BY RYAN KEMP
Fantasy football has helped the NFL become the biggest sport in North America. It has not only taken over as the number one way to gamble among the younger generation, but also brought people that usually did not watch football into the sport.
“It makes games worth watching and I think that is what the NFL was hoping for,” said Samantha Anatra, who has been playing fantasy football for the last five years. “I really like it as a girl because you can show and prove to guys that they are not the only ones who know something about football.”
In just the last 10 years, fantasy football has come further than anyone could have imagined. There is now a show on cable television where the premise is about friends in a fantasy football league. Called “The League,” it has lasted a very respectable seven seasons.
The show reflects just how much fan interest has grown in the past decade. About 12.5 million people played fantasy sports in 2005, according to Fantasy Sports Trade Association. That number in 2015 is at almost 57 million. Of those, 73 percent say that fantasy football is their favorite to play.
Participants say they’re attracted to the idea of owning their own team. While they cannot control who their favorite NFL team signs or let’s go of, in the fantasy world they have full control. It also makes games that they would not watch more interesting because one or more of the players may be on their team.
Fantasy football continued to grow in part because of its appeal to a younger generation. More teens play than adults, according to the association.
John Epstein, 24, started playing this year. He says fantasy football is not just a form of gambling for his generation. It feeds a competitive hunger and brings people together.
“I like it because it gives me and my friends more to talk about,” he says. “I have also made some friends that I work with, that if I didn’t play fantasy football, they would probably be just another face I see at work.”