Fantasy Sports have become part of our everyday vocabulary. I started to realize that when I began watching FX's show "The League," which is about a bunch of 30-something guys who don't want to grow up and use Fantasy Football as their outlet from the daily grind. It's not just TV, when I go on SI.com and click on Major League Baseball articles, sometimes I will read 100 words and realize they are talking about Fantasy Baseball. Not real, fantasy. For those of us who have been playing Fantasy Sports for years before they became cool, this development is really exciting!
So, which Fantasy Sports are the most fun to play? There is a Fantasy Sports version of everything now but some of them just are not worth trying. To my eternal shame, I actually tried ESPN's Fantasy Soccer. I know the mere thought of Fantasy Soccer would make my idol Bill Simmons vomit in his mouth but I thought I should give every version a try…at least once. Suffice to say you can leave Fantasy Soccer alone. Ditto for Fantasy Hockey: it's actually fun to draft since you pick a large team and it's not hard to manage since there are only three kinds of players (goalies, defenders, and forwards) but it gets pretty boring over a whole season. Plus, the scoring system is so complicated you really have to be a hockey junkie to understand it. So hockey junkies should give Fantasy Hockey a shot but everyone else should stick to three basics: Fantasy Football, Fantasy Baseball, and Fantasy Basketball.
Fantasy Football has become the epitome of Fantasy Sports. It's really the only one that has invaded everyday life. SI.com may post Fantasy Baseball articles but you aren't likely to hear your girlfriend talking about it anytime soon. Fantasy Football has become a fixture on the Sunday pregame shows and can be seen in all its MA-rated glory on FX's "The League." It is also a very fun version of Fantasy Sports that every sports fan should try. Keep in mind there is plenty of variation by league in each Fantasy Sport but here are the basic ground rules: it's easy to draft because every casual sports fan knows the main offensive positions (quarterback, running back, receiver, tight end, and kicker) and you don't have to worry about the weird stuff like defense (Fantasy Basketball), pitching (Fantasy Baseball), or power play statistics (a Fantasy Hockey original). It's just yards and touchdowns.
The one tough thing about Fantasy Football is you have to pick your lineup and half your players sit. That can be heart-breaking when one of your benched players has a banner day. But that is precisely what makes it extra fun: the gamesmanship, second guessing, and "told you so" elements of setting your lineup and watching it succeed (or fail) are what Fantasy Football is all about.
Fantasy Baseball is the golden oldie of Fantasy Sports. The Rotisserie version has been around since the 1980s. At that time, it was probably nerdier than Star Trek or Magic cards, which shows you how far we have come as a society. To say Fantasy Baseball is "cool" like its Fantasy Football brother would be excessive but it is entering the mainstream. At this point, merely mentioning it at the table probably won't end your dinner date early. But it is the hardest to draft and hardest to play: there are lots of offensive positions, you have to worry about pitching, and it measures more scoring statistics than either Fantasy Football or Fantasy Basketball. If you don't want to worry about what "OPS," and "WHIP" mean, it's perfectly legitimate to stick with only Fantasy Football. But, for all its quirkiness and difficulty, Fantasy Baseball is plenty of fun and provides the hardest challenge for Fantasy Sports veterans.
Fantasy Basketball is the unknown extra. It's like that new dish on the Thanksgiving table-your aunt's new cauliflower puree perhaps-that looks appealing but you just are not sure if you have enough space to make it worth fitting. But Fantasy Basketball is definitely worth a try. It presents a good mix of ease, fun, and excitement. You draft five types of positions (point guard, shooting guard, small forward, power forward, and center) so it's not too simple (like Fantasy Hockey) or too complicated for beginners (Fantasy Baseball). It measures eight statistics, which sounds like a lot but it measures simple statistics like points, rebounds, and assists. If you have ever watched a basketball game, then you will know how to work a fantasy team. Plus, while playing you field most of your roster but you do have to bench a few players each game, which adds a bit of suspense during the season. So, it may be unknown, but give it a try.
So, which Fantasy Sports will you start playing?
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