Fantasy sports is serious business

As someone who self-admittedly is obsessed with sports, there’s one thing I haven’t been able to get into despite numerous attempts.
And that is the world of fantasy sports.
Every year, whether it be hockey, baseball, or even soccer, I get invited to a league and draft my team like everyone else. But I tend to forget about it soon afterwards.
In fact, I was in a fantasy baseball league this year that I completely forgot about after the second week of the season—only to find out from my younger brother two weeks ago that I actually won the entire thing.
At that point, I elected to pull a John Elway and promptly announced my retirement from fantasy sports.
Although my interest isn’t that great, it’s hard not to see the amount of attention that is given to fantasy sports, especially when it comes to pro football.
The NFL already is the 900-pound gorilla when it comes to fans in North America, and fantasy football easily has become the biggest way fans can match wits against one another on a regular basis.
“I think it’s because there is so few games in a season,” explained Bryce Coyle, who teaches at Fort High and runs a 12-team league here. “When it comes to baseball and hockey, it’s such a long season that it’s hard to follow sometimes.
“But with the NFL, it’s more or less just one day a week, so you look forward to it all week long and you have a chance to fix your roster and trash talk your buddies,” he added.
While Coyle has been playing fantasy football since he attended Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, fellow co-workers Shane Beckett and Shane Bliss only got into the fray a few years ago—and got hooked immediately.
“Bryce’s league has the same number of guys every year, so I was able to get a slot five years ago, and then I grabbed Bliss and brought him along,” Beckett recalled.
“And from that point on, we were pretty much hooked into it,” Bliss noted.
At first, the local league was your standard one where players were drafted. But it has since become an auction league, where players are bid on during the course of draft day for a 17-player team, without going over a “salary cap” of $200.
“I had heard about the format while reading online, and there are actually leagues in Las Vegas where people put in $10,000 just to participate,” Coyle said.
“Obviously, we don’t do anything like that here, but I thought that the idea was interesting and it would be kind of cool to try out,” he added.
“We were all nervous heading in when we first looked at and we wondered why we were doing it this way,” Beckett admitted.
“But the more that I read on it, I discovered a lot of people were saying that once you do an auction league that you never go back to a regular draft league, and that’s what happened.”
While the usual suspects, such as Arian Foster or Aaron Rodgers, tend to go for about $55-$60 on draft day, there have been a few occasions during the drafts that someone makes a pick that leaves everyone shaking their heads.
“I remember that in our very first auction draft, the first name that someone suggested was [then Buffalo Bills’ quarterback] Trent Edwards,” Coyle recalled.
“Everyone was expecting a big name to be the first person suggested, so we are all going ‘What?’ when Edwards’ name up right away.
“And then the person who suggested him bid $14 to have him on their team, which was pretty crazy when you think about it now,” he added.
Although the auction format might seem a bit out there, it’s being used by a number of different leagues, with cash or bragging rights up for grabs at season’s end.
However, the majority of information online is for regular fantasy football leagues, which led Beckett to come up with a Fantasy Football Auctioneer podcast during the summer.
“I actually told the guys jokingly last year that we should do something like this, but I had actually been listening to other podcasts to get a few tips for my own team,” he explained.
“I had noticed, though, that those podcasts were just mentioning the auction leagues in passing, so I felt that we could just do it for fun and maybe grow into that niche,” Beckett added.
While Coyle, Beckett, and Bliss originally intended the podcast to be a fun activity, the feedback they’ve received so far has been quite surprising.
“I think at one point we had one of the top-five amateur podcasts in the sports and recreation category on iTunes,” Coyle noted.
“Around the draft weekend for most leagues, we were getting anywhere from 200-450 downloads a day, and we couldn’t believe it as it’s just three guys messing around,” Beckett added.
“But the moment it became real for me was when I started getting questions from guys I haven’t met before on Twitter, and they were asking me questions about who they should draft while they were doing their drafts,” he stressed.
While to the outside observer, the concept of fantasy sports may seem a bit crazy, the amount of fun it brings is the main thing that keeps everyone coming back for more.
“You don’t have to spend every waking hour researching it, but I think that this takes your enjoyment of the game to a whole other level,” Bliss reasoned.