Fantasy football is an odd beast in America. The NFL spawned it but it is now a bigger entity than the actual league. In more recent years, the growth of daily fantasy games, led by a company called Draft Kings, has moved things up to another level. However things are starting to turn sour.
While Draft Kings is becoming more and more popular, their sponsorship deal with ESPN has irked many people, including US sports site Deadspin. To be fair, you can't read, listen or watch a minute of their fantasy coverage this season without hearing a mention of Draft Kings or at least a nod to 'dailies' but the critics need to calm the hell down.
ESPN's lead fantasy columnist, Matthew Berry has bore the brunt of the criticism. He stars in their Fantasy Focus podcast - now broadcasting from the 'Draft Kings Studios' - and writes a weekly column called 'Love/Hate' where he highlights players he likes and doesn't like for the upcoming gameweek. This season he has started mentioning 'daily fantasy games' in his advice and is receiving an ocean of abuse for doing so.
Daily games work slightly differently to normal fantasy football in that you only own the player for the weekend and it's more like 'Fantasy Premier League' in the way you 'buy' players. So obviously his advice when it comes to Draft Kings would be different to what he'd say with regard to a standard game.
But the fact that he and ESPN are getting paid to mentioned the daily games has opened him up to a massive scolding. His first Love/Hate column this week got so much criticism that he considered not writing any more of them.
After thinking on it for a long time he came back with another article this week, in which he says:
Full disclosure: I am a paid spokesman for them[Draft Kings]. I’ve filmed a few commercials for them, I’m going to continue to tweet for them, make appearances on their behalf and there will be opportunities for people to play against me on their site in the future. It’s a deal I agreed to for one very specific reason:
I like it.
I like the product, I like the company, I know the people who run the company and they’re good people. I really enjoy playing daily fantasy and I really enjoy doing it on DraftKings. I’d recommend them anyway, so if they want to send me a check to do it? You bet. Where do I sign?
However rather than put out the flames of anger, it has only served to add further fuel to the fire.
Frankly I don't get it.
Yes, when you don't play daily fantasy games their constant mentioning of it and all the ads can be a little annoying but only in the same way that all ads are annoying. Indeed their bloody 'For world class recreation...' auto play ad, for some American tourism initiative, that plays every time you open a page on the ESPN site is much more irritating.
Their podcast is 45 minutes long anyhow so it's hard to keep concentrated for the entire thing when listening so when they start talking about daily I just tune out. And so what if they're getting paid to do it? Isn't that the entire point of work?
Surely it's not a shocker that someone gets paid for doing their job? You don't go around start harassing someone in a shop, shouting 'You sold out!' while they serve you a coffee.
It's not like the folks at ESPN are giving any less coverage to standard fantasy games. Everyone just needs to relax. If you feel the need to criticise Berry then maybe take him to task over the fact that it was on his advice that I persisted with Andre Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald last season why they were doing nothing, or the fact that his Love/Hate column is probably a bit too long.
One thing is for sure. Draft Kings is here to stay so I have a feeling critics are just going to have to get used to it.