You Should Join A Fantasy Sports League

Analytics has been a huge buzzword as of late and the sports industry has been making great use of the data and statistics. The NBA season kicked off last week, which means that many fantasy drafts also occurred across the world. Whether it was a 10-man, 12-man or 14-man league, most team managers already had their ideal lineup way ahead of draft night using mock drafts and simulations. However, the science behind fantasy sports wasn’t always data driven.


Fantasy sports first came into existence in the 1950s through golf. Each player selected a team of professional golfers and the person with the lowest combined total strokes at the end of the tournament would win. Team owners would have to write lineups by hand and snail-mail them to the “league commissioners” each week. Team performance was based off simulation and statistics using previous season data. You were only able to keep track of your own performance and had to wait until the beginning of each week to see how well you fared against the rest of the league managers. In the 1960s, fantasy leagues for football and baseball were created and played mostly in seminar groups at universities. But the major development in fantasy sports history began in 1980 when the Rotisserie League Baseball created a draft format that involved selecting active players and following them through the active season to compile scores. Team managers now had extra layers of predictive analytics like playing time, health issues and expected performance to keep track of. This led to a spark in journalism with newspapers such as Baseball Weekly that contained almost exclusively of statistics and box scores.

Baseball Weekly

Fantasy sports really started to become popular with the rise of the Internet and personal computers in the mid-1990s. Barriers to entry were drastically reduced and it became more seamless to compile and analyze data online. As a result, many fantasy businesses migrated over to the Internet under various business models. offered fantasy leagues for free starting in 1999, a power move that shaped the recreational fantasy league models of today.

In the present day, the robust datasets collected throughout the years continue to evolve the fantasy sports market. Our predictive analytical capabilities have improved to the point where we can predict the likelihood of a player getting injured based on how they jump. Real time box score and gameplay updates allows us to collect player stats and extrapolate their expected performance before the game ends. This led to a rise in a subset of fantasy sports known as daily fantasy sports, where games are played across a shorter time frame (1 day or 1 week of the season) for large prizes. This subset has been driving the growth of fantasy sports, where a 10.7% growth was recorded in 2015.

As I mentioned in my class presentation, everyone will eventually play video games of some sort and I think fantasy sports league is the pivot that has the highest odds of bringing in newcomers to gaming. Many of the features required to manage your fantasy team are already parallel to many aspects of our daily living – we have smartphones, we like on-demand control, we engage heavily in video content consumption, we deal with data in some form in our professional life and we are competitive creatures. Instead of mindlessly scrolling through Snap stories, we would trade off some of that time to watch sports highlights, analyze the content and collect more insight to increase your odds of winning your fantasy league’s prize pool (or bragging rights at the very least). Additionally, participation in fantasy sports may also benefit those who are sports coaches in non-professional level settings. The tools and skills that they acquire would be transferrable to their own roster and can allow them to optimize matchups against their opponents. Lastly, instead of plugging and chugging numbers onto a spreadsheet for work, you would now have a recreational way to use Excel and management science. I mean it’s certainly more fun to simulate how many triple doubles Russell Westbrook will get this season than how much revenue you would need to generate to breakeven for a software investment right?

Russell Westbrook Meme

The sports industry themselves are investing heavily in camera technology to provide better replays and viewer technology such as VR streaming. Although these technologies are intended to enhance the gameplay judiciary system, I think they will also become a peripheral to current fantasy league managers and a marketing segway to entice sports fans not yet participating in fantasy sports to give it a try. As these technologies continue to grow, they will also introduce more data into fantasy sports and continue to expand the realm of simulations and specialized fantasy league rules.

If you’re a sports fan and haven’t considered joining a fantasy league, I would strongly recommend it for the reasons mentioned above. If you’re not a sports fan but are tech-savvy and analytical, join your annual family fantasy basketball league, spend 15-30 minutes a day, manage your team based off your understanding of statistics and watch as you beat your brother’s girlfriends fantasy team to a pulp. It’s a win-win situation either way.


  1. andrewmanginelli · ·

    Very cool thoughts. Many of my friends actively play fantasy football and come up with punishments for the loser (like getting a tattoo). This has made them way more bought in than one would be for the typical video game. You can also see that this has expanded beyond my friend group. If you turn on a sports network at any moment, odds are there’s a fantasy football commentator telling viewers who to look out for this week and who to leave out of their starting lineup. This has turned fantasy sports into an extremely profitable industry.

  2. juliasmacdonald · ·

    Nice post! I had no idea that fantasy sports started with golf! I definitely can see how fantasy sports increase consumer engagement. USA Today found that once fans starting playing FanDuel, they consumed 40% more sports content across all media. On a personal note, I was in a fantasy league for basketball last year and though I never watched the sport previously, I found myself getting more and more involved as I started to earn points.
    There is also an interesting debate about the role of fantasy sports in the workplace. Some argue that it develops team-building skills and increases employee engagement. However, studies done by Challenger found that it results in a $13-16 billion loss in productivity.

  3. rjacques62 · ·

    Cool Post! I really like playing fantasy sports, its a fun way to keep up with your friends and add a little competition. Your post reminded me of this article from the Wall Street Journal a few years back about a student at Notre Dame that essentially developed a stock market algorithm for picking fantasy players and had made $200,000 in the past year off of an initial $200 investment. Interesting read if you get the chance:

  4. Great post. I did not know how it all started. I am an avid fan of Fantasy Football, and wrote my blog a bit about it. Definitely with the online boom it grew like crazy. It will be interesting to see what happens with the “new” big two, Draft Kings and Fanduel. They just announced in July they canceled the merger due to anti-trust concerns. What will be the future or Fantasy. It seems they have stalled and not much has changed. I noticed in Fantasy Football they now have PFF or NextGen Stats built into the apps and systems. As you mention Analytics is playing a huge part on points. But again… what will be the next big change in Fantasy Sports built around Analytics or maybe even VR/AR/AI???

  5. ojeagle121 · ·

    I’ll add my name to the list of people that didn’t know that fantasy started with golf. I agree with @cummingdiego that fantasy has sort of stalled a little bit. Don’t get me wrong, its still extremely popular and drives a lot of revenue for companies, but there really hasn’t been any updates to the actual game. Actually, as I’m writing this, I think the last unintended advancement for fantasy football was the Red Zone channel. When I had the NFL package I probably watched that 80% of the time b/c of fantasy implications.

  6. sejackson33 · ·

    Interesting post! I found the history of fantasy leagues especially interesting as I never thought of it as existing anywhere except online. I think it is fascinating the way data is helping us to predict such specific instances as if/when a player will get injured. It is also interesting how access to such specific and telling data can drastically change the way fantasy leagues play out. If people are willing to put the time into researching data, they can do significantly better in their league.

  7. Nice post. I am in a sports marketing class and we actually just talked about fantasy sports in our last class. You should check out an up and coming game called Your Call Football–its a spin off of fantasy sports that is set to launch in 2018. Basically, two real teams that have been formed by the YCF League are competing in a real game, but throughout the game the coach posts different options of plays to run and the at-home users are watching and voting on which plays should be run. The play that gets the most votes is run by the players. Would be interested to hear your thoughts on if it will be successful with all the already existing fantasy sports options.

  8. briandentonbc · ·

    Really cool post! The history of fantasy sports was incredibly cool, particularly because I do most of my sports gambling through golf. I agree with some other commenters that fantasy sports as a game has stalled a bit, but the products surrounding fantasy sports, such as fantasy sports TV shows, podcasts, guides, and things such as NFL RedZone have exploded along with the rise of fantasy. I even occasionally use NFL GamePass to look at a guy I am thinking of picking up in free agency. It will be interesting to see how fantasy sports develops along with the rise of new technologies. Also thanks to @rjacques62 for commenting the WSJ article – very cool

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