When Fantasy Sports Beat Real Ones

Dream teams http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/04/13/dream-teams The “Gamification of Fandom,” making the fans into the players & the players into statistical pawns


The fan of the not too distant future, Goldstein said, will want better telecom service within the stadiums so that he can follow his fantasy teams at the same time as he is watching the game. “You’ll have an iPad mounted into the seat, and on that iPad you’ll have the RedZone channel,” he said. “Can you imagine? I pay, I can lean back, I can sit, and I can be in my living room—but in the stadium. That’s what we’re doing in the theatres.”

What explains the temptation to make games of the watching of games? Last month, I joined Fantasy Iditarod, and the two or three hours that I spent compiling my team of Alaskan dog mushers were a nirvana of pure concentration. I had twenty-seven thousand “dollars” to spend on seven sled drivers, whose “salaries” were calibrated such that you couldn’t just stock up on favorites and former champions. The process reminded me of something Dan Okrent said, when describing what he called the “one, overriding positive contribution” that Rotisserie baseball had made to the actual sport, which was that, after you started playing,

The gamification of fandom is alluring because it provides an application for the things you’ve learned—or think you’ve learned—in the course of wasting so much time that could have been spent reading Proust, or playing with your kids, or donating blood. It’s a hedge against existential despair, a measurable opportunity to “succeed” at what might otherwise be called futility. I went to Alaska on assignment a couple of years ago, to see the Iditarod in person, and was sufficiently transfixed by the new sporting subculture that I’ve continued to follow its developments from afar.


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