FX’s comedy “The League” is preparing its fifth season this year thanks to its success and the popularity of fantasy football. The show follows six adults holding onto childhood friendships through a fantasy football league taken way too seriously.
And while the show is fiction, the premise is common fact throughout the country. Fantasy football is big business. Forbes reported that 32 million people participated in 2010 and it’s a number that continues to rise.
But unlike “The League,” many who play in the same league live in different states or possibly a different country. The technology that drives fantasy football makes it possible to compete as if the person is in the same room.
In its infancy, player statistics like rushing yards, touchdowns and interceptions were gathered from the sports section of the morning paper. Participants looked for each player on their fantasy roster and wrote down the stats by hand to figure their score for the week. It was a process that could take hours each week.
Now the process is completely hands-off. Companies like Yahoo and ESPN have teams dedicated to tracking statistics and points. A fantasy player only needs to set his or her roster before the weekend and the technology does the rest.
Not only do fantasy players no longer track their own stats, the automation is done in real time. Adrian Peterson scores a touchdown? You’ll see those points on your board within seconds. You can even track your players on live television without switching the channel. If you’re a Sunday Ticket subscriber through cable.org or another retailer, you can track up to 18 players live on game day. If one of your guys makes a big play, Sunday Ticket will alert you and even let you watch the footage.
Xbox and Mobile
Microsoft announced in May that it would broadcast exclusive NFL footage to Xbox and Microsoft tablet users this season, ranging from unique views during the game to a live view at the coach’s playbook as he calls the offense. The features can be enjoyed by the casual fan, but they serve a fantasy purpose too. Like Sunday Ticket, the new Microsoft features will let fan track their fantasy player and receive real-time updates with their progress. Anyone who owns an Xbox and is a Sunday Ticket subscriber is going to have a good time with this.
Mobile tech is also moving the game forward. You don’t even need a laptop or TV to track fantasy stats anymore. ESPN, Yahoo and the NFL all have mobile apps that let you set rosters, check stats and keep up with other teams in your league.
Fantasy football isn’t just about statistics, it’s about the competition and smack talk between you and your friends. When everyone is separated by state lines, it’s tough to talk trash over an e-mail. Technology like Skype and Google Hangouts lets everyone get in a virtual room together and tout (or mourn) their own lineups on Sunday. If you activate Google+ premium features, you can fit 15 people in a single hangout, which could be the whole league.