Author: Dylan Bordonaro
In traditional fantasy football, leagues of 10 to 14 people compete for the full 17-week NFL season. Before the season starts, the league’s members participate in a draft in which football players are divided between each participant’s roster. Competitors then manage their team, deciding who to start, who to bench and who to add and drop on the waiver wire. Week after week, the participants compete against one another in head-to-head match-ups, and the league’s highest performers compete in a playoff bracket near the end of the season. This format provides league members with many social benefits — healthy competition, camaraderie and tradition.
Single-week competitions like those on fantasy football giants DraftKings and FanDuel don’t work in the same way. They allow competitors to purchase entry into a competition where the highest ranking participants are paid a portion of the total entry pool. One-week fantasy football is gambling — much more directly than in traditional league — as it has none of the social benefits of traditional fantasy, which is a much quicker payout and allows for much more manipulation of the system.
Employees of DraftKings and FanDuel (which are each now valued at over $1 billion) have cheated the system in the past. They have access to data that the general public does not, including the frequency of any player’s selection by users on the site, that could give them a distinct advantage if they were to compete themselves.
Amidst accusations of employees’ misuse of this information, DraftKings and FanDuel issued a joint statement Oct. 5 denying any institutional wrongdoing. While the employees of both companies were never permitted to compete in their own contests, they were allowed to enter their competitor’s contests. In response to these allegations, which are analogous to insider trading, both companies ultimately decided to prohibit any employee from participating in any online one-week fantasy competition, attempting to protect the industry’s reputation. This would never happen in a traditional fantasy football league.
Fantasy football’s appeal is entirely lost in one-week competitions. DraftKings and FanDuel attract many because of the shorter commitment, but the commitment is what makes fantasy football competitive, engaging and fun.
Since managing a fantasy football team requires a lot of time and emotional investment, competition and camaraderie thrive within a traditional fantasy football league. Arguments are common when trade deals are struck and when somebody else with a higher waiver priority gets the biggest free agent pickup of the season. Frequently, the same players will compete year after year with each other, rekindling old drama and leaving the previous season’s victor to defend their throne.
One-week fantasy contests offer none of these benefits. No one knows any of their thousands of competitors, no one actually participates in a draft and no one orchestrates season-changing trades. If DraftKings and FanDuel have intrigued new fans in the prospect of fantasy football beyond gambling, then those competitors should consider joining a real league to truly experience the competition that awaits.
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