Fantasy Land: Students and staff share passion for fantasy sports

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Fantasy Land: Students and staff share passion for fantasy sports

Roshan Fernandez

Some people see sports on a TV screen as the end of their viewing experience. Others head out to the stadium decked in team apparel. And then there are those who take it into their own hands and monitor players’ every move to immerse themselves into the competitive atmosphere beyond the game itself. Both students and staff members play fantasy sports, for various reasons and at differing levels of commitment. Fantasy sports require participants to draft individual players from a variety of teams for their own virtual team, and depending on these players’ performance during games, members receive points. They compete throughout the season against friends, family or even strangers. The stakes go as high as thousands of dollars, but many are in it just for the bragging rights.

The Rookie

Senior Pranav Malavalli always enjoyed watching football and had played fantasy football for a few seasons before joining Numbers Never Lie (NNL), an MVHS club dedicated to fantasy football. Malavalli had many friends in the club and learned that it needed a director of public relations, a position that he ended up getting.

Before joining NNL, Malavalli had not played in a league with people he knew. He played via the ESPN fantasy league, explaining that there is a significant difference between playing in a league with strangers compared to playing with friends, as he does now in the club.

“I did it with random people and I didn’t care as much, but with friends you kind of want to win so you can brag to them,” Malavalli said. “It’s mainly the trash talk [that makes it] really fun.”

Malavalli doesn’t think that the way he watches the game has changed significantly. and believes that he supports his own team, the San Francisco 49ers, above all else.

“At the end of the day, when we’re following sports, we’re just rooting for our own team,” Malavalli said. “Sometimes  [an opposing team’s] player may be on your [fantasy] team, but he might have destroyed your [own] team, so you’ll be conflicted some days.”

The Casual Player

MVHS athletic trainer and health clerk Javier Margarito’s first foray into the world of fantasy football was years ago at a previous job with a group of colleagues. He didn’t really know what he was signing up for, but he was told it didn’t require much skill, so he joined the league.

Although not officially held by the management of his previous workplace, he saw it as a team-building exercise that allowed employees to become closer. Even though playing in the league wasn’t necessarily required or encouraged, it was nice to participate.

“Our camaraderie went up,” Margarito said. “As a team, it brought you closer with someone you normally wouldn’t have [had] an association with, at least at the beginning. In this case, my manager was actually playing, so it’s not like [playing] was encouraged, but it was nice that [we were] all kind of on the same level.”

For Margarito, fantasy became a fun way to stay engaged with the game, while still keeping things practical. He understands that he doesn’t have enough time to watch every single game and he never really became obsessed with fantasy football.

“It’s just not realistic to sit down for three hours and expect things to be done, whether it’s at home with chores or running errands,” Margarito said. “So the accessibility of having a mobile device, checking scores on that, [makes] it convenient.”

Margarito recognizes that fantasy is something that he has very little control over because all he can do is pick his best team. However, he knows that many people do not view fantasy in this manner. He says that many people who bet money get out of control, viewing it more as a job than a game.

“On the flipside, people take it really seriously and start almost dehumanizing the player and forgetting there is a person at the end of the day,” Margarito said. “And some people take it very seriously, almost to the point where they’re making threats almost like, ‘This guy ruined my fantasy [team].’”

Margarito disagrees with this extreme, claiming that he prefers banter over intense competition. Overall, Margarito says he prefers to stick to his middle ground when it comes to commitment.

“It’s kind of like you created this little ‘digital pet,’ if you will,” Margarito said. “And then just watch it kinda grow and see what it can do for you.”

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Illustration by Ruth Feng

The Disillusioned Veteran

History teacher Cody Owens remembers a time when he was so committed to fantasy football that he was willing to support successful opposition against his own team, the Pittsburgh Steelers, just for points. He explains that he regularly read analyses on ESPN and other sports websites and would play the players that analysts projected would win the most points that week.

Over the past few seasons, fantasy turned into more of a burden than something to look forward to for Owens, mainly because it adds stress to his day. He hopes that this will be his last season playing fantasy, because it now feels like an additional task that he needs to complete as opposed to something fun.

Owens says he continued to play this year because of his friends and their ongoing fantasy group chat, where they discuss fantasy matchups, make memes and trash talk one another.

“It stresses you out, the group chat, [because] you don’t want to lose to them,” Owens said. “It sounds silly in that, but people who have seriously been in fantasy football can attest — it’s like a stressor, and it just carries over throughout the week.”

Owens adds that the fantasy obsession runs in the family, with his dad also playing fantasy football, taking it even more seriously than Owens. He says his dad used to play for money, sometimes as much as a thousand dollars in his work league.

“I remember my dad had Tom Brady when he threw 48 touchdowns, and they played the Steelers, and he’s like ‘I want the Steelers to win but I’m okay with Tom Brady throwing four touchdowns,’” Owens said.

At the time, Owens was in more or less the same mindset as his dad, taking fantasy very seriously and becoming absorbed in the number of points that his players earned each week. But times have changed. Although Owens still plays, he now prefers to root for the Steelers and draft their players for fantasy. It was fun while it lasted, but he ultimately feels the time has come to move on.

“My dad used to be so into it and be so mad playing fantasy,” Owens said. “But he said his happiness has increased dramatically since he stopped playing, so my goal is to stop playing [as well].”