The story below is an excerpt from our May/June 2015 issue. For the full story download our FREE iOS app or view our digital edition for FREE today!
Regardless of the sport that is part of your fantasy, there’s likely a league for it and there are a lot of players taking part. Sometimes for megabucks.
Jeri Warner Layne is talking smack from the opening kickoff: “I killed him … on our wedding weekend. Stomped his ass. Wedded bliss.”
That’s her husband, Steve, she’s talking about. She sent him to the cold showers playing fantasy football, a game the two play almost obsessively during the season – like nearly 40 million other Americans. They’re part of a growing cadre of sports fans who have re-defined “sports fans” to mean those who watch and play at the same time, but without the threat of crippling injury … unless Jeri is serious about the effects of defeating Steve.
Jeri, who lives in Boones Mill, can’t seem to stop, though: “It’s definitely, overall, a dude’s game,” she says, “but the chicks in our league are tomboys and we’re very competitive. Usually, all of the women in our league make it to the playoffs. We’ve had a few seasons where it was just me as the only female that made it. I’m that awesome. It’s true. When my husband and I play each other, I’m pretty relentless with the smack talking. I’ve made up some horribly awesome rhymes and puns to really [annoy him]. He takes it like a man, overall. ”
Wedded bliss, indeed.
Fantasy sports began with Rotisserie League baseball in 1979. Journalist Daniel Okrent is generally credited with its founding in a New York bar. Fantasy football had been around since 1963, started in Okland, Calif. By 1987 the first fantasy football guide had been published and in 1993, USAToday was publishing a weekly fantasy sports column. Today more people play fantasy sports than live in California.
Fantasy sports participation during work would likely be considered a problem on the scale of lost revenue from alcoholism ($220 billion a year), changing computer passwords ($16 billion) or watching the NCAA basketball tournament ($134 billion), except that the bosses are playing, too. A senior editor at Vox magazine, wrote that adding up the lost productivity variables of “vices, distractions and health problems” – including fantasy sports, costs American businesses $1.8 billion a year. But, hey, it’s fun.
Roland Lazenby of Salem, who has written about 60 books, mostly dealing with sports and sports figures, is not a fan of fantasy sports. He calls it “a low grade form of gambling” which “distorts the original purpose [of sports]. … My observation is that fantasy sports doesn’t contribute to the general sense of happiness. Most fantasy people are immensely unhappy. The fun, I think, is in the draft and in drinking beer. They fantasize that they have great insight. The [truth] is that they have none. Most have never played a down of football or an inning of baseball.”
However, says Lazenby: “The one great benefit is that fantasy sports has broken down the walls of one of the last bastions of male culture. A lot of women – most, I’d say – are better judges of athletic talent and many are better athletes, too. Fantasy sports gives women the access they richly deserve.”
So, it is a feminist thing. And even those who don’t take part talk smack.
Lance Greene, chief deputy clerk of the Roanoke City court, wouldn’t likely take issue with Lazenby’s view. He’s been playing various fantasy sports since college 10 years ago and he is the commissioner of one of his five leagues. “I kinda took on too much this year,” he admits. The leagues, the expertise, the payouts and the fees are all are different. You might pay $10 to play and win $100 at the end of the season. Big leagues can pay millions, but not in Roanoke.
Greene likes that “anyone can play.” He’s “in leagues with high school friends, college friends, friends from law school, co-workers. I have seen couples in multiple leagues … [and] have also seen the wives beat the husbands most of the time, which leads to a little family rivalry and in some cases side bets such as who will take the garbage out that week if he/she loses.”
In order to play, Greene says, “all you need is an e-mail address and you can get started with a couple of friends or family just for the fun of it.”