Why Is Fantasy Football So Popular?

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The fantasy football industry has become massive. Of the nearly 57 million players of fantasy sports, more than 40 million play fantasy football. Of fantasy players, 81% are male, and 19% are female. Around half are between the ages of 18 and 34, and the average age is nearly 38. 

Around 19% of Americans 18 and older participate in fantasy sports. 

That’s up from just 13% in 2014. 

So what is it about the world of fantasy football that’s so enthralling? From September to January, players go over fantasy football articles, listen to podcasts, and live and breathe the game. 

Why the addiction, and what’s the appeal? 

It’s something we talk more about below. 

How Does Fantasy Football Work?

When someone participates in fantasy football, they choose their own team of players. Each week they set up a lineup. Then, they watch the games each week in the NFL, as the players on their roster are running, passing, catching, and scoring. These can all be worth fantasy points. Each week, you match up with someone else in your league, so whoever has the most fantasy points wins the week. There are variations in formats within leagues. 

You do it throughout the weeks of the NFL regular season. Then, the last few weeks of that regular season are when it’s time for fantasy playoffs. During fantasy playoffs, you can win and advance, or you lose, which ends your season. 

A fantasy football draft is a big event for players. Many fans of fantasy football will call it the best day of the year. They often prepare for months for draft day, although you can also find resources where a lot of the work is done for you. 

Preseason research can be a way to figure out what’s new in a season and decide on who you want to draft. 

You’ll need to find a league if you want to play. A lot of people are in leagues with friends, coworkers, or family members. You can also find public leagues online. 

A league can be made up of as few as four teams, but some have 16 or more. The more typical number is either 10 or 12. 

All of the rosters are made up of real players from different teams in the NFL, and each player can belong only to a single fantasy team. 

A draft position can be drawn randomly or determined by the year’s finish previously. Drafts then go in a snake fashion for most leagues, meaning whoever picks last in one round then gets to pick first in the next. 

In some leagues, an auction draft is used, so the teams have a budget of “money,” and then players are put up for bid. Each team gets to decide how much of their budget they’ll play for top players and so on. 

So, what is it that people love about all of this?

It Gives Football Fans Something Else to Root For

Many of the people, although not all, who play fantasy football are diehard fans of the sport. They like that every game becomes more engrossing and entertaining when they feel like they have something on the line. 

Fantasy football players often say they feel like their players are their own, and regardless of team, these are the players they’re attached to and root for each week. 

Even if a game wouldn’t otherwise be that interesting or entertaining some weeks, when you add the element of fantasy into it, it can become extremely attention-grabbing. 

There’s simply more excitement that can come with being involved in fantasy football. 


People tend to innately love the opportunity to be competitive and feel like they’re winning or even experience the downs of losing. We don’t always have the opportunities to experience exciting but friendly competition in our everyday lives, so that makes fantasy football addictive for a lot of people. 

It’s healthy and part of our emotional range to experience feelings of competition. 

Fantasy football is a non-violent and nonaggressive way to challenge natural competitive feelings. It can also be a healthy channel for potentially negative emotions that you might experience, like frustration. 

It’s About Strategy and Critical Thinking

Fantasy football can be surprisingly complex. The general concept isn’t but drafting the right team and making decisions throughout the season requires that you use statistics, analyzing skills, problem-solving and critical thinking. You may be making decisions about your roster on a daily basis. 

You have to stay sharp and strategic every time you make a decision. 

Fantasy football is decidedly not the same as sports gambling. In gambling, it’s all about chance, and fantasy football is quite the opposite. You need to be knowledgeable and skillful to perform well in fantasy almost all the time. 

Our brains need to be challenged to thrive, and if that’s stemming from fantasy football, that’s not a bad thing. 

Socializing and Camaraderie 

As adults, we don’t often get the chance to socialize like we did when we were younger. Friendships can fall by the wayside as adult responsibilities take over our daily lives, but for a lot of people, and primarily men across the country and the world, fantasy sports are a way to get together and strengthen bonds with friends, coworkers, and other people. 

The draft party is one chance to socialize, but there are others as well. 

You might get together with your league to watch the games, for example. You all share something in common with a love of fantasy football, and these friendships can end up going well beyond the game. 

Men and women without social support or friendships are significantly more likely to suffer from mental health disorders, including anxiety and depression, so with that being said, it stands to reason that fantasy football might actually be good for your mental health. 

Of course, as with anything, you want to make sure you keep healthy boundaries with your love of fantasy football.

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The collective team of Parlé Magazine. Twitter: @parlemag

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