It's the reason the NFL is as popular as ever in the US: fantasy football. You choose from a collection of players spread throughout the league; you tally their real results, and play a friend, co-worker, foe, or a stranger millions of miles away head-to-head. The best part is you can assemble a team of players from many different NFL teams. This means that a game on Sunday at 4:35, which does not include your home team, can be just as thrilling and meaningful as any other.
The anticipation of a fantasy football draft can be more exciting than Christmas morning. In fact, draft day may be the equivalent of Christmas morning for an adult. It brings an excitement I can only remember when waiting to open gifts from Santa Claus. Please, Santa, let Calvin Johnson be available with the 8th pick in the first round this year.
What is so exciting about fantasy football? Each year, you can start anew (unless you are in a dynasty league, which I won't go into detail here). The terrible draft you had last year, or the tough luck of injuries in seasons past don't matter. You can redeem yourself and choose that wide receiver you passed over and march your friend to a championship the prior year. We all start back at zero.
There are certain aspects of football that cater to almost 33 million fantasy football players each year. NFL teams only play 16 regular season games a year, as opposed to 82 for NBA and 162 for MLB teams. You can check your team once or twice a week to make roster adjustments for that week. Fantasy basketball and fantasy baseball are very time consuming, based on the number of games played in the regular season. The shorter NFL season highlights how every game means something. With only 16 games on the schedule each year, every single game can be the difference between getting into the playoffs or not. There's much more at stake. Lebron James may sit out of game 65 because he lost an eyelash. That'll never happen in the NFL.
There's also a lot at stake for your fantasy football team each week. An untimely injury to your best player or a bad performance against a stout defense can doom you to a week of ridicule from your fellow competitors.
There are rewards for winning...and punishments for losing. I heard of a league that chooses a tattoo that the last place owner must get just for finishing in last place. Nothing is stopping those 12 people from competing in fantasy football. The glory of victory and the camaraderie that comes with it are just too much to pass up. Oh, and the money you earn for a league championship isn't bad, either.
Fantasy football has turned many NFL players into stars. Who knew of Keenan Allen before last year? It's true that many college football fans knew of him, but now every fantasy football player has him on their radar for the draft this year. And Jimmy from accounting, who use to be a casual Green Bay Packers fan, now knows the back-up running back from the New York Giants is a kid out of Boston College names Andre Williams. Man, I hope he drafts Andre Williams in the first round and leaves all the starters for me!