The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Is it fantasy or is it football?

Fantasy football is the latest trend for sports fans

Harrison Kaufman, a senior at SMU, spends his Sundays in fantasy land. Kaufman, 22, is just one of millions participating in the virtual world of fantasy sports. Fans, known as “managers” or “owners,” join online leagues through ESPN or Yahoo! and draft professional players in football, baseball, basketball and other sports. Points are earned based on how well the individual athletes perform in reality each week.

During the fall, Kaufman’s Sundays consist of watching NFL games from his couch. The goal in fantasy football is to rack up more points during that week than your in-league opponent. Kaufman, who plays through ESPN.com, monitors his players on the Web site’s Fantasycast, where managers can watch players’ progress updated live.

“The first thing I do every morning is go to ESPN’s fantasy site and read,” Kaufman said.

According to USA Today, Kaufman is one of 27.7 million fantasy sport players within the United States addicted to the online game. Fantasy Sports Trade Association Research Specialist Kim Beason found that the average fantasy sports consumer spends 41 to 43 minutes per day researching player statistics and managing their teams.

For managers that are a part of “pay leagues,” which can cost anywhere from a few dollars to thousands, more is at stake. Usually, the participant with the best season record wins the jackpot.

Some managers dedicate serious time and thought into setting their weekly line-ups. Athletes who aren’t started sit on the “bench” and, depending on individual performance, mangers can drop, trade and add athletes throughout the season. Needless to say, it can get competitive.

SMU journalism professor Jacob Batsell once paid $80 to one league. He became so invested that he once woke up at the crack of dawn to pick up a highly sought-after running back. Pressing the snooze button caused him to miss the 4 a.m. add time by two minutes. Batsell claimed that mistake cost him the season.

“After that, my wife said, ‘I think you are a little too into this,'” Batsell said. “She helped me calm down.”

Once money is out of the picture, participants have a healthier perspective, Batsell said, who now only plays in one free NFL league with his family members from around the country.

So what is the main attraction for the fans that play for free?

Sophomore Barry Leithead said he uses fantasy football as an excuse to get together with friends. Leithead first joined a league with a group of guys from his high school. For the past three years, they have gotten together with their computers to do a live, in-person draft.

“Sports knowledge is something guys take pride in,” Leithead said. “Playing fantasy makes you learn stuff about sports that you wouldn’t have paid attention to before.”

The reason fans get addicted is also the reason they quit.

According to “Fantasy football speeds up,” an article published in August 2009 in The News & Observer, 29 percent of fantasy players say the virtual game interferes with their work. The main reason people quit is because it takes up too much time.

Batsell, who used to spend up to an hour a day in graduate school managing his teams throughout the NFL, MLB and NBA seasons, now only spends one to two hours a week during the NFL season.

The latest trends in technology are giving managers no excuse not to be on top of their game.

Before the Internet, an appointed league secretary used a pencil and paper to tally statistics and points each week, according to Fantasy Sports Trade Association’s online history. Thanks to smart phones, fans can have unlimited access to the sports world whereever they are.

“It’s really time consuming,” Kaufman said. “You have to stay up-to-date on injuries and transactions, or else you won’t do well.”

Information is available around the clock. Between television, the Internet, e-mail updates and now text message alerts, players fight the pressures from competitive opponents to keep up with the latest in sports.

“Depending on where I am, I use the ESPN sports tab on my phone for quick access while I’m in class or out with friends,” Kaufman said.

Kaufman, who is studying to take the LSAT in late September, has to limit the time he spends on ESPN.com. Fantasy e-mails and text message alerts to his Blackberry are the last things he needs distracting him from a profession in sports law.

Even Batsell said he has to discipline himself when it comes to receiving up-to-date fantasy information on his Blackberry. Although he catches up on the latest during his time off, he refrains from getting too connected like he once was.

Regardless of whether participants are in college or support a family, fantasy sports give fans the opportunity to be more than a spectator and to deepen their knowledge of the game. Whether the goal is to win an end-of-the-season jackpot, or just to enjoy the friendly rivalries, fantasy players generally agree it stems from the love of the game.

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