A sports fan’s fantasy

Some college students have long been fans of gambling on high-stakes sports games such as the Super Bowl and World Series. But with the advent of the Internet, a whole new system of betting on sports has been created: fantasy sports leagues.

Though football was the first sport around which fantasy leagues were created, there are currently fantasy leagues in most sports, ranging from baseball to Nascar racing.

Freshman Matt Epstein has been “hardcore” involved in a fantasy football league since he was in seventh grade. He joined a “private” fantasy league, so that only he and his friends are involved.

Fantasy sports even occupy his time in the off-season: Epstein uses the post-Superbowl period to research players he thinks might be “sleeper” picks. That way, he can avoid relying on the big names that his friends within his league will be fighting over.

“It’s just a fun thing to do, especially with your friends,” Epstein said of fantasy football. “We made up all of our own rules, like how many points a first down would count as, versus a touchdown.”

Most fantasy leagues run in this manner: the better chooses his or her players, hoping that the players will be successful when the actual sport season begins. Each team gains points through the success of each individual player.

“It’s really important to have up-to-date stats on Sundays to see how your team is doing overall, ” Epstein said.

While some leagues — especially private leagues such as the one Epstein and his friends created — do not involve cash prizes, as the craze has caught on, more and more services have begun to charge and reward.

Yahoo charges fantasy players for up-to-date statistics, and ESPN.com gives away a cash prize every year to the person whose team has accumulated the most points by the end of the respective sports season. Additionally, there is often gambling involved on the side.

Sophomore Colin Conerton uses ESPN.com to play his fantasy football league. He has been involved in fantasy sports leagues “since fourth or fifth grade,” but has cut down since then.”

According to Conerton, he “used to play fantasy football, baseball, and basketball, but cut down pretty quickly.” Even now, during “peak time,” Conerton says he spends at least two hours a week researching statistics and watching games.

“Being brought up around sports, this is just the next logical step,” Conerton said. “It is a great way to keep in touch with friends from home…and it’s really just a way to talk trash [with my friends]. I can be competitive in a friendly way; I don’t have to worry about ruining my friendship or anything over these games, but it’s still competitive and fun,” he said.

Freshman Jonathan Adler has a completely opposite stance on fantasy leagues. “[They’re] just one more ingenious way to make money off the ridiculously high-grossing sports industry,” he said. “There is nothing terribly original about the idea — it’s just a type of gambling” he said.

But some students disagree. Junior Thuy Le participates in a fantasy basketball league, but doesn’t gamble. She says she likes fantasy gaming because it’s “a great conversation starter and bonding tool.”

Elliot Freeman (LA ’04) agreed, saying that he doesn’t involve Bandarq money in his private fantasy leagues. For Freeman, who invested about 10 hours a week in his fantasy baseball league, “bragging rights” are enough of a reward.

“[It was] more work than any course I ever took at Tufts,” Freeman said of his involvement in fantasy baseball. He proclaims baseball to be “the king of fantasy sports,” though he also spends about five hours a week on basketball leagues, and less on football leagues.

Freeman, like many other fantasy leaguers, acknowledges the use of the leagues as a way to keep in touch with friends. One of his friends, now in Japan, still plays in the leagues, and, Freeman said, “the message board that Yahoo provides has become a major part of my life.” Now, Freeman turns to the message board for advice ranging from career moves to relationship problems.

According to Freeman, fantasy sports leagues are “practically like the stock market for jocks.”

“[Leagues are] research, management, and negotiation — when I put that I won fantasy baseball last year on my resume, I feel as though it’s the most impressive thing on there,” Freeman said.

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