Fun fact: According to Forbes.com, the Fantasy Football Market has earned north of 11 billion dollars. The NFL’s total income falls short of 10 billion. Fantasy Football is currently earning more revenue than the National Football league itself.
Fantasy has transformed the way sports fans interpret athletes altogether, whose “fantasy value” is becoming an increasingly influential factor in the way their abilities are perceived by the greater audience. Writers, publishers, marketers, and analysts often headline the athletes who are most fantasy-relevant, but they rarely account for any who lie outside the fantasy wall; a figurative representation of the segregation between athletes: those whose value is benefited by fantasy, and those whose value does not translate.
For example, take Super Bowl champion Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks. In reality, he is one of the best players in the the NFL. In fantasy, quite the opposite can be said. Why? Because in fantasy, he does not have the ability to throw for three-hundred yards a week like Peyton Manning. But what makes him so important in real life is his on-field leadership, his stellar game-management, and his offensive awareness. Those three qualities are just some of many that have been butchered by virtual perception.
In addition, fantasy increases player popularity amongst fans, which heavily favors the players who generate the best statistics. Fantasy gives sports fans a reason to watch games they wouldn’t usually watch, and there’s an authoritative feeling that comes with owning a productive player... one that makes you feel as if you are their manager. And in a way, you are. The athletes that benefit your team the most are naturally the players that you gravitate towards watching live on television, right? Production sparks viewership for big-time fantasy players. With viewership follows increased media attention, and therefore those players, and the teams they play for, earn more money from endorsements, advertisements and promotions. Because fantasy is such an immense part of modern sports culture, it has played a vital role on the outlook of players across all the major sports.
As a result of the tremendous implications of being a fantasy-stud, I truly believe that modern athletes, more than ever, subconsciously mold their game in a way that suits the benefits of fantasy stardom. Of course, they are not molding their style of play for “fantasy” itself. Rather, they are thinking about the bigger picture: a loaded contract, media attention, and personal player value. But now more than ever, they know lofty individual statistics will get them closer to what they want. My argument is simply that Fantasy Sports--beneath the surface--serves as a sort of virtual benefactor for athletes because it inspires player viewership, which thereby affects the way athletes perform.
Perhaps this is why in the NBA there is an evident increase in isolation plays.
Perhaps this is why in MLB, the majority of current players look to hit home runs rather than getting the ball in play.
And perhaps this is why in NFL, there are more quarterbacks like Tony Romo, and less like Russell Wilson. Also, maybe why the majority of running backs try to find the hole and make the spectacular play instead of opting to grind out some not-so-flashy, gritty yards.
Fantasy has become bigger than a fun way of competing through sports online. It is a widespread reflection of the value and entertainment fans seek from professional athletes, that has surpassed the very market it is founded upon.
This is proof that fantasy is no longer influenced by statistics and results. Rather, it is the influencer of those things.