I love fantasy sports.  Fantasy sports are glue that keep my friends and relatives together.  In my fathers’ generation, my uncles (and sometimes aunts) would get together to play pinochle at family gatherings.  Now we get together to play fantasy football.  My fantasy leagues have friends and relatives, annual drafts, and traditions that we keep intact.

For whatever reason, team names are an important part of fantasy sports.  The team names in my leagues are really clever.

I’m from Philadelphia, and my favorite sports team is the Philadelphia Eagles.  You all know that about me.  But because I’m from Philadelphia, I don’t pronounce it “Philadelphia Eagles”.  It sounds more like “Fluffya Iggles”.  So my fantasy football teams are called the Fluffya Iggles.

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In 2005, a colleague of mine asked me if I would be interested in joining his fantasy football league.  The league was called “Aged Educators”, followed by a roman numeral for the year of the league.  When I joined, the league was in its 4th year, so it was called Aged Educators IV.  We are now up to Aged Educators XV.

A year or two later, some of my cousins asked me to join a family league.  We aren’t very clever with naming, so we name it after the current year.  This year is Family Fantasy MMXV.

I guess I know a lot of people who like roman numerals.

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An estimated 35 million people play fantasy football.  Smaller numbers of people play fantasy baseball, basketball and hockey.

Fantasy sports started with baseball in the late 1970s.  A sportswriter developed a scoring system, and invited some friends to play.  I recall reading that they met in a restaurant called the Rotisserie, and named their game Rotisserie Baseball.

Fantasy sports still uses the “rotisserie” name in different formats.  Some fantasy sports websites use “Roto“ out of respect for the originators of the game.

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If you’ve read this far, you probably play some kind of fantasy sport.  If you do like fantasy sports, I recommend reading “A Fantasy Life” by Matthew Berry (also known as “Mr. Roto”.)  The subtitle of the book is “The Outrageous, Uplifting, and  Heartbreaking World of Fantasy Sports from the guy who’s lived it”.  It is a fun book to read on an airplane-it is light reading and a lot of fun.

When I first learned about fantasy sports, I thought “The NFL and Major League Baseball must not like that”.  I thought that fantasy sports would be a distraction from the real sports, and that the leagues would be opposed to fantasy sports.  I was wrong about that.

Sports leagues love fantasy sports, because they increase interest and viewership.  I used to only be interested in how my team did on Sundays.  Now I care about almost every game, because someone on my fantasy team is playing in almost every game, every week.

I just saw a note online, that 7 of the top 10 stories on ESPN last week involved fantasy football.  Fantasy sports are here to stay.

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All of my fantasy leagues are free.  We don’t play for money.  We play for something much more important than that.  We play for pride.  There is a lot of trash talking that goes on when we get together.

We take our fantasy sports seriously.  None of us would ever admit it.  But I watch my cousins, and they follow their fantasy teams on their smartphones, just like me.  They make roster adjustments at 1am.  They follow their teams at weddings, Bar Mitzvahs, family parties and at work.  They follow their teams when they go on vacation.

So do I.

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Some people are now playing fantasy football for money, and a lot of it.  Daily Fantasy Sites (DFS for short) have been popping up the last couple of years.  If you haven’t heard of DFS yet, you will soon.  They are a big deal.

Two of the sites (I’m not going to name them) have spent $100 million in advertising this fall.  $100 million.  People are wagering $25-50 million a week on each of the two sites.

The reason for that is that what they are offering (in my opinion) is internet gambling.  There is a lot of disagreement about this for some people, but you have to spend money to enter the DFS games, and they offer money as prizes.  You compete against other people, and there are guaranteed payouts.  The games take place in one afternoon, and some of the wagers are immediate.  You can even wager on what happens during the next play in a game.

It sounds like gambling to me.

The first time I heard about DFS sites, I thought “the NFL and Major League Baseball won’t like that”.  I was really wrong about that, too.  Both leagues, and some of their teams, either sponsor DFS sites, or receive advertising from them.

Some NFL teams even have “storefronts” in their stadiums where you can go to play (and pay) to enter DFS games.

It sounds like a casino to me.

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I am not going to gamble on fantasy sports.  I would lose all of my money.  There is an expression about gambling: “there is a sucker at every table- if you don’t know who the sucker is, it is probably you”.  I know that I am the sucker at this table, so I won’t be gambling on fantasy sports.

But I will play for free.

Because it matters to me that Fluffya Iggles crushes Mean Machine, Electric Mayhem, Less Crazy Town, CRO-Magnon, Destroyers, Bye Week, Amazing Grapes, Meerkat Meanies, Lardy Lumps and Brooklyn Heart Attacks this year.

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