Commissioner Roger Goodell’s appearance on CNBC touched on various topics. One topic in particular is one that the NFL typically tries to tap dance around.
The unprecedented growth of pro football over the last 20 years has resulted in large part from the ascension of fantasy football. With free agency potentially undermining fan rooting interest in specific teams, the ability to cobble together a team of their own has expanded fan interest far beyond the teams they love and the teams they hate.
For many, fantasy football has become another form of gambling. While plenty of folks play simply for bragging rights among friends, frenemies, coworkers, and other acquaintances, many make it even more interesting by putting something other than pride at stake.
While addressing the league’s aversion to all forms of gambling, Goodell was asked about fantasy football.
“Fantasy’s a different issue for us,” Goodell said. “We see families getting together. It’s not about wagering. They’re competing against one another. And it’s a fun forum for our fans to engage in the game.”
Most would say that, for many, it’s indeed about wagering. And some (like me) would say it’s just a matter of time before we catch wind of an ultra-high-stakes fantasy league involving players, coaches, and/or other NFL team personnel.
There’s also a chance that, at some point, we’ll find out that a guy who blew a key coverage or missed a key tackle in a meaningless late-season game had on his ultra-high-stakes fantasy team the guy who scored the resulting touchdown.
Regardless of whether the worst-case scenario ever plays out for the NFL, fantasy football is played by many for real money. And that’s wagering, regardless of the fact that no one is betting on any specific team.