It’s that time of the year again. The time for an incredibly addicting and exciting season of Fantasy Football.

The biggest draft weekend just wrapped up and, with drafts done, all that’s left now is for players to fret about their big boards and their lineups.

For many decades, Fantasy Football has been offering an extra layer for fans to connect to the game of football and enjoy the NFL. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that there are some serious cash prizes to aim for.

Given that success in the game only betters with skill and experience, it is no surprise that millions of players return every single year to try and do better and to claim those monetary rewards.

Fantasy Football has grown into a beloved billion-dollar empire where an estimated 60 million people in North America are playing the game says the Fantasy Sports and Gaming Association. The entire industry is worth about $7.2 billion, according to Statista. 

The history of this beloved past time trails all the way back to 1962, when part owner of the Oakland Raiders team, Bill Winkelbach, met up with some friends in a hotel in NYC and created the first fantasy football league. They dubbed it GOPPPL, the Greater Oakland Professional Pigskin Prognosticators League.

Fast forward a little over twenty years to 1984, and Tom Kane Jr. and Cliff Charpentier are co-authoring the first ever Fantasy Football Digest book. Finally, a place where all the rules of the game are in written format. This is when the fan base began to really grow and eventually led to major media attention in the 90’s when USA Today ended up with an entire column dedicated to the game.

By 1999, the Fantasy Sports Trade Association was founded, and Yahoo! offered free fantasy football leagues.

It’s now 2021 and while the game is still as exciting as ever, players must get more creative. The coronavirus pandemic has thrown the past couple of NFL seasons for a wild loop with precautions, postponed games, infected players, and many other obstacles.

For example, in the 2020 season, over 20 players on the Baltimore Ravens, including reigning NFL MVP Lamar Jackson, had tested positive for Covid-19 and their Thanksgiving game with the Pittsburgh Steelers was postponed three times.

At the end of November last year, 33 players and 53 personnel had tested positive for the virus according to NFL data.

Websites such as ESPN and Yahoo, who both hold fantasy football leagues, were forced to release special scheduling plans to make sure their fantasy team players would know what to do and when.

According to Liz Loza, an NFL analyst and fantasy football expert, engagement among fantasy football players increased last year at Yahoo Sports. The year 2020 had “presented an opportunity to fantasy football enthusiasts and diehards to really challenge themselves.” 

At the time she remarked, “If they win this year, they can say to themselves, ‘I’ve really done some mental and strategic gymnastics, and I’ve earned this.”

For those who have no idea what fantasy football entails, typically, a fantasy football league includes drafting somewhere between 16 and 20 players.  The teams have starters and backups, the same way an NFL team does.

Players have control over creating the ultimate professional football team and by using knowledge of the teams, players and performances, they can select the athletes with the best performances from that week to play in their team.

It’s very easy to get wrapped up in the game because successful players need to act as business savvy as a manager, as knowledgeable as a scout, and as strategic as a coach. They also must understand an assortment of variables, including weather conditions and injuries.

Fans play a nominal fee for each game they want to enter and then select players from a list. The goal is to have their fantasy football team do better than other teams. This is an arena where cheat sheets are often referenced to when getting started. Yes, it can be that intense.

The best part for players is not just having a distraction from real life but having one bad week doesn’t destroy them. Fans can simply start again the next week. And even if a fan’s real-life team may be struggling, their fantasy football team may be kicking some serious butt the same week.

Thankfully there are dozens upon dozens of podcasts and radio stations that are dedicated to fantasy football. These podcasts and stations are relaying the biggest news from around the NFL, discuss picks, and offer in-depth fantasy football analysis.

Some to check out include the ESPN Fantasy Focus Football podcast, which has access to guests and information that most other shows cannot get a hold of. Along these lines, CBS Sports Fantasy Football Today Podcast also has the weight and support of a national conglomerate, earning it a top spot among fans. The guys on the Fantasy Football Today podcast do a great job bringing high-level analysis to each of their episodes.

Then there’s SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio – the only 24/7 radio channel exclusively dedicated to fantasy sports. Here you can get expert advice, strategy, and information plus hear interviews with athletes, coaches and insiders to help you dominate your league.

If you’re still not swayed to join in on the fun, fantasy football leagues offer exhilarating competition, the chance to own and manage your own team, plus socialization with other sports fans where you can still practice social distancing. These leagues can also open doors in otherwise awkward social situations, and you may walk away with some new friends.