[Sept. 2016 Sports] Fantasy football invokes intense competition among students

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By Daniel Harizman ’19  & Jesse Levinson ’17 Web Opinions Editor

Not long into class, he gives up trying to prevent his head from falling into the soft cushion of his forearm. Motionless, he lies sprawled on his desk; his textbook, practically glued shut, sits beneath him. Friends try to get his attention from the hallway; his teacher drones on about history, or is it calculus?

This is how Cayne Mandell ’17 appears almost every school day, but today  is no  ordinary  day. Hands  at his side, his  head  raised  high, Mandell now stares ahead with laser focus.

To some, it would appear that he is paying close attention to his teacher’s lecture, but in reality, Mandell’s mind is far from class. Like countless others, he is counting down the hours to the kickoff of Thursday Night Football, the starting point of this weekend’s fantasy football matchups.

A virtual game played all around the world, fantasy football combines the competitiveness of soccer and strategy of chess. It can, according to Mandell, make for a “grueling but ultimately rewarding experience.”

People participate in fantasy football by joining leagues containing anywhere from four to 16 teams. They then take part in a draft and select National Football League players of their choice who earn performance-based points each game.

Though people often take part in fantasy football leagues out of their love for football, one of the biggest incentives behind joining a league is the betting aspect.

“The more that’s on the line, the more fun it is. Fantasy football is basically just a way to compete with your friends, and betting money makes it all the more interesting,” Nikki Benjamin ’17 said.

In Benjamin’s league, comprised of 12 seniors, the buy-in is $100, making the first-place prize a whopping $1,200.

However, to  some members, the driving  force  behind their  commitment  to    success  is  not  potential  monetary  gains,  but rather the   looming   threat of  a  last-place finish.

“The loser  of  our league has to dye their hair white for an entire month. Not a blondish-white — a pure white. I’m talking Ryan Lochte level,” Remy Laifer ’17, the  dubbed  commissioner  of Benjamin and Mandell’s league, said.

Another league comprised of 12 sophomores has a similarly daunting last-place punishment.

“The  manager  of the  team with the worst record at the  end of the season has to let the winner of the league shave his head in any way he chooses to do so,” James Trinkle ’19 explained.

Still, to some people, fantasy football offers an opportunity to connect and maintain ongoing relationships with friends.

“I’ve probably been doing fantasy football for 20 to 25 years,” said Jonathan Shepro, a social studies teacher who has been playing in the same league for 15 years. “When we first started playing, there was no internet, so when you had to make your lineup you literally called the commissioner and told him what your lineup was.”

Though today’s method of playing fantasy football online negates the necessity for league members to constantly communicate with one another, the feeling of general camaraderie still remains.

“I’ve been in the same league with friends of   mine   since   sixth  grade,” Noah Lomnitz ’17 said. “We for sure intend on continuing throughout college.”

Of course, despite the ever-expanding popularity of fantasy football, there remain football fans who choose to avoid participating.

“Although I watch professional football, my passion is really around college football which, to me, is much more exciting,” Karen Thompson, a member of the science department, explained.

Still, Thompson went on to stress that, despite the fact that she does not partake in a fantasy football league, she is as big, if not a bigger fan, than those who do.

She  even  went  so  far  as  to  state, “this time of the year is like Christmas to me.”

Of course, this idea runs true to those who participate in fantasy football too, as they will look to be gifted with wins this upcoming weekend.