If you’re a sports fan, and especially if you play in a fantasy league, you and your friends have definitely talked about the other infamous “slap heard around the world” this year.  

We’ve since learned that Tommy Pham’s slap of Joc Pederson wasn’t just about fantasy football. Pederson had also posted gifs making fun of the San Diego Padres in their group chat that caused Pham to quit the previous year’s fantasy league before the season ended. Pham was playing for the Padres at the time. That said, Pham’s anger was due in large part to what he believes was Pederson “messing with my money.”

When the headlines first broke, however, those who have little-to-no idea of what fantasy sports are all about were wondering how anyone could get that worked up over something so trivial. It also caused many to wonder (again) what the appeal is and how it causes grown men to take so much time out of their lives to constantly read injury reports and player stats, wake up early in the morning to add players to their teams and essentially take on part-time jobs as virtual GMs.

So What’s the Deal With Fantasy Sports?

The answer is that what happened between Pham and Peterson is – not quite an outlier because it’s likely people have gotten into scuffles over fantasy sports before – but it is definitely the exception and the opposite of the norm. 

Aside from giving sports lovers another option for betting on football and their other favourite sports, fantasy leagues bring people together and give them more opportunities for social interaction – something that’s been sorely missed over the last couple of years.

From draft nights to watch parties to meeting friends of friends when you join other leagues, the social aspect of fantasy sports is a fundamental reason for their popularity, but they also strike other chords that resonate within the hearts of sports fans:

 Competition, the Thrill of Victory and Bragging Rights

People play fantasy sports for the same reasons people play chess or monopoly. Playing in a league requires strategy, skill and dedication and gives you the opportunity to compete against your friends to see who can make the shrewdest decisions when drafting your team, changing up your roster throughout the season and negotiating trades. 

Also, because sports outcomes can be so unpredictable, playing in a league provides edge-of-your-seat excitement and adds another dimension of interest when watching games, making them more engaging than they would otherwise be.

Competing also brings with it the spoils of victory. While many leagues do have a pot up for grabs for the winner, even leagues that don’t play for money play for bragging rights and the proof that you know more about sports than your friends and your team’s GM.

However, one of the biggest reasons people get wrapped up in fantasy sports is also one of the biggest reasons they have for following sports in the first place and is right there in the name: fantasy. It provides an escape and gives them the opportunity to get their minds off the stresses of life.