do I do this?! fantasy football is so stupid!!

Well, at least there was pizza.

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