Fairfax’s fantasy fail: Dream teams breathe new life into footy

This Saturday’s Age newspaper includes a disingenuous and ignorant attack on Australian fantasy football.

The article, entitled Dream teams suck the life out of footy, is the first mainstream media attack on Dream Team, and by extension the rest of the Australian fantasy football industry, that I can remember. What makes it ridiculous in my eyes is that Hinds is not even railing against fantasy football itself, just that it is now focused mostly on the Internet and on what he calls “mass-entry” competitions. Hinds details his participation in offline private draft leagues dating back many years, so he is obviously a fan of fantasy footy in general. Where he shows his ignorance is in claiming that Dream Team and other salary cap competitions have no community. This very site is proof that he is wrong, as tens of thousands of people log on to FanFooty every week to read and post in the live chat during games, with healthy numbers of you also posting comments on this blog, and our new FanFooty forum growing like topsy. The BigFooty fantasy section gets better and bigger every year, while there are other fantasy-specific forums like Dream Team Forum and the DT Talk forum.

Richard Hinds FAILHinds’ main problem seems to be that he doesn’t like the Internet. Richard, that just makes you look old. Fantasy football is a young person’s game, and young people don’t have the same hangups you do. They know that the Internet is just one part of a person’s communication throughout a day, and whether you talk to people in person or online doesn’t matter. Further, young people have no problem mixing online and offline contact with the same groups of people. It’s not as if fantasy fans have one set of people they interact with in real life, and then another completely separate set of online acquaintances through fantasy football. I would venture to guess that the majority of Australian fantasy football leagues – whether they be part of “mass-entry” salary cap competitions or online private draft leagues such as FanFooty, Ultimate Footy or Premium Dream Team, or offline private draft leagues like the ones Richard himself still participates in – are extensions of real life social groupings. Workmates still gather around the Iced Vo-Vo tray at the office and talk Dream Team on Monday mornings. Families talk Dream Team in the lounge room. Schoolmates talk Dream Team in the schoolyard, playground, shelter shed, footy fields, classroom, school bus…

I have a question to ask Richard: why didn’t you include tipping competitions in your little rant? The same issues apply: an offline activity moving mostly online, lack of community feel to online tipping comps, fans rooting for teams they wouldn’t care about otherwise just because they tipped the team to win. What’s so different about that?

Another aspect of this is the fact that Hinds works for Fairfax, which has dropped the ball on fantasy football – a subject I am wary of bringing up, because I don’t want to suggest that he was put up to this article by an editor, or that he wrote it out of jealousy that his contemporaries over at the News Limited papers are having such success with the Super Coach competition. Fairfax was one of the pioneers of fantasy football in this country with a competition in the mid-1990s, as I detail in my short history of Australian fantasy football post. News Limited played catch up back then, but now they have the most popular fantasy football competition in the country, surpassing even AFL Dream Team itself in registrations last year. It is disingenuous for a Fairfax journalist to attack fantasy football when the organisation he works for has been so clueless in taking up the opportunity that its own paper established in the first place. I speak as someone who has tried in vain, as many others have in this industry, to get Fairfax management to embrace fantasy football once again – something they really do need to do to stop the News Limited domination of the space. I don’t know if Hinds is expressing the views of his superiors, but the public attitude by Fairfax has been cold towards fantasy footy in this decade, and this article doesn’t help.

The funny thing about this is that participation in fantasy football actually increases consumption of football media, including publications like The Age. Fantasy coaches have to know about not just the 40 players on their favourite club’s list, but the full 700+ lists of all 16 clubs, down to rookies and NSW scholarship players. Fantasy coaches watch more games, read more newspapers, load up more Web sites and amass more knowledge about the game than any of the nicotine-stained reprobates standing on the tops of beer cans in uncovered terraces of yore.

Another weak insinuation is the old chestnut of fantasy fans being a minority of cardigan-wearing geeks. However, Hinds also talks about “mass-entry” and the dehumanisation of crowds. You can’t have it both ways, Richard! Are you accusing 250,000 people of all being nerds? In which case, you’re the one looking like the nerd who doesn’t get it, Richard.

I’ll leave the final word to a couple of commenters called Superfist and Disco (UK) on the FanFooty blog – you know Richard, blog comments, which your site doesn’t allow – who sum up the feeling of fantasy fans.

Really a terrible article based upon a superficial understanding of what dream team is. I can’t believe it was even published – what low grade journalism to twice refer to competitions that he had some involvement in as if they were “more real” and more socially interactive while suggesting that ordinary dream team would dilute people’s interest in the game.

I saw that rubbish article. Its funny how the Age aren’t running a DT competition and their competitor (Herald Sun) is and the Age try to bag the shit out of DT. If the author did any research he’d find websites like FanFooty and DT Talk contradict his whole arguement about lack of meaningful interaction. People don’t like DT or don’t like cheering for a player in their DT playing against the team they barrack for simply won’t register a DT. Its a shame The Age website is in the dark ages and doesn’t provide a comments section for their articles, unlike the Herald Sun website. Let the smashing of said article begin!

75 Comments

  1. Pingback: NAB Cup semis podcast: Coaches Box #57

  2. Pingback: The Coaches Box - AFL Fantasy Footy Podcast | #57: NAB Round 3 2009, live on Ustream

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *