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Better than Christmas: How fans (and superfans) see fantasy football
Yep, you read that correctly: A recent SurveyMonkey survey discovered that fantasy football players get more excited about Fantasy Draft Day than Christmas, or even their own birthdays.
Well, at least some of them do.
To explain: We recently sent a survey to fantasy football players across the country, getting back responses from more than 600 people from all walks of life. We shared that same survey with our friends at CBSSports.com, who sent it to their network of fans and got back 900 responses. But the fans CBS polled weren’t just fans they were fantasy football superfans.
When we compared the results from the two groups, we found a big difference between the average American fantasy football fans and the superfans playing on CBSSports.com. But there were also some telling similarities.
Sorry, St. Nick
The most noticeable difference between the two groups came when answering the question, “Generally speaking, do you get more excited by Christmas, your birthday, or Fantasy Draft Day?”
51% of respondents said Christmas was most exciting, 20% gave the nod to their birthdays, and only 19% put Fantasy Draft Day at the top of the list.
But here’s how the superfan audience replied:
Fantasy Draft Day: 47%
My birthday: 8%
This was just one of the many instances that made it clear that while SurveyMonkey reached fantasy fans, CBSSports.com hit the superfan demographic right between the numbers.
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First and 15
It’s never been easier to play fantasy football, with sports-news websites offering user-friendly playing experiences. This has helped fantasy football attract an ever-increasing number of casual fans each year. So we weren’t surprised that 66% of fantasy football players have been playing for fewer than five years.
Five years ago, fantasy-football magazines, websites, apps, TV shows, and the like were the norm—which made it easier for new players to make informed decisions.
But this wasn’t necessarily the case in 2001. And why is 2001 important in this context? Because 56% of superfan respondents have been playing fantasy football for more than 15 years.
Fifteen years. That means that some of these players started their fantasy leagues when the defending NFC Champions, the Carolina Panthers, were in dire straits, losing 15 games in 2001.
That same year, current Panthers fullback Mike Tolbert was 15 years old. (This was long before a character on The League, a fantasy-football sitcom, immortalized Tolbert as a “touchdown vulture,” meaning a player who enters games in goal-line situations to carry the ball into the end zone, thereby taking fantasy points away from the player he replaced.)
Another big difference that we found between fans and superfans: league dues.
Thirty-eight percent of fans play in free leagues. That’s not the case with the seasoned superfan vets—27% of whom paid a whopping $200 or more to join their leagues. With that kind of entry fee, we can only imagine what the winner’s end-of-season payout comes to. It’s probably nowhere near “Ndamukong Suh league fine” territory, but a nice chunk of change nonetheless.
With that kind of cash in play, it’s not surprising that 72% of superfans have drafted a player whom they hate, hoping that he’ll excel despite their better judgment. By comparison, only 53% of average fantasy fans have bitten the bullet and taken a player they despise on draft day. (No word if this dynamic extends to Raiders fans choosing the Broncos defense.)
Despite these differences, average fantasy fans and superfans share a great deal in common. Both groups widely consider the Seattle Seahawks to have the most overrated defense in the league. The Cowboys’ Tony Romo is the consensus pick for most overrated quarterback, and fans and superfans alike expect Romo’s new teammate, Ezekiel Elliott, to win Rookie of the Year.
Of course, each of our fan groups developed these opinions while watching games—and both prefer to watch at home, specifically while relaxing on the couch.
But there are other things that fans and superfans agree on, some of which speak to the larger popularity of the sport. Fans (76%) and superfans (84%) say that fantasy football has brought them closer to family and friends, and similarly large percentages believe that fantasy football positively impacts the league as a whole by bringing in new fans and giving them an added reason to care.
The majority of both regular fans and superfans preferred pro football to college football, but the two groups weren’t as unified about one Mr. Tom Brady. Although 44% believe that Number 12 has two years left, an overwhelming 69% believe that Brady’s old nemesis, Peyton Manning, has a better legacy—and 56% say Brady does not have another Super Bowl in him.
In the end, even the biggest fantasy football fanatics (we’re looking at you, guy wearing the Bill Belichick cut-off sweatshirt) share a thing or two with the everyday weekend warrior fantasy fan.