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The Mass Media

Fantasy football continues to sweep the nation, draws massive crowds for event at CBS Scene

Fantasy+players+look+on+as+CBS+personalities+and+select+luckily+chosen+fans+draft+for+a+league
Fantasy players look on as CBS personalities and select luckily chosen fans draft for a league

On August 23rd, hundreds of fans clad in jerseys from nearly every NFL team packed into the CBS Scene in Foxboro for a CBS Sports Fantasy Football event. The schedule included a special live draft with fans and CBS personalities and a Q&A panel with Dave Richard and Jamey Eisenberg, two of America’s foremost fantasy football gurus. The event showed just how far the once mysterious game for football uber-nerds has turned into one of the most mainstream methods of taking in America’s most popular sport.
It seems as though every year fantasy football takes a deeper foothold in the national sports-consciousness. NFL stadiums are installing free Wi-Fi and special “fantasy football lounges” with TVs showing action from around the league. The NFL RedZone channel, with its whip-around coverage, has skyrocketed in popularity. Across the country, football novices are forced to watch games that they would normally have zero interest in so they can stay afloat in their office leagues.
When panelists took the stage, an onslaught of questions rained down about everything from draft positions for tight ends and quarterbacks to how weather might affect fantasy scores. To someone who’s not sure about Andre Ellington’s ADP, Marshawn Lynch’s bust potential, or what a WR2 is, it can all seem pretty daunting, but Dave Richard, a CBS Sports Fantasy Football Writer who served on the panel at the event, had some great tips for novices.
“Know your league’s rules. Know how many players you have to start. Be familiar with whether or not there’s a point for every reception. Be familiar with any bonuses you may receive for scoring in the league rules and just be familiar with what you’re drafting.”
Expanding on draft strategy, Richard added, “When you’re going through your draft, don’t draft too many players with the same bye week. Don’t draft too many players on the same team. Having two or three players on the same team, assuming it’s a really good offense, you can go that way, but don’t draft all New England Patriots or all Denver Broncos. You want to have a lot of a variety, and a lot of fun.”
The panelists had some very interesting thoughts when it came to certain players. Richard advised attendees to stay clear of Steven Jackson at all costs, while fellow writer Jamey Eisenberg predicted that we’d see little improvement from Nick Foles in his second year as a starter. Richard also advised against drafting any Oakland Raiders. 
It’s obvious that fantasy football has grown exponentially in the last decade. Massive crowds filling sports bars at eleven in the morning to watch a draft would have been unfathomable in, say, 2002.
Richard had a pretty simple explanation for the boom.
“(Fantasy football) started to take off when the internet kind of exploded, and now I think that the NFL has exploded.” He added, “It’s to the point now where offense is so exciting, the games are very fun to watch and there are a-lot of eyeballs on them.”
Richard also spoke to the connection that fans feel to players that they draft as a reason for the game’s rise in popularity.
“There’s a feeling that a fantasy football owner gets when he drafts a player like Tom Brady and he feels like he’s his, so when Tom Brady does well for the Patriots he does well for my fantasy team. I think it’s that type of connection that draws people to fantasy and keeps them there.”
Perhaps the biggest draw to the game for the casual fan is the opportunity it presents to connect with family and friends through one of the best common denominators on earth: sports. Recent trends include long-distance relatives sharing joint teams and groups of friends playing in the same league year after year with ever-increasing sums of money on the line.
Richard said, “If you’re playing for money, that’s cool. If you’re playing with friends and family, you want to kick their butts at fantasy football too. I think that the camaraderie and the social aspect of it is a huge deal. As a culture we are heading towards being very social and sharing, and I think fantasy football is perfect for that.”
Any way you slice it, fantasy football is only going to continue growing, and it will continue to influence the product on the field, whether you’re a grizzled veteran or a mere rookie, you can’t argue that there is something deeply satisfying about beating someone you know because someone you’ve never met, in a place you’ve never been, scored a touchdown. It’s what makes the game great.