Daily fantasy sports all too real

SHARE Daily fantasy sports all too real

What are we supposed to think about daily fantasy-sports betting sites such as DraftKings and FanDuel?

In New York, state attorney general Eric Schneiderman thinks those online sites are evil, illegal, sometimes use insider information to help employees and are ‘‘leaders of a massive multibillion-dollar scheme intended to evade law and fleece sports fans across the country.’’

But to hundreds of thousands of relatively normal Americans — I’m guessing here, but let’s say they’re mostly young, sports-crazed, ballcap-on-backward, ESPN-in-the-background, company-time-wasting, dreamy-eyed males — the sites are just good places to visit because they carefully organize that thing that goes on everywhere, like it or not: fantasy-sports competition.

Even my description of the typical fantasy geek is wrong because women, priests and probably dogs play fantasy football. And baseball. And basketball. And just about any sport that is real but has stats that can be manipulated into a virtual game of ‘‘skill’’ and reward.

And that’s the nail upon which Schneiderman’s hammer hits:

Is daily fantasy football about knowledge, preparation, dedication, craft and foresight — like a real sport — or is it just luck?

Are ‘‘owners’’ of fantasy teams like real operations chiefs, making key personnel and lineup decisions, or are they more like the idiots who roll dice and yell, ‘‘Baby needs a new pair of shoes!’’?

Schneiderman says this is chance, plain old gambling. And gambling, as we know, is wrong. Unless it’s sanctioned by the government, that is. (Hi, Illinois! Love that lottery!)

In demanding that FanDuel and DraftKings stop taking New Yorkers’ money, he states: ‘‘[Customers] are clearly placing bets on events outside their control of influence.’’

And he’s right. That is, unless daily fantasy players are actually somehow bribing real NFL players to manipulate stats for fantasy purposes, which, of course, isn’t impossible.

But to do that, you would need to have a lot riding on your silly little squad. How do you bribe Aaron Rodgers into throwing more touchdown passes to Richard Rodgers than to, say, Randall Cobb when Aaron Rodgers makes $22 million a year? Offer him a share of your tiki-lounge basement?

DraftKings and FanDuel vehemently argue against Schneiderman’s declaration. They say winning on their sites is about skill. And even Schneiderman — oddly, confusingly — seems to agree. In his complaint, he notes that only about 1 percent of players win most of the money. That not an argument for the most skilled being rewarded?

I don’t have a dog in this race because I got out of fantasy leagues many years ago. All I know is that, for a brief time, I was consumed by the thrill of the chase in the first authentic fantasy-sports league west of the Hudson River: the Great Lakes Bush League, founded by then-Playboy editor Rob Fleder.

Fleder was an original member of the first heavily publicized granddaddy of all fantasy leagues, the Rotisserie League, founded in New York City in 1980. Formerly at Esquire, he moved to Chicago for the Playboy gig in the early 1980s, the Bush League began and my team, the Peorians — motto: ‘‘Agriculture, Industry, Baseball’’ — nearly drove me insane. I don’t recall a lot of my work, but I know that drafting pitcher Doug Bird was an albatross and that the championship ceremony was held at the Playboy Club — with real bunnies in attendance.

I also know that virtual reality has made fantasy players more interested in virtual competition than in actual scores and is a growing aspect of our computerized world. Someday, virtual will be real.

If these sites are just gambling sites, then New York is carving a slippery slope. Where and how do you draw the line? Insider trading is wrong on Wall Street and Fantasy Street. Punish it. But kill it?

I remember when my middle daughter got her first fantasy team in San Francisco, the Stiff Ditkas. She is smart and dedicated, and she won her league, beating, among others, teams named My House Has a Pool and Tom Brady’s Future Wife.

‘‘Da Coach’’ even signed a post-victory photo with the words, ‘‘The Stiff Ditkas Are the Best! — Mike Ditka,’’ and she was empowered. That photo hangs on her Bay Area wall yet.

So ban these sites? No. Regulate them. Or, like zits and crabgrass, they’ll just pop up somewhere else.

Follow me on Twitter


Email: rtelander@suntimes.com

The Latest
The Bears will focus quality over quantity in this week’s NFL draft.
Co-director Lily Rabe stars as small-town newcomer in disjointed adaptation of Chuck Klosterman novel.
Infielder Mendick is in the lineup against the Twins on Monday after getting called up from Charlotte.
Preckwinkle said she expects the Democratic Party will be united behind President Joe Biden as he seeks reelection.
Matt Kopec made sure to collect his turkey, even swimming out to retrieve it.