Fantasy Sports Are Killing America

Summer is drawing to a close, which means we’re finally starting to get some actual sports to talk about, after a long, dull stretch of nothing but baseball. So I’ve started listening to “Mike and Mike” again in the mornings in my office. Which may have been a mistake because I’ve just had to listen to Mel freakin’ Kiper talking about the draft prospects of college players who have yet to play a game this year, and they’ve rather omninously promised a fantasy NFL update coming up later.

These are both pretty dire portents of the immediate future, and I think they’re connected. The unhealthy obsession with fantasy sports has led to an obsession with “drafting” players, which has elevated the eventual NFL draft to the point where it appears to be more important than the actual season. Now, granted, the NFL draft is at least as valid an athletic event as the BCS “Championship,” but really, this is ridiculous.

This is just one of the ways in which fantasy sports are killing America:

— The whole structure of fantasy sports, in which people “draft” players from a wide variety of teams, leads to a corrosion of true fandom. Fantasists who claim to be sports fans root for individual players rather than whole teams, so the actual competition becomes subordinate to some abstract meta-game.

— This also increases the number of irritating douchebags who yap a lot about sports without having any real rooting interest. This is incredibly annoying to real sports fans like myself, who consistently root for the same teams in good years and bad. Fantasists never need to suffer through a rebuilding year, because they can always “draft” a bunch of different players from a better team.

— This feeds the annoying habit of using first-person pronouns to refer to teams. Actually, the use of “we” or “my” to refer to a fantasy “team” is the only thing more irritating than using “we” to refer to a real team that you happen to root for. If you’re not being paid by the organization in question (or getting a scholarship from them), you don’t get to use the first person.

Fantasy sports are a blight on the cultural landscape, and they get worse and more prominent every year. I’m beginning to dread the upcoming NFL season, because it’s getting harder to separate the real sports commentary from the fantasy yappage.

I can take some small consolation from the fact that fantasy basketball is nowhere near as big as fantasy football, so my game of choice remains relatively clean. Still, it’s only a matter of time before the fantasy scourge creeps in there, too.


  1. #1 NJ
    September 4, 2009

    So, who are you going to pick in the Calvinball draft, Ed?

  2. #2 JohnV
    September 4, 2009

    You left out the part where you yell at them to get off your lawn.

  3. #3 cg
    September 4, 2009

    I understand your frustration, but fantasy sports can be a very good way to become a bigger fan of the sport being fantasied. If people get really into it, they realize that fantasy sports are really about probability. The better you understand the mathematical concepts behind what happens on the field (such as the best way to predict rushing touchdowns this year is to look at yards last year), the better your team will do on average. Fantasy baseball is particularly great for this.

    This kind of training could actually increase scientific literacy or at least statistical literacy across the board, which would be a net positive in my book.

    Also, before fantasy sports fans knew all-stars and also the players of the team they followed. Now, it is much more likely that even fairly casual fans know who more players are and at least a little bit about them. That seems like a good foundation for people to become a lot more knowledgeable about the sport, instead of the type of fan who calls up sports talk radio to mindlessly bash their team after a loss.

    Sports radio has its own frustrations, of course.

  4. #4 Kenneth Cavness
    September 4, 2009

    As I was walking in downtown Chicago a year ago, I came upon a custom bumper sticker that someone had slapped on a Stop sign. It read: “Hip-hop culture is dead; did you contribute?” To which I could only reply in my own head, “No, but I sure as hell wish I had.”

    All of which is to say: “I sure hope you’re right, and fantasy sports are killing America.” Or at least sports fandom in America.

  5. #5 Clark
    September 4, 2009

    I’ll agree that you can’t use first-person pronouns for professional teams unless they pay you, or you own them. But I think it is allowable for college sports. That’s one of the appeals of college sports. I am a fan because I went to the university, I paid tuition, I lived there, I slept there, I worked there, and the athletic teams are part of the university of which I was a part. Furthermore, between tuition, and the spare change I occasionally give the university when they call me on the phone, I am paying for a tiny, tiny percentage of the scholarships.

  6. #6 ponderingfool
    September 4, 2009

    Can’t many of the arguments you made be leveled against March Madness Pools for college basketball?

  7. #7 Comrade PhysioProf
    September 4, 2009

    Dude, you’re just in a bad mood because you were stupid enough to listen to Mike and Mike. They are a fucktillion times worse blight on the American sports scene than fantasy sports.

  8. #8 The Ridger
    September 4, 2009

    Well, if you hate baseball, there’s always Canadian football and the WNBA…

  9. #9 VoiceOfUnreason
    September 4, 2009

    …Still, it’s only a matter of time before the fantasy scourge creeps in there, too….

    “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Sports is all about?”

    Sure Charlie Brown, I can tell you whast sports is all about. Lights please?

    And there were in the same country shepherds, abiding in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night, and Lo! the Angel of the Lord came upon them, the Glory of the Lord shown round about them. And they were sore afraid. And the Angel said unto them ‘Fear not, for I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Bracket: the Final Four.’

  10. #10 Dennis
    September 5, 2009

    I look forward to reaching the point of my academic career where the people I work with care about actual sports; I grow tired of being surrounded by postdocs who care only for soccer and cricket.

  11. #11 CCPhysicist
    September 6, 2009

    Has anyone every put together a fantasy team based on what M.f. Kiper predicted were the best players at each position going into the draft each year?

    For that matter, does anyone reevaluate the ranking of college recruiting classes in September when you find which among them actually made it into college?

    But the comments did give me a great line to use in the future when someone starts off talking about their fantasy team: “I’m impressed, but my fantasy cricket team is undefeated.”

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