Fantasy football creates community — and competition

By Eli Putnam

When football season finally rolls around each fall, for many Americans it means spending every Sunday for the next twenty-plus weeks in their man-cave, watching every possible game while munching on wings and nachos. But for some, it also means the start of another tradition: fantasy football. 

Each year, over 40 million people in the U.S. play fantasy football. This trend extends to Whitman as well, where several fantasy football communities barter over players and games each year.

Fantasy football is a virtual game where 10 to 12 people compete against each other in a league created by one of the players. Each of the league members drafts their own team of current NFL players, and each week they set their rosters up against a different team in the league. The NFL players on each team receive points for their real in-game performance — like six points for a touchdown — and the team with the most combined points wins. Some leagues require entrance fees and compete for money.

However, in other leagues, instead of money, anyone can play for the camaraderie. 

Friendly competition is the goal for one league of Whitman families, which has been running for over 10 years. The league is mostly made up of former Bannockburn Elementary School students and their parents from the Cabin John neighborhood. Senior Molly Rothschild has been in the “Cabin John Fantasy Football League” for a year now, but she has been playing in other leagues for over four years. 

“It’s a fun way to stay in touch with people, especially as people move away to college,” Rothschild said. 

Rothschild’s dad and her older brother Dylan (‘18) created the league 10 years ago, Rothschild said. Since then, it’s grown into a league of 14 different teams and they’ve developed many traditions. 

Each year, when the league’s college students come home to watch the Super Bowl, the league gathers together to crown the champion. They eat chili from Hard Times Cafe, reminisce about stories from past years and give the winner a trophy.

Other leagues may not have the same traditions or history, but they still have large memberships and are filled with competition. Sophomore Zach Yaqub, a four-year fantasy veteran and owner of one league, plays with around 20 of his Whitman friends. As an NFL fan himself, he said fantasy football enhances his football viewing experience because can to watch each of his individual players play in their real games.

“I love it because it adds another aspect to watching football games,” Yaqub said. “It adds a lot of fun pressure between my friends and I.”

In the league that he manages, the competition often becomes heated. He has to watch out for cheating and bribing in the league, all while trying to keep tensions low. While some fantasy football leagues are focused on fun and friendship, others, like Yaqub’s, are high-risk, high-reward organizations. Junior Connor Darragh also plays in a competitive league with a prize of over $200 for the winner. Darragh plays so he can have bragging rights over his friends and take home the cash, he said. 

“It’s really fun to destroy your friends and crush their hopes and dreams,” Darragh said.

Regardless of how and why people play fantasy football, it has become one of America’s favorite pastimes.

“Fantasy Football has been a great way for me to make friends in middle & high school,” Darragh said. “It’s one of my favorite activities of the year.”