There are many ways to enjoy a football game, even if you have no inclination for playing this rather difficult sport. Watching it in front of the TV is pretty good, especially when you have a favorite team or vested interest in the game. This is where sports betting comes in, providing players with the incentive to watch pretty much any football game, as long as there is a stake. This brings us to the issue of legality, which is a sensitive one in the US where many states still prohibit sports betting in all its forms. Under these circumstances, the continuous rise of fantasy football shouldn’t come as a surprise.
The story begins in 1962
Going all the way back to the rules of fantasy football can be tedious process, but we can still pinpoint its origin with accuracy. Bill Winkenbach came up with the idea more than half a century ago and one year later, he created the first fantasy league. By the time the game became popular nationwide in 1997, the rules have changed many times over and mostly for the better. CBS was responsible for turning fantasy football into a major hit and it served as a source of inspiration for other fantasy sports in the US.
American football is the most popular sport in the US, but fantasy baseball, ice hockey and basketball leagues have developed their own cult following. Popular outlets such as ESPN promote many of them and independent competitions are being set up every year. They provide participants with the chance of winning prizes but first and foremost, fantasy sports get them involved into a meaningful competition. These cheap thrills are precisely what many players need to spice things up without taking any chances.
A legal alternative to sports betting
One of the early reasons for the rising popularity of fantasy football was that traditional sports betting was either illegal or frowned upon. Sadly enough, this is still true in certain states and for many of their residents, fantasy football represents the only legal and acceptable alternative. Today there are more than 30 million people playing fantasy football on a yearly basis, which is a huge number by any standards. There are fantasy analysts, hundreds of websites organizing contests and millions of enthusiastic players.
Fantasy football isn’t illegal anywhere in the US, which means a great deal to those who want to have fun without breaking the law. Granted there were a few scandals surrounding some of the top providers of fantasy football, players themselves never came under the scrutiny of the authorities. In the sandbox environment of these virtual sports, participants test their skills and compete with their peers for fun.
An unintended consequence of the rise of fantasy football is that people who were previously uninterested in sports started to watch matches. The NFL was one of the unexpected beneficiaries, but sadly, the league found ever more creative ways of sabotaging its viewership. At the end of the day, it all evens out.