Fantasy football has come a long way from its roots as a pen-and-paper offshoot of rotisserie baseball. In the late 90s and early 2000s, fantasy football entered the internet age, and online fantasy football platforms and mobile apps led to an explosion in the game’s popularity. Today, the numbers are truly staggering. Experts say that 15.6 million American played fantasy sports in 2017, which means that more than one in every 20 American adults owned some kind of fantasy team that year (and football is the most popular of the fantasy sports). These days, fantasy football is an entire industry. There are podcasts, newsletters, and even specialized gambling sites built around the game.
This is mostly good, but there are some drawbacks. As the country has fallen in love with fantasy football, so have individuals. Some of us are so obsessed with fantasy football that we’re not really having any fun anymore. Meanwhile, others among us are joining established leagues and feeling uneasy about how serious the game is (and how lousy they might be at it).
It’s important to remember that fantasy football is supposed to be a fun thing. Here are a few tips for actually enjoying your fantasy football season.
Think prizes and pride, not money
If you’re playing fantasy football for money, it’s easy to get over-hyped and forget about the fun of the games themselves. As much as possible, you’ll want to get away from the fear of “losing” your desserts and actually enjoy the competition, win or lose. If you can, you may want to change your league from a money league to a respect one — or pool funds with the other owners to get something silly, like a championship belt or an over-the-top trophy, to replace the cash prize. That kind of change can really improve the culture of a fantasy football league and bring fun back to the forefront.
Immerse yourself in information
One of the joys of fantasy football is knowing enough to make the perfect call for your starting lineup — or at least convincing yourself that you do. So don’t assume that having fun with fantasy football means not trying. Having a blast with fantasy football means devouring all of those player rankings lists and fantasy football podcasts. If you’re making spreadsheets and overthinking your starting lineup, then you’re doing things right. The trick, of course, is to remember that this is all a pretty goofy thing, and that you are not actually a paid member of an NFL team’s analytics department. Remember that lots of this information may be contradictory or useless — it may not actually help you beat your coworker’s 5-year-old daughter this year. Just keep in mind that it’s all about the joy of diving into the details.
Actually watch the games
Fantasy football is popular in part because it gives you a reason to watch games that might not otherwise interest you. Even if your favorite team isn’t playing and no direct rivals are involved in the showdown, you might tune into a football game just to see if “your” running back is doing well.
But don’t bury your nose in your phone, and don’t obsess too much — or too angrily — over your running back. Watch the game and enjoy the fact that you have a rooting interest. This is about football, so enjoy the sport!
Be friendly with your fellow owners
Whether you’re in a league with pals or have met up with some future buddies on the internet, you should be friendly with the other team owners in your league. Nobody has to play fantasy football. Everyone is in this for the fun and the social experience. So treat others as you would like to be treated. Enjoy some lighthearted trash talk, but don’t pick fights. And if you can get together with some fellow owners to watch the games, then even better! In our online age, it’s sometimes all too easy to forget about the importance of in-person bonding experiences. So get together for games, consider a live draft, and stay in touch with your fellow owners. You might just find that the real fantasy football championship is the friends you made along the way.
Fantasy football can get competitive, but it’s important to remember that it is meant to be more fun than fierce. Keep these tips in mind to bring the joy back to your league.