*Fantasy sports is both the greatest and the worst development in sports in the last 20 years.
On the one hand fantasy sports allows folks who follow a sport closely to compare players and argue greatness on a different level than the casual fan.
Statistics work well as tools in the fantasy sports universe which has led to the creation and adoption of new statistical categories that enhance the understanding of sports.
Everything I just wrote applies to more sophisticated fans. Unfortunately most people are casual fans of most sports. Most sports fans follow several teams but live and die with only one; sports are a year round phenomenon and most people do not have the desire or time to be 100% into a football team, basketball team, hockey team, and baseball team. (Notice I am only specifying the four major professional sports because they have fantasy sports attached to them, but the issue of time and devotion becomes even more exacerbated when college sports enter the discussion even if there aren’t fantasy leagues for “amateur” athletics.)
Back to the point. Casual fans are not on the same level of understanding that the devoted are. I recently learned of a fantasy baseball league in which the franchise owners are expected to follow minor league teams and know amateur draft prospects. I consider myself a casual baseball fan but know I would be in over my head in this league; I suspect most people would – unless you’re a devoted baseball fan.
My pet peeve regarding fantasy is that it allows casual fans to converse with devoted fans and those two groups are rarely talking the same language or having the same conversation. Casual baseball fans like myself have very little business attempting to argue the merits of Justin Verlander versus Clayton Kershaw using BABIP when I just got used to referring to WHIP. And if you don’t know what those acronyms stand for – that’s the point. Yet casual fans frequently use fantasy sports as their badge of authenticity even if they don’t know what they are talking about.
Beyond my personal annoyance things have become dangerous. Fantasy sports have developed into an industry. You can now risk real money based on your ability to pick winners in fantasy. This is a trap. People who previously would have just made a fool of themselves in an argument are not in jeopardy of losing their ability to pay their bills.
To be clear I am not blaming fantasy sports as being the problem, and I am ultimately in favor of allowing wagers on sports. But I am saying that some people are way ahead of the rest of us in understanding what makes some players valuable in a fantasy context and until that is understood lots of people will be throwing money away to folks with a superior skill set. In this way fantasy sports are being used as another avenue to part people from their money.
I wouldn’t play poker or bet sports with people who live in Las Vegas. They’re pros, I’m not. Right now fantasy sports is in a blind spot.
Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War. His writing has appeared in The Journal News. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @historictrev.