Fantasy sports has evolved from its humble roots as the niche Dungeons & Dragons-esque intersection of sports fandom and statistical nerdiness. According to Fantasy Sports Trade Association market research conducted by Ipsos, there are over 36.6 million people playing fantasy sports in the United States and Canada and is a rapidly growing industry that generates over a billion dollars per year. The once maligned cult hobby has grown into an undeniable sports subculture, commanding regular coverage from all major sports networks, in addition to active online communities, podcasts, and even paid services catering to fantasy sports players.
With the development of such a massive fantasy sports community, one has to wonder whether the “fantasy” aspect comes at odds with the sociology of traditional sports. The appreciation of sports is a medium of sociological bonding in many ways. There is a ritualism to watching sporting events -- waking up every week, donning the appropriate jerseys or attire, converging at the stadium, and enacting the cheers and gestures in unison with others -- that develops an collective consciousness or effervescence, much in the same way that Durkheim observed with religion. Sports fandoms also create a sense of identity and belonging as regional, socioeconomic, racial, generational, and many more identities can be expressed through team support. Traditional sports and sociology are deeply intertwined, and the collectively shared experiences that sports provides bonds society.
With that in mind, it is easy to assume that fantasy sports works to counteract the socializing aspects of traditional sport. Fantasy sports games aren’t played out in stadiums or at enjoyed at viewing events, they are contested online, over computers and smart phones. Even if one were to watch “real” sports with their fantasy community, the shared emotions and experiences are lost as the people surrounding them are likely rivals and opponents who are rooting for different outcomes. Fantasy sports potentially alienates players from their societies by blurring identity lines and reducing the significance of team allegiance. Team success takes a backseat to individual success in fantasy sports; if individual players on a losing team do well, that is considered a success in fantasy, yet if all players are statistically mediocre in a winning team effort, that results in a poor fantasy outcome.
I set out to analyze the extent to which fantasy sports affected the social bonds established by traditional sports. The expected result was that as involvement in fantasy sports increased, social reasons for enjoying sports would decrease. I focused the research on fantasy football for convenience purposes, as it is the largest and most active of the fantasy sports communities. Furthermore, as I participate in fantasy football myself, I already had an understanding of not only the specific knowledge and jargon, but also of the current trends and developments....