Move over, Christian Grey.
This fall, women are swooning for other men in their fantasies — the men of the National Football League. And it’s not their looks or their thick wallets that women are after, it’s their stats.
For years, my friends have encouraged me to join a fantasy football league. Everyone from hardcore football fanatics to casual viewers (including women) are joining such leagues, they’ve told me. I haven’t signed up, but many of my girlfriends are addicted to checking their fantasy football stats.
Football isn’t just a guy thing anymore. It’s more than a spectator sport to watch with a significant other. Women are planning their errands around game times and getting in on game day talk. Winning points in their leagues is a big deal for brag-worthy sake.
So how does it work?
Participants build virtual teams based on real players. The season starts with a draft, which often involves preparation and a bit of luck. Knowing which player is having a good pre-season, is healthy and “steal-worth” all can help your team move to the next level.
Women are joining fantasy leagues for the same reasons their counterparts enjoy them so much — competition.
Omahan Christine Barth, an account manager, joined a league six years ago after co-workers talked her into it. Barth, 33, said she watched football because her husband enjoys it, but participating has given them something else to do together and makes football viewing fun.
“My husband likes that I am interested in watching the games,” she said.
For some female football fans, the fantasy leagues heighten their experience of the sport.
Take Lori Ballinger, 44, a Bellevue middle school teacher and high school football coach. She’s been participating in fantasy football since 1994, has won her league twice and been runner up three times.
Her love of football is hardly a fantasy.
“I played tackle football as a kid,” she said. “I watch three days a week. I coach… I live football.”
Winning bragging rights and cash prizes is fun, but some women join fantasy leagues for the love of the game.
Omahan Carmen Steele, 44 and a copywriter, has won her league tournament three times. She never plays for money.
“I play for the love of the game and because it appeals to my competitive side,” Steele said.
Mostly, men enjoy having women join their leagues. But it’s not unheard of that a woman is booted from a fantasy football league. In
fact, it happened to Steele twice.
“I was kicked out of two (leagues) because the men couldn’t handle losing to a woman,” she said.
Unlike Omahan Ann Frink, 34, who said her husband’s friends are welcoming.
Frink — who has won seven times and been a runner-up four times in the 10 years of playing fantasy football — is often sought after for football advice from her husband’s buddies.
“I would love to teach a class on how to draft a winning fantasy team,” Frink said.
Although it’s too late for me to join a league this year, I will be cheering on all the gals who are playing hard to win hard — for the love of the game.
Jen Schneider is a middle school teacher and mom to two children.
Read her blogs every Tuesday on momaha.com
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