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Fantasy is a fun novelty, reality is the big picture

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There’s a recurring theme on Sundays in my household. As my brother and I watch football, he routinely grunts and groans. His favorite line is, “And that guy’s on my bench this week.”

Fantasy football is a common aspect in many fans’ enjoyment of the sport. In fact, fantasy football is seemingly more popular than football itself. According to Nielsen ratings, the NFL’s most-viewed game this season was the week one New York Giants against the Dallas Cowboys with more than 24 million viewers. In contrast, according to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, fantasy football has upwards of 33 million players this year.

This seems odd, doesn’t it? More people play fantasy football than people who actually tune in to watch the sport.

Granted, the ratings don’t account for those who get their game information elsewhere (like social media or sports apps) or those who physically attend the games, but this doesn’t really account for the almost 10-million-person gap between viewers and fantasy players, especially when you realize that the gap continually widens throughout the season.

So what’s the deal? Fantasy football is a game, but the source material is almost being neglected. I hear more people talk about how their fantasy league is doing more than their favorite team, and the fantasy drafts are more important to them than the actual NFL Draft. Why can’t people be satisfied just watching the game?

Fantasy football is a game, but it allows people an opportunity that they would never have; the opportunity to run their own team. Want to participate in your own draft? Fantasy has you covered. Ever wanted a team with Aaron Rodgers and AJ Green both? Fantasy is there for you again. Fantasy football provides people with the chance to make their dream team as close to a reality as they can.

That being said though, the focus on fantasy football is leaving football in the dust.

Fantasy football also has monetary benefits. According to the FSTA, fantasy football is now more than a $70 billion industry. According to DraftKings, a fantasy sports contest provider, the organization will pay out up to $10 million per week.

Clearly, there is a purpose behind fantasy football. That being said though, the focus on fantasy is leaving real football in the dust.

Obviously, the sport is not going to die out; fantasy football needs something to be based on of course. However, when millions more are playing fantasy than there are people watching the actual games, there’s a bit of a problem.

As much as fantasy players look at players, stats and lineups, there is a common issue that continually crops up: they neglect the players.

These athletes are real people, not just stats on a spreadsheet. This is their career, not just a fantasy game. When they get injured, it’s not just someone from your fantasy roster who is now unusable; that’s an actual person who just suffered a major injury that puts them out of work.

It’s totally fine to play fantasy. It’s fun, and it provides you the opportunity to be part of the game you love, making your own team and deciding your own lineups. The main issue though is when we forget to show some appreciation for the people who fill our rosters.

Let’s have fun with our fantasy leagues and make fun of the guy who left auto-pick on during the draft, but sit down and watch a game from time to time. Trust me, you’ll still enjoy yourself, even when your fantasy league stinks.

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Fantasy is a fun novelty, reality is the big picture