What are fantasy sports?
The term “fantasy sport” refers to any number of games in which players function as “owners” of a virtual team consisting of real-life players in specific sports. The aggregate statistics of these players are tallied and are converted into points by way of an arbitrary, but consistent scoring system. Fantasy sports seasons usually run for the duration of the season of the specific sport the game is based on. Popular fantasy sports include fantasy baseball, fantasy football, fantasy baseball, fantasy golf, and fantasy hockey, among others.
Fantasy sports have increased in popularity every year, with over 30 million players participating in 2010 alone. Fantasy sports are believed to be somewhere between a three and four billion dollar industry annually. While many fantasy sports competitors play in free leagues, many also pay to compete in leagues with cash prizes for top performers. Since most fantasy sports leagues are now offered and played online, this made for a thorny legal situation in regards to illegal internet gambling until 2006; the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 clarified the legal standing of fantasy sports and deemed them legal when the monetary prizes for winning are established in advance and are not tied to the number of players participating.
The History of Fantasy Sports
The idea of tracking the statistics of real-life athletes dates back to the post-World War II era; there’s evidence to suggest that the performances of both baseball and football players were used in many different ad-hoc competitions, though the scoring systems and rules varied wildly. Other games, such as the popular Strat-O-Matic, utilized boards, cards, and dice and were commercially sold simulation games based on previous years’ statistics. The watershed moment in fantasy sports, however, is generally attributed to Dan Okrent and the creation of Rotisserie League Baseball in 1979. Okrent was a writer and editor who would meet other journalists at the La Rôtisserie Française restaurant in New York City. One day over lunch, he pitched the idea for what would become the standard rules and scoring system in rotisserie baseball.
Fantasy sports continued to grow at a steady but slow rate through the 1980’s and 1990’s. It was the development of the internet, however, that further propelled the growth and popularity of the game and made it the billion dollar industry it is today. Prior to the internet, statistics had to be hand tallied and were difficult to come by; box scores from games all over the country had to be scoured to accumulate the necessary stats. Secondly, it was difficult enough tracking the progress of one’s own team, never mind monitoring other players’ teams. The internet provided a medium and interface that easily facilitated up-to-date statistics, monitoring of teams’ progress, and even in-season trades.
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Popular Fantasy Sports
Fantasy football has surpassed fantasy baseball as the most popular fantasy sport today. Fantasy baseball and basketball follow in overall popularity, followed by relatively “niche” sports: hockey, college football and basketball, NASCAR, and golf. Overseas, soccer has a very large fantasy base and other sports such as cricket and rugby are growing as well. Any sport that identifies and tallies discreet statistics has the potential to be played as a fantasy sport.
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Fantasy Tips and Strategies
Most fantasy sports seek to emulate the rhythm and feel of the sport it’s based on. As a result, most fantasy seasons will start with a draft, where all eligible players are placed in a draft pool from which the fantasy “owners” will staff their rosters. There are two major types of drafts: snake drafts and auction drafts. In a snake draft, the draft order is fixed for the duration of the draft. Each owner selects one available player per round. At the end of each round, the order of picks “snakes around” or is reversed; the 12th pick in one round becomes the 1st pick the next round. In an auction draft, each owner is allotted a certain amount of money (real or imagined) that he may use to “bid” on players during the draft. Each type of draft has its own specific rules and strategies for success, but there are some general ones that hold true for both:
· The need to draft a given number of players at specific positions in each respective sport: quarterback, wide receiver, pitcher, 1st baseman, guard, goalie, etc. Each owner must fill the same number of roster spots.
· The need to accurately assess the “value” of players. Every year certain players will perform above consensus expectations; these players are said to be “undervalued”. Other players will perform below consensus expectations; these players are said to be “overvalued”. In fantasy parlance, such players are referred to as “sleepers” and “busts” respectively. In addition, in a given year certain positions will be flush with talent while others will be relatively scarce. Much of fantasy success involves maximizing the value of each pick and one’s roster as a whole.
Once the draft occurs, in-season play consists of either head to head or rotisserie style competition. In head to head play, owners face off against each other for a certain period of time, usually a week. At the end of the period, the total stats for each owner’s roster are tallied, converted to points according to the scoring system of the league, and a winner is declared. Matchups change after every period ends and all owners will face one another at least once to twice during the season. In rotisserie competition, the stats for each roster are tallied all season long and winners are declared only at the season’s end. Though intricacies in game play differ, both styles of competition require certain common, basic strategies for success:
· Monitoring of the waiver wire, a list of undrafted players that are currently accumulating stats. Every year there are a limited number of undrafted players who will put up stats comparable to or better than drafted players. These undrafted players can be added to a roster mid-season to replace an underperforming or injured player.
· Solicitation of trades to other owners. In any given league there will be imbalances in the positional strength for rosters. An owner with an excess of pitching talent but lacking home runs may offer a trade to an owner with the opposite problem. Three or even four-way trades are also an option in acquiring talent in areas of need.
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