ESPN Fantasy Football is a fantasy sports platform that people use all over the world to compete with their friends or people from across the world. This platform was officially launched by ESPN in 1997. The way that it works is users draft a team of real professional football players, who score points for the user based on their production in real life. For example, under default settings, a touchdown is worth 6 points, while a rush for 1 yard is only worth .1 points. Each user’s team consists of a quarterback, two running backs, two wide receivers, a tight end, a flex (running back, wide receiver, or tight end), a defensive unit, and a kicker. Users have the option to create their own leagues with people they know or join a league with other strangers. Leagues can have from 4-20 teams. The person in charge of the league is called the commissioner, who can change settings, implement certain special rules, and generally has oversight over the league. It is free to sign up to play, for all members of the ESPN website. The app’s representation of all five components of the circuit of culture make it worthy of investigation, to uncover what it means for an app to provide a quality service to its users.
One component of regulation is the rules put in place by the platform ESPN. To be able to participate users must have their own account on the ESPN website. According to ESPN members of the site must be at least 16 years old. However, this is not strictly enforced because there are many members who happen to be under the age of 16 or people who just use an account of someone older than them. Once a user is a member, they can join up to 25 leagues in a single season. Leagues can be created until the end of September, and if the draft does not take place by the deadline created by ESPN, the league will not function. The name of a user’s team can be a maximum of 32 characters. ESPN does not allow for any type of official gambling to take place within their app, so for users to involve money in their league users must use an outside resource. If any of these rules are broken ESPN can terminate a user’s account.
Another manifestation of regulation in Fantasy Football is the restrictions that league commissioners can place on the other users in each league. There are some rules that ESPN allows the commissioner to customize for each league. The person who decides the rules within the league is called the commissioner. For starters, the commissioner can determine what type of league the users will be playing in from two options. These options are points per reception or a standard league. A points per reception league gives a team a point every time one of their players gets a reception which leads to higher-scoring games and significantly changes the way a person would pick their team compared to if they were in a standard league. Also, the commissioner controls when the draft takes place, its order, and what type of draft will be used (standard or snake draft). The commissioner has the power to set the points value for different actions, along with controlling how many teams can make the playoffs. The commissioner can control how many users are in the league and can remove them if they would like. They have major authority over trades that happen within the league. Trades are when users exchange different players from their teams with each other. Commissioners can approve or veto trades and set a trade deadline.
Most of the users range from fans of football with a casual interest in the NFL to those who have a significant interest. Occasionally, there will be some users who join a league just because their peers have convinced them, while others enjoy being more involved with NFL football. In general, according to the Fantasy Sports and Gaming Association, the demographics of fantasy football are 67% male, and 33% female. 48% of players happen to fall between the ages of 18-34.
One of the highly regarded features of fantasy football is that it allows you to truly express your football identity with few limitations such as creating your own logo, and team name. A major step in having the team look the way the user wants is by them participating in the draft. The two ways a team can be drafted are manually and through auto-draft. When manually drafting, the user can draft whoever they want from the available pool of players, however when auto drafting AI (Artificial Intelligence) picks the team by usually selecting the highest-rated available player based on the points they are projected to score throughout the season, or based on the type of player that a team needs, which are algorithmically determined. In a way, this diminishes the creative component of playing because one of the main points of playing is to have a team composed of players the user themselves selected. Users around the world have noted that they are big fans of the draft. In an ESPN article, Steve from Germany noted that the draft was one of the most beautiful days of the year for him. The reason for this was due to the experience of getting to socialize and eat traditional American foods such as wings.
Another major part of the identity of these people is that a lot of them happen to be big fans of either specific players or teams. This can play a role in the type of team a user forms. For example, if a user is a diehard fan of a particular team, they may try to pick more players from them and shy away from players of a rival team despite their talent level. Using this strategy can significantly affect the success of a user’s team. For example, if they are a fan of a bad team then this will be reflected in the production of the team that the user has formed. Nevertheless, this does not stop users from selecting their favorite team’s best players to be on their team.
Over the years Fantasy Football has become a prominent part of the NFL experience. Many people who are fans of the NFL and watch ESPN know what fantasy football is. On the Apple App Store, it has a rating of 4.8 stars. With ESPN being one of the top sports platforms in general there is an expectation that their site should be near the top in this category. Its biggest competitors are NFL Fantasy Football, Draft Kings, and Yahoo Fantasy Football. On the list “The top 5 Fantasy Football Apps of 2022” by zd.net ESPN was listed as the best app overall. Fantasy Football Draft Boards compared ESPN to Yahoo and only gave them 2 cons compared to Yahoo’s 4. Some of the best features of the ESPN app according to this site were that the app is easy to navigate, provides accurate projections, and gives updates on player status.
Many platforms outside of ESPN provide advice each week on what users should do for their lineups, but what separates them is their attention to detail. Specifically for ESPN the network takes fantasy football very seriously and has many resources dedicated to trying to help their users succeed in their leagues. On their website, they have a section dedicated to only fantasy football, that includes strategies to help users win that week, as well as updates that could potentially affect their lineup. In the app itself, there are updates under a user’s team with news about specific players on their rosters. In addition to this fantasy football has also begun to gain a presence in the television world as well with ESPN devoting segments to pregame shows for fantasy football itself. For example, every Sunday morning throughout the season “Fantasy Football Now” airs on ESPN to provide updates and advice for that week.
NFL Fantasy Football also has important representation implications for the players. There have been times when NFL players have spoken out against Fantasy Football. This is because many times when players have bad games and do not live up to their projections, they receive a lot of hate from users. However, what these people do not realize is a lot of the time this is out of their control. The reason for a player not reaching their projection could be due to the game plan of their actual team, or simply just a bad matchup. In addition, each player is not seeking to obtain the best individual statistics, but instead looking to do what they can to ensure their team wins, which sometimes means sacrificing individual performance for the good of the team.
There are some occasions where the app, unfortunately, represents itself in a way that is harmful to the reputation of the app and to players. ESPN was at the center of controversy in 2017 due to a segment they ran on a “Fantasy Football Marathon”. In the segment, the host auctioned players off to different analysts. Since most players in the NFL are African American, this drew a negative reaction from the public. People felt that this was too close to resembling a slave auction, and this segment happened to take place two days after a violent racial incident that happened in Virginia. Many athletes such as Odell Beckham Jr, Kevin Durant, and Cameran Jordan spoke out against this denouncing ESPN. After receiving a significant amount of public backlash ESPN did apologize stating “we understand the optics could be portrayed as offensive.”
ESPN first introduced fantasy football in 1997. The idea behind fantasy football is to increase interaction between football fans and the NFL. Today, the most convenient way for users to play is through the fantasy football app which is available on IOS and Android. It can also be accessed on a computer through their website. ESPN is a major corporation so making money for them is not a grueling task. Within the app itself, there are many advertisements, and they also have partnerships with other companies including Miller Lite and Capital One.
In the app itself, there is no way for users to communicate directly with each other. The only time that users can actively interact with other users is while the draft is taking place. The draft has a feature called live chat that allows users to talk to each other while the draft is taking place. The only way a person can see messages that are being sent is if they are in the draft when the other person sends a message into the live chat.
A feature that has been beneficial to Fantasy Football is the usage of artificial intelligence. What artificial intelligence does is give projections for the number of points each player will score each week before their game. These projections are based on matchups and past production. While the game is being played these projections constantly change based on how the player is doing. The way this is done is from the algorithms created by AI, which is supposed to help give users an advantage over their competitors. In the scholarly article “Deep Artificial Intelligence for Fantasy Football Language Understanding” by Aaron Baughman a group of researchers created different algorithms based on players’ tendencies from past seasons. The algorithms that they created ended up being helpful and informative about the different players’ projections.
Consumers of the ESPN Fantasy Football app mostly all happen to be fans of the NFL to some degree. However, anyone can participate in Fantasy Football, even NFL players themselves, or those who work within the NFL. To play no prior knowledge is required and throughout the app, ESPN provides many resources to help inexperienced players be successful. These include specific updates on how players on a user’s team are doing with suggestions under their team. There are also articles on ESPN’s website with general advice for all users.
Fantasy Football has been proven to boost the consumption of NFL games. This is seen specifically in the number of people who watch games each week on television, and those who go to games in person. A scholarly article did a study on the consumption levels of many different fantasy football users. Consumption in this article is defined as “the amount of time/ and or money spent participating, following, or interacting with a sport”. Much of this is due to the time commitment that comes with participating in a league. Each week users are keeping track of the same players and teams, so naturally, over time they start to become fans.
With football continuing to gain popularity worldwide, people in other countries have begun to play Fantasy Football. Some countries that have had some players are Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Germany, and the Philippines. However, a major reason that it has been hard for people in foreign countries to have a team is due to the time difference. To be successful a player must be able to constantly change their lineup, sometimes even minutes before a game. With a lot of countries having such different time zones it can be difficult for them to be able to keep track of their lineups as intensely as their American counterparts. Nevertheless, this has not stopped people from other countries from joining leagues due to their love of the NFL and the experience of playing fantasy football.
Bonesteel, Matt. “NFL Players Don’t Care about Your Fantasy Football Teams, Just like Everyone Else.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 27 Nov. 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/early-lead/wp/2017/09/19/nfl-players-dont-care-about-your-fantasy-football-teams-just-like-everyone-else/.
Baughman, Aaron. 2021. “Deep Artificial Intelligence for Fantasy Football Language Understanding.” November 4, 2021. https://arxiv.org/abs/2111.0287.
Drayer, Josh, Stephen L Shapiro, Brendan Dwyer, Alan L Morse, and Joel White. “The Effects of Fantasy Football Participation on NFL Consumption: A Qualitative Analysis,” March 28, 2009. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1016/j.smr.2009.02.001.
“ESPN vs Yahoo: Which Is the Best Fantasy Football Site?” 360 Fantasy Football Draft Boards. Accessed November 10, 2022. https://fantasyfootballdraftboard.net/pages/chapter-2-how-to-pick-between-espn-and-yahoo.
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Schilken, Chuck. “ESPN Apologizes for Fantasy Football Segment That Auctioned off Players, Including African Americans.” Los Angeles Times, August 17, 2017.
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