Over the course of the last 5 years, I have slowly but surely become engulfed, addicted, and borderline obsessed with this time of year, all thanks to football. However, unlike many Pats or Giants fans, it’s not because I am anxiously waiting to see “Doctor” Brady go to work on Sunday afternoon and pick apart some defense. Nope. The real reason lies in the opportunity to play (and hopefully win) fantasy football leagues. Here, I am allowed to “draft” NFL quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, tight ends and team defenses and use their actual statistics they generate each week to score points in head-to-head match-ups. Weeks of hard work (i.e., scouting reports, mock drafts, countless arguments with “this guy” or “that guy”) go into my league draft preparation, all for the chance to win a pot of money (usually less that $1000) but, most importantly, the opportunity to trash talk and decimate the competition consisting of co-workers, friends, family members, and even clients. My life at times even reflects that of “The League” on FX.
Every year around this time I am thoroughly engaged in a multi-billion dollar industry, religiously reading Matthew Berry’s Love/Hate selections each week, (although I can’t say I am always in agreement) or on the RotoWire seeking out what is the best match-up for my fantasy team. I have even been a part to some major disputes and conflicts – one of which almost tore two lifetime friends apart, all over a 3rd down running back, and a payout pot of $250. And this got me thinking. With the rise of fantasy sports worldwide, one would expect that at some point, somewhere, we are going to see a new breed of litigation sprout up – fantasy sports litigation. Before you laugh and dismiss the theory, just know that only a few short years ago, MLB players sued fantasy providers based upon their “right of publicity” to their statistics which generated these online games – and lost (pdf download).
FoxBusiness reports that fantasy football generates profits in excess of $1 billion annually. With figures that high, only one reasonable, natural conclusion can be forthcoming: that fantasy football litigation will eventually ensue. Crazy thought? Maybe not. Already specialty businesses such as trophy companies to fantasy dispute resolution companies exist – see the www.sportsjudge.com if you think I am kidding. This web site will offer to mitigate any fantasy dispute for a fee. A lawyer (yes, a lawyer) will then settle your quibble. Insurance companies too, are getting in on the billion dollar industry. For example, Fantasy Sports Insurance (FSI) will provide disability coverage on star players (yes, disability coverage), which will protect fantasy owners should their star player go down early (think Tom Brady, 8 minutes into the 2009 season).
Although an individual league may seem miniscule in overall value, the competition, gamesmanship, and the underlying key to many a lawsuit – the justification of knowing you were right – all describe the key personality traits you would expect to find from a fantasy football player. Coupled with the ever-growing industry as a whole, my bold prediction for this fantasy season is that we will see a lawsuit between former friends – which will transcend hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees – this year in the United States. Although I have not personally handled any litigation in this arena to date, I hear that this guy might be your man…