Bringing Fantasy Sports to the Bar With MyInteractiveVision

“Come on, girls,” my mom said with a heavy sigh. “This is getting ridiculous.”

It was a beautiful Sunday in September, and she was talking to my sister and me. We were sitting in a Montauk, NY, hotel room on a ladies weekend vacation/wedding-venue search mission. My mom was miffed because we were late to look at a lovely beach house to determine whether it might a good place to tie the knot. But there was a problem.

The bride-to-be, my sister Abby, was having a fantasy football crisis. A running back crisis, to be precise. She couldn’t decide whether to start BenJarvus Green-Ellis, known to fantasy geeks like us as “the Law Firm,” or Matt Forte. It was well past noon, which gave Abby only a few minutes to make the decision.

“Does Matthew Berry say anything about them in Love/Hate this week?” I asked Abby. Even though she’s the commissioner of our league and historically my mortal enemy in fantasy football, I couldn’t resist my big-sister impulse to help.

“Nope,” she answered.

“What’s the Yahoo projection?” I asked.

“One-point difference.”

“Can’t we have one Sunday where you two don’t spend the whole day obsessing about fantasy football?” my mom pleaded, surely remembering how last season’s fantasy playoffs had almost ruined Christmas. “They’re not even real teams!”

“Mom!” we growled simultaneously through gritted teeth as we furiously pawed our phone touchscreens.

I looked at the clock. “Crap, we missed Sit or Start.”

“This TV doesn’t get ESPN 2 anyway,” Abby said.

“Well,” I said to Abby after a few minutes spent analyzing the run defenses of each player’s opposing team. “I don’t know what to tell you—it’s a pretty even match. Go with your gut.”

I relate this anecdote not to embarrass my mother in print (though it certainly wouldn’t be the first time), or to point out that “go with your gut” is perhaps the only advice possible in the giant weekly crapshoot otherwise known as fantasy football. I tell this story because it illustrates just how all-consuming and pervasive fantasy sports have become. To paraphrase my mom: Really, you’re more concerned about Matt freaking Forte than the place where you and your fiance will tell your assembled loved ones that you intend to spend the rest of your lives together in holy matrimony?!?

“We did our research, and we saw that fantasy sports is a big industry,” says Jim Jung, who co-founded the Detroit startup MyInteractiveVision with Rob Freeman. “Rob and I don’t play, but we kept running into all kinds of professionals who did—older people and younger people. We found out the people playing it are very involved.”

According to Jung’s research, 30 million people play fantasy sports each year, and they spend more than $4 billion per year to be better players. There’s fantasy football, baseball, basketball, golf, hockey, and even NASCAR. Much like with NCAA basketball playoff pools, we’re in an era where even the office secretary wants to play fantasy football—never mind that she’s 55 and has never watched an entire NFL game in her life.

As any fantasy dork can tell you, it’s a game ruled by statistics. It doesn’t matter if the Detroit Lions never win another game; theoretically, Calvin Johnson will still be … Next Page »

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