By Anthony Goldstein
High school friends from the Bronx School of Law and Finance used to joke and spend time together almost everyday. They also loved to play football. Now, a few years after graduation, they have settled into a more sedentary way of enjoying the game — by forming a fantasy sports league.
“These leagues may be the only things that keep us friends together,” said Nate Williams, 22, security guard, of the Bronx. “As you get older, it gets harder to find things to do to keep up with your close friends.”
ESPN, NFL, Yahoo, Fan Duel and Draft Kings are amongst companies that sponsor fantasy sports leagues. They all have leagues that deal with money but ESPN, NFL and Yahoo have free leagues to join.
These leagues are different than Fan Duel and Draft Kings which have been taken to court for possible illegal gambling by the New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. This group of friends uses the NFL to play their leagues.
Since they do not play for money, bragging rights and trophies are awarded to the winner of the leagues at the end of the season.
“Last year, I won and I got to talk about my winnings from February till September,” said Christopher Johnson, 21, EMT, of the Bronx. “That is a long time to hear my mouth yapping on and on about how I am the champion. I would have hated to hear it from anybody else, so I expect to win again this year.”
Many leagues are conducted daily and are only online between members so they don’t get to see their opponents. Drafts are done online and interaction between members happen with only messaging. Not this fantasy league though.
“Since I am deputy commissioner, I make sure I get the guys around to draft,” said Williams. ”We have each others numbers to talk trades and trash to one another but there is also that face to face interaction that brings the competitiveness out of everyone.”
Williams’ sets up get togethers at his house to watch and talk “trash” about each other’s teams almost every Sunday. A place where you can get away from your daily troubles and family for a day to enjoy some fun and football with your friends doesn’t sound bad at all.
On Sunday, Nov. 15, this group of friends gathered at Williams’ house to watch some football like every other Sunday. Games start at 1 p.m. so everybody is usually there around half a hour earlier preparing their lineups for all the games being played that day.
When games begin, the atmosphere changes. They start yelling and jumping around and even cursing from time to time when something good or bad happens that might affect their fantasy teams. Laughter even occurs when good plays happen.
Pizza and wings are ordered because all that talking and yelling makes a person hungry. Bacon, extra cheese, pepperoni, chicken, or pineapple toppings are added to the pizza. Barbecue, honey, buffalo, or chipotle flavors bring a zing to the wings.
The people in these fantasy leagues have different reasons for doing the fantasy league: fun, competition, friendship, or money. The commissioner, Jaylin Pressley, has his own reasoning.
“Every year more and more people join. A fantasy football league is just that. A fantasy,” said Jaylin Pressley, 21, student, of the Bronx. “Your team might not make it to the playoffs or super bowl every year so people look to this fantasy league as a way of winning and showing that not every thing is lost.”
According to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association (FSTA), in 2015, 56.8 million people play fantasy sports throughout USA and Canada. 66% male versus 34% females play fantasy sports. This might come as a surprise to people that associate fantasy sports with only men.
There are 53 players on a NFL team and there are 32 teams in the NFL. Together that means there are 1,696 players to choose from to draft to your fantasy team. It is hard to pick a player that might help you win but you don’t know. Anything like injuries can happen.
“If you only pick players on your favorite team or your favorite players, you will lose. This is a strategy game not everybody is fit for this,” said Pressley.
Points are assigned to stats that accumulate throughout the course of the game for each player. These points help fantasy teams score and help them win games. For example: on offense, every 25 yards passing, a quarterback gets, he receives one point, for a passing touchdown, you receive four points, etc.
Many people in these fantasy leagues check on their teams right before a game starts or while the game is being played. You can use your phone and download an app called “NFL Fantasy Football” and you can look at your line-up and change whatever you have to change through there.
It is much easier to use your phone while the game is on because it updates every 30 seconds and phones are usually quicker to use than a laptop. The points are updated constantly, either increasing or decreasing.
The playoffs are very near and are usually week 14-17 of the regular season because not every NFL team makes the playoffs and your players might not be in the playoffs to continue in the fantasy league.
Because of this, many members look to trade players to make their teams better. Others trade for draft picks for next years league since they might not be making the playoffs.
“It isn’t over till the fat lady sings,” said John Watkins, 23, lobby attendant, of Brooklyn. “ We still have a chance to make the playoffs. We need to go on a win streak. I win today against Mike (Michael Batista), win next week, get some wins, and never know what could happen. My team is finally coming together.”
Other members aren’t so optimistic and are just looking for next season to start.
“I started off great, I was getting some wins and then everybody just started to get hurt,” said Michael Batista, 21, security supervisor, of the Bronx. “I kept losing and I got frustrated and just gave up. Next year I will draft more durable players that I can rely on so this wont happen again.”
While these members have fun and compete against one another to see who ends up with the best team drafted and who becomes the best of the best, their bonds increase with one another. Their league is different from everybody else’s because they function like a real life organization/league.
“The people here, they aren’t really my friends, they are more like brothers,” said Batista. “I’ve known them for years, almost a decade now so they’ve been in my life long enough that I call them my brothers and they call me theirs.”