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Fantasy football continues to bring people together

For millions of Americans, the shift to autumn means the emergence of a religion: fantasy football. Millions in the U.S. take part in fantasy football every year, and students at Ohio University are no different. 

Many clubs and organizations at OU have their own fantasy leagues, and it's a great way of connecting with others. 

For those unfamiliar, fantasy football usually involves 8-16 people who take part in a draft of offensive skill position players in the NFL, a kicker and one defensive unit. The goal is to craft the ultimate lineup of players to score the most points on a given week. Yards, touchdowns, interceptions and field goals are part of the scoring systems.

The league gives fans the power to control a team, picking their own players and maximizing points to win each matchup.

It's a big endeavor for many, and participants don't take it lightly. Garrett Koch, a freshman studying sports management, said he has a long history of playing fantasy football, with this season now his 10th season doing so– the fifth consecutive year with his friend group. 

"Every time we have our draft, we go to someone's house and make a huge deal out of it," Koch said in an email. "We all get dressed up in suits." 

Whether one is amazing or terrible at fantasy football, it can be so hard to stop playing. Some leagues give punishments to the last finisher, which can get pretty outrageous. Some of these punishments have gone viral on the internet, such as spending 24 hours in a Waffle House or taking the entire ACT exam. 

Fantasy football is a gambling game as well. Many leagues are "buy-in," and the final winner of the league receives the jackpot. Buy-ins can range from a couple bucks to hundreds of dollars, raising the stakes beyond bragging rights. A lot is on the line for fantasy leagues, and they can make or break friendships.

"It most definitely helps strengthen my friendships with my friends," Koch said in an email. "(It) really makes everyone enjoy fantasy and makes friendships forever lasting." 

Fantasy football has also changed the discourse in the sport. Much judgment against players or teams is done through the lens of fantasy value, for better or worse. Other sports like baseball and basketball also have fantasy leagues but none have caught on quite like football. 

Another piece is finding the perfect name for a team. Many fans use puns around a player's name, like "DakStreet Boys" after Dak Prescott or "Kyler the Creator" after Kyler Murray. 

It also isn't uncommon for fans to join multiple leagues at a time with different friends, companies or in a family league. 

Colt McManis, a junior studying graphic design, said he joins multiple leagues, with four active ones this year. It extends across students at Ohio and across the country as well.

"One of them's actually just a group of Browns fans I met online," McManis said. "Another two are just with friends that I know from high school." 

It seems like every year, it gets bigger, stretching out on Yahoo, ESPN, the NFL App and even an app called Sleeper, specifically designed for fantasy sports. Fantasy experts have segments on television and radio suggesting fans start or sit certain players and giving tips on the best path forward. The wide world of fantasy is constantly growing, and it's not going away soon.

Donovan O'Malley said this year is his first time ever playing fantasy football but he is glad he's gotten into it.

"Honestly, I am most interested in playing fantasy because it just gives me a new way to enjoy football." O'Malley said in an email. "I always enjoy watching but getting into fantasy makes me pay attention to almost every game … and learn more about the players."

When it comes down to it, though, it's all fun. Fans to look forward to participating and connecting with others over a little competition. Fantasy football is a great distraction from the Sunday scaries, and the love of the game runs deep for many Bobcats. 


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