Hi's Eye

Fantasy becoming our new reality

Danny Bracco, R3 Sports Editor

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It’s third period on a Monday. While this may have been a time when students in the past would be copying homework or cramming for their upcoming psych test, they are now glued to their phones.

While there’s the obvious Snapchat and Instagram use, dozens of boys are actually hard at work. They’re checking their fantasy sports teams, looking for that extra edge over their peers.

According to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association (FSTA), more than 60 million people are playing fantasy sports in the United States and Canada in 2018. Comparing this 60 million in 2018 to just 40 million in 2014 shows the massive increase in popularity that fantasy sports have obtained in just the last five years.

While fantasy sports have continued to grow in popularity every year, it is clear they are taking over the lives of teens more than any other generation today.

According to the FSTA, 34 percent of teens in the U.S. play fantasy sports today, compared to 18 percent of adults. The average age of fantasy players is 32, and 71 percent of the people who play fantasy sports are male.

But why are these numbers so high? And why does it keep increasing at such a fast pace? The answer is simple: accessibility.

Even people who aren’t interested in football or baseball can play fantasy soccer, golf and even rugby. The internet gives fans the ability to find fantasy leagues for nearly every sport.

“I primarily focus on football, but I also do one fantasy basketball league and a fantasy soccer league as well,” said senior Brendan Riccardi. “The soccer league is on the Premier League website.”

And as the accessibility to these fantasy sports has increased over time, so have teens’ obsessions with their fantasy teams.

Teens today are bypassing real-life professional teams, and are choosing to invest all of their time (and sometimes money) into the performances of real players on their fantasy teams.

For example, WHS senior (and Hi’s Eye staffer) Joe Lotano doesn’t have a favorite baseball team. His favorite team is his fantasy team.

“I’ve never had a strong connection to a baseball team, so when baseball became more exciting to me as I kept playing year after year, I began to enjoy following the players on my [fantasy] team and their performances rather than following one team through a 162-game season,” said Lotano.

But Lotano is not an outlier. Many teens find themselves rooting against their favorite clubs in real life just so they can cash in on some extra fantasy points.

So seeing that teen obsessions in fantasy sports have gotten so intense, how do teens prevent their fantasy teams from interfering with their real favorite teams?

“For me it’s easy because I’m a die-hard Yankee fan,” said senior Jack Cerria. “But you see a lot of people today picking players from their favorite teams so that they make sure they’ll have players who they’re comfortable rooting for on their team.”

The influence of fantasy sports on teen lives is evident. But for a generation in which we are investing so much time in alternate realities and technologies, the question arises as to whether or not fantasy sports could actually be detrimental to our sense of reality.

People are losing interest in their real teams all for a compilation of players they’ve drafted or traded for, and for the point totals that those players’ performances are giving their teams. So while fantasy sports may seem to be a harmless trend on the outside, it is clear that it can have much larger effects on teens today, and even for generations to come.

“Sometimes I just need to close out of the app if it gets too intense,” said Thomas Omberg, a senior. “You invest so much time that you start to lose sense of the effect it’s having on you.”

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