MILFORD – Life in the quarantine world has made finding a sports fix tough. It’s almost like a fantasy world, looking into a crystal ball for the ‘what ifs?’ of a restart or the ‘what was!’ of game’s past.
Networks are doing their part. Major League Baseball, March Madness and The Masters traditionally own this part of the year. But right now likely most casual fans have forgotten who the top four ranked college basketball teams in the country were when the games were shut down, or what players the Cubs signed in the offseason.
All this to say, right now we’re resigned to watching North Carolina-Georgetown and the national introduction of Michael Jeffrey Jordan. Or Mike Freakin’ Schmidt bomb away on the Cubs like he did his entire career. It’s not live, but it’s sports. As some pals on socials have said, ‘my kids are asking why things don’t look right.’ Well, they’re exactly right.
In a time when no one knows when things will look right again, some sports fans have turned to fantasy sports. While there aren’t actual numbers for gamers to parlay at the moment, people are still playing. ESPN and Yahoo are still holding their baseball drafts in hopes of a season. Companies like Blowout Cards resumed its weekly pick ‘em, but rather than choosing one of five NASCAR drivers to finish highest at Talladega, pickers are choosing where Amazon stock will settle next Friday.
Fantasy sports are a billion dollar business, and became a very household item when the likes of FanDuel and Draft Kings began advertising every commercial break, then got its break when it became legal in certain states, Indiana included in 2019. The ability to play daily fantasy just fueled the gamers who already were playing rotisserie and head-to-head leagues, whether full-year MLB or weekly football, or betting on soccer games abroad in the English Premier League.
While it’s not likely anyone will be playing anything professionally until at least June, there is held hope games will resume. And the gamers will be ready. Over 59 million people annually play fantasy sports, and they are all at home quarantined and waiting.
“A lot of thought was put into postponing the draft in both baseball leagues I’m in,” said Fort Wayne’s Chris Bennett, who is the commissioner of one of the Yahoo baseball leagues. “Too many variables with the start of the season up in the air.”
Bennett is like a lot of casual players. He plays in four total leagues, two baseball and two football. He states he spends about an hour a day on his baseball rosters and agonizes over his football rosters on Sundays.
For those drafting baseball in hopes of a season, the risk of not only it starting up, but for how long, also comes with players and injury concerns. Certain players that came into camp hurt, for example Justin Verlander, may take a draft hit in early March. But a healthier Verlander in June is a different story, which changes his value. Same with Aaron Judge and his injured ribs, and so on.
“There were a couple draft picks I made today that caused me to stop and think about the season being canceled,” said Nevin Miller of New Paris, part of an ESPN baseball draft that took place Sunday afternoon. “Due to the ‘what if?’ questions regarding the season, I did “stretch” for a few players. I also “missed” a few players that are currently on the injured list for the normal start of the season. Even with the understanding that they will be ready once the season actually starts.”
Yahoo, which offers both free and fee leagues across multiple sports, could lose in the millions of dollars if baseball doesn’t start back up.
More eye popping, however, is March Madness. Newsweek published a story earlier this month that the loss of the men’s college basketball tournament could see losses over $993 million. The American Gaming Association offered that over $8.5 billion is bet on the tournament. CBS/Turner Broadcasting pays $771 million to air the games, which were set to begin last Tuesday and run through early April. Over $1.3 billion is paid in ad revenue.
“The biggest thing I’m missing at the moment is betting on college basketball,” said Warsaw resident Brian Barger. “At the moment I’ve had to bet on Aussie football and table tennis to keep me occupied.”
For now, Barger and the rest of us will have to watch replays of tournaments past and keep teaching our children about a pre-three-point-line world. Either that, or really bone up on Aussie rules. It’s just the nature of the sports beast right now, where finding normal in a non-normal world is just a fantasy.