I recently turned 42 years old (which is twice as cool as turning 21!), and I turned introspective for a bit, looking back at my long life. I thought back to when I lived on Walton Mountain (ask your parents), churned my own butter and watched TV with the aid of an antenna covered in tin foil.
Since we’re in the heart of Fantasy Football season, my thoughts turned to my view of sports as a kid. My sports cards meant the world to me in the late ’70s and early ’80s, and whenever I’d watch games with my father, I’d sort through my cards, again and again, looking for the players on the field and up at bat, making sure I dinged every corner hundreds of times.
My father once bought my brothers and I a box of baseball cards in cello packs in 1978 (still my favorite Topps set). And since you could see which players were on the top and bottom cards, my brothers and I took turns on which packs we wanted to open.
It was my very first Fantasy draft.
My First Bad Fantasy Pick!
Yankees P Ron Guidry was the No. 1 pick in that draft. And 6-year-old me passed up Steve Garvey to excitedly pick Royals P Steve Busby. HAA! Busby. What a funny name! … I was a dumb kid.
I collected for the next few decades and built my collection up to 135,000 cards — almost $10,000 worth! That’s right, I’ll pay you $10,000 to take them all!
I bring up my card collection because if you are around 30 years old or older, you most likely built up a nice collection of your own, in the early ’90s, when the card industry went nuts. Then the industry busted, like dot-coms would a few years later and the housing industry would a few years after that.
Now, bring up sports cards to anyone born in or before the ’80s, and you’ll hear guffaws and laughter from people that got burned on their “investment.”
With over 30 million people playing Fantasy Sports these days, or about one in every 10 Americans, people wonder if the industry is officially saturated. Are all the people that would play, playing?
I make the comparison between sports card collecting and playing Fantasy Sports because it’s a quite natural connection. Both are based on your knowledge of the sport, the players and their prospects for future success. Both reward you for being a better prognosticator than your colleague, and both make the actual games themselves more intriguing than just the final score.
But there are some big differences that we should consider.
“Grandpa’s in the Toilet Bowl!”
When I was a kid, my father didn’t play Fantasy Sports. Most of our fathers didn’t play, I imagine. Not because they were too busy fighting commies – it was just because it wasn’t available. If they had Fantasy Drinking-Beer-in-a-Bar, my dad would be The Talented Mr. Schlitz!
However, as our generation (the first true Fantasy Sports generation) gets older, we’ll end up playing in leagues with our kids. Many of us are already doing just that, as I see stories about sons beating fathers in the championship game. (I’d ground that kid for two weeks.)
The industry itself continues to evolve, as well, with Daily Fantasy play becoming a mainstream hobby in its own right.
My point is – the Fantasy Sports industry is only going to get bigger, as dads and moms and grandfathers and grandmothers play in Fantasy leagues with their kids and grandkids.
As a matter of fact, my mom was in my very first league, back in the fall of 1989. She still talks about those drafts with a big smile on her face – even though she drafted Mark Rypien in the first round of the 1992 draft. (I should probably stop reminding her of that at some point.)
Our families bond over Fantasy Sports leagues. We talk trash and we reminisce. We connect.
Let’s continue this over-saturation, as we connect with younger generations in a new way, during a time when they are disconnecting from us in so many other ways.
I’ll always have the memory, for instance, of my father, looking up at me in his final days, and asking, “Dave … Steve Busby? What were you thinking?”
David Gonos spent 5 years as a CBSSports.com Senior Fantasy Writer and three more years writing with SI.com. Over the past 17 years, his work has been published on NFL.com, MLB.com, FanDuel, FoxSports.com and USA Today. Since 2001, he has been tracking down the Top 50-plus Free Fantasy Football Draft Tools online. You can contact David Gonos here.