Staff and Contributing Reporters
When it comes to fantasy football, Aaron Tang ’05 has his priorities in order.
“My love for fantasy football is second to my love for the Cleveland Browns and only slightly higher than my love for my family,” Tang said. “I judge my level of friendship with people based on the number of fantasy leagues I’m in with them.”
Fantasy football is the traditional sport with a twist where fans become “managers” with a vested interest in each game. And for Tang and the other men in Calhoun Suite 476, fantasy football is a lifestyle choice. Dave Friedlander ’05, Charlie Ambler ’05, Tang and Matt Reagan ’05 are part of the 15 percent of Americans who are over 18 years of age and play a fantasy sport.
In addition to its basic entertainment value, fantasy football affords its participants a chance to feel like they are a part of the professional sports world.
“[Fantasy sports] allows those of us without athletic ability to participate in sports,” said Steven Siger ’05, who is a member of Tang’s league.
The typical fantasy football league is an online affair that has two of four structural characteristics. Leagues are either public or private and the actual competitive structure is either rotisserie or head-to-head.
The four suitemates are in a private head-to-head Yahoo league with eight other friends. One friend’s team squares off against another’s to see who can compile the best stats across a number of different categories. Each category counts as one game, and the team with the best record wins the head-to-head contest.
Public leagues are usually comprised of strangers. In a rotisserie league, fantasy teams are ranked from first to last in each of several statistical categories. Points are then awarded according to each team’s performance in each category. These points are then added together and result in an overall score and place for each team.
Since a manager can have a roster comprised of players from several different NFL franchises, there is great interest in games that previously had no significance.
“I’m definitely more interested in catching all the highlights on SportsCenter,” Reagan said.
On any given Sunday, a group of them piles around the television set in the common room, where they flip between the games on different networks as they curse over bad plays, lament undesirable trades, or rejoice in a particular player’s hot streak.
“Our conversation is generally weighted toward fantasy football,” Reagan said.
But Friedlander, a Green Bay Packers fan, maintains that hometown loyalties are stronger than fantasy football.
“I sold my soul to get Brett Favre on my team,” he said. “I even bench players who play against Green Bay.”
Tang is a veteran to the fantasy scene. He has been playing for seven years and is currently in three different football leagues.
“I remember my first league in 1995. There were seven of us in it, and my first pick was John Elway,” he said. “We did stats by hand from Monday morning newspapers during study hall.”
In one, where he has been the top winner since 1995, the other managers were prompted out of desperation this year to call their league “Anyone But Tang.”
Tang is a fantasy maniac, spending at least 30 minutes a day reading player reports in the Sporting News.
While Tang’s competitive juices help propel him towards the top of his leagues, some newcomers to fantasy football, like Ethan Hutt ’05, have not been as successful. Hutt, who is in the same league as the men in Suite 476, had been winless for eight weeks before breaking the streak last week.
“I started out calling my team ‘Vandals’ but changed it to ‘Worse than Vinny T,’ ‘Critical Condition,’ and finally ‘In ICU [intensive care unit],'” he said. “If I lose again, I’m going to call my team ‘DOA [dead on arrival].’ I’m resigned to just suck.”
Hutt and Tang are active participants in their league, but not all players of fantasy football share their level of enthusiasm.
“I don’t know how my team fared unless I ask someone in the office,” said Steve Conn, Yale director of sports publicity.
When asked what attracts them to fantasy football, the responses were varied.
“If you like sports and like talking about it, fantasy football just gives you something else to talk about,” Reagan said. “You also enjoy the weekends more.”
For Katrina Schnoebelen ’04, who plays with family and friends back home, fantasy football is a way of keeping in touch while learning more about football itself.
“I don’t root for teams, I root for players,” she said. “Although it leads to unusual obsessions with players sometimes.”
While fantasy football enthusiasts like Schnoebelen illustrate that the activity generates interest among both men and women who enjoy football, many guys see it as a way to simply interact and compete with each other.
“It’s a male-bonding type of thing,” Ambler said.