Fantasy football can bring friends together from around the globe

Published 9:46am Thursday, August 29, 2013

Column: Notes from Nashville, by Andrew Dyrdal

The National Football League generates around $10 billion in revenue each season. That figure is roughly equivalent to the gross domestic product of Greenland and slightly less than the revenues of Fortune 500 companies like eBay and Starbucks.

A bulk of that cash is made through television rights deals (a 30-second ad during the Super Bowl costs nearly $4 million), and some is made through merchandise and ticket sales.

We’ve seen the power of the NFL in Minnesota first hand as the public is funding more than half of the Vikings’ new $1 billion stadium in downtown Minneapolis. The construction cost of the team’s new home, a glassy building I’m nicknaming the House of Pane, will be more than that of Target Field, Xcel Energy Center and TCF Bank Stadium combined.

The NFL has helped spawn many other industries, too. Where would Buffalo Wild Wings be without football on Sunday afternoons and Monday nights? But the industry that has impacted me and millions of Americans the most is fantasy football.

Fantasy football is a competition is which people compete against each other as general managers of virtual teams built from real NFL players. Friends hold a draft and then compete head-to-head against each other each week and earn points when their team’s players do well in real life, especially when they throw, receive or run for a touchdown.

Fantasy football began in 1963 in New York City when a group of friends created the Greater Oakland Professional Pigskin Prognosticators League. Other leagues began sprouting up in the 1970s, but fantasy football became what it is today in the late 1990s with the invention of the Internet, allowing players to manage their teams online rather than on paper.

Fantasy Football is now a $1 billion industry and is played by 25 million people in the United States. Along with NCAA basketball’s March Madness, the typically 19-week long competition has a reputation as a distractor from work, relationships and family, too.

It is estimated that fantasy football costs employers upwards of $6.5 million in lost worker productivity, according to a study by Chicago-based outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. One person whose career isn’t impacted negatively by fantasy football is Matthew Berry, who is ESPN’s senior fantasy football expert and has made millions offering advise and rankings to his readers.

Talk about a dream job.

Minnesota’s local fantasy football expert is Paul Charchian, who contributes to KFAN Radio in the Twin Cities and owns and operates LeagueSafe.com, a company that collects entry fees and then distributes payouts to each league’s winner.

Fantasy football has taken off with technology and is a lot of fun, but the biggest benefit for me is its aid in helping me maintain important relationships.

I am beginning my ninth consecutive season with a group of friends from high school and my third with college buddies. Fantasy football has helped us connect each year and have something to banter about year-round even though we now live in different corners of the country.

I encourage everyone, especially those in high school or college, to create fantasy football leagues with your friends. As long as your league is active, your friendships will be too.

Andrew Dyrdal’s column appears in the Tribune each Thursday.