Football Mania

Inside the minds of risk-taking players and die-hard fans.

What Motivates Fantasy Football Players?

It's that time again. The fantasy football season starts tonight.

Missed call. Another missed call. Why is this guy I grew up with – but whom I rarely hear from – calling me at 9 o’clock on a Sunday night in early September? My first guess is that he needs help writing or editing something (which is the reason he usually calls), but then I remember that the NFL season is less than a week away and we still haven’t had our annual fantasy football draft. Full panic mode hadn’t set in by the time I had a chance to call him back, but for this usually mild-mannered grade school teacher, he was awfully close.

“You know, I’m getting pretty sick of this,” he snaps. “This happens every year.”

It turns out that I was one of two stragglers to sign up for a 12-player league that wouldn’t have existed if we didn’t sign up in the next 72 hours.

“Yeah, OK, I got it,” I try to explain to him. “I’ve been busy. I’ll sign up. I just need to figure out how to open this email account I haven’t used since last year’s fantasy football. Relax, we have plenty of time.”

Well, that’s easy for me to say. Unlike my friend, I don’t play fantasy sports to win money (although I’ll admit it would be nice to win for a change). My motivation is to reconnect with friends I’ve lost touch with since last season ended and engage in some good-natured trash talking leading up to each week’s contests.

Clearly, there are a number of different motivations for participating in fantasy football. Dwyer and Yongjae (2011) refer to four motivational factors for fantasy sport participation:

Gambling – The gambling motive represents participation driven by, or focused upon, the chance of winning money

Social interaction – The social interaction motive involves establishing, preserving, or renewing relationships with family, friends, and/or coworkers

Competition – The competitive motive embodies participation not only to win each week, but driven by the need to be the best in the eyes of one’s competitors

Entertainment/Escape – The entertainment/escape motive represents participation for pure enjoyment of the activity as well as the diversion it provides from one’s day-to-day activities

Whatever the motivation, the 12 of us all signed up on time and we had our fantasy draft last night. I didn’t get the players I wanted, but I reconnected with some old friends – even one who I haven’t talked to in more than a year because of an unresolved dispute – and I had a chance to talk a little trash. So even though kickoff isn’t until tonight, it’s been a successful fantasy football season.

At least for me.

Football Mania