The Seventh Day has been humanity’s sacred day since biblical times. The Fourth Commandment, the Bible, and the one who wrote it, agrees with me. “On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, nor your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates,” the Book of Exodus states.
This is why everyone loves Sundays. We are able to do nothing all day without feeling the guilt of it, a scenario we cannot embrace on any other day of the week. We can use this day for homework or housework, and if we don’t, No One Shall Frown upon Us.
But Sundays during the autumn and winter months have become the biggest holiday in the country over the past few decades. Yes, Christmas is celebrated for four weeks and Easter for 40 days. But for 20 weeks from the preseason to the Super Bowl, NFL football dominates our entitled day of laziness.
The corporation now unofficially owns this day. Just flipping on a game for an hour is no longer the standard, either. There’s much more to it, so I’ll walk you through.
You’ve awoken, showered, and clothed yourself, hopefully. You’ve gone to church and prayed for health, world peace, and Adrian Peterson. You’ve gone to breakfast and impregnated yourself with a food baby named Pancake, initiating the Sunday Binge Eating ritual. You’re ready to take on this day of football, so you flip on your TV, open your footrest, and begin the game-time warm-up.
First come the pregame shows. These shows consist of wealthy men wearing suits and makeup gossiping about other wealthy men, something similar to The View, only for football. Three or four of these programs run simultaneously in the morning. FOX NFL Sunday and CBS Gameday usually run an hour, while Sunday NFL Countdown on ESPN lets Chris Berman, the Oprah Winfrey of football, talk for four. Despite the condescending speech from analysts who like to be wrong, these programs are more entertaining than the list of Sunday chores you’ve been given by the dominant member of your house.
Next comes the new height of the NFL Sunday. It does not include food, nor Chris Berman, nor even the actual games. It’s the fantasy football lineup.
Fantasy football, the new power behind the NFL Kingdom, is a game that can put your average fan through happiness, hysteria, and heartbreak on game day, sometimes all in a span of 30 minutes.
The first thing that makes fantasy football possible, and interesting, is the league. A normal fantasy football league is made up of 8-12 people, preferably ones with a slight sense of football knowledge. Most leagues cost nothing to join; however, it is common for friends to include buy-ins, adding a risk factor and forcing you to pay attention throughout the season. Though ‘fantasy’ is actually in the name, some have turned the season’s consequences into a reality. Cash prizes and bragging rights are common among league champions, but the real risks involve punishments for coming in last. Some are lighthearted, others can be extreme. These range from public humiliation to pain tolerance, from tomato launching to belly-button piercings. Here’s the punishment for one league in the Bronx: “The week before the draft, the last-place finisher is taken to a paintball location, where he has to dress as a lion and be hunted by everyone else in the league.”
But the most known is a league made up of Nebraskans called the “Tattoo League.” It’s as bad as it sounds. Every year, the league’s champion designs a tattoo to be etched upon the skin of the one in last. These tattoos could be anything from unicorns kicking field-goals to Care Bears in uniform.
As the season approaches, all teams select 14 players for their lineup. This is called Draft Day. Organized similarly to the NFL draft, Draft Day has also become an anticipated event. It is possible to draft online at home, but many leagues go above and beyond with house parties, food and beverages, and draft boards larger than vehicles. Wherever it may be, Draft Day is the starting block of the fantasy football season. For the next 15 weeks after Draft Day, you and your players must try to outscore your opponents, based on a player’s stats week-to-week. Throughout the year, you may also acquire and drop players on something called the “waiver wire,” which is a great if your team is absolutely horrific.
The fantasy industry in every sport is already popular, and it has branched out from a simple game to a gambling activity. One-week fantasy leagues such as Fan Duel and Draft Kings have sprouted recently. These don’t require the same amount of dedication, but do require actual currency. Losing real money over a football game somehow entertains Americans, and commercials run every ten seconds by these two organizations confirm it.
This interactivity is why NFL football has not only taken over Sunday, but the American sports industry itself. Any fan can flip on any game and have someone to root for, or against, because they chose or bet money on someone playing. Thus, Sunday has become more than watching your favorite team for 3 hours of the day. It’s rooting for your players for 13 hours of the week. This silly game is now a $70 billion industry, according to Forbes. It may be a less traditional way to follow a sport, but it’s definitely working.
So, as you spend the Holy Day on your couch eating peanuts and watching Aaron Rodgers make defensive backs look like schoolchildren, acknowledge that every yard, reception, and touchdown is a dollar moving to or from someone’s pocket. And if it happens to be from your pocket, the NFL and its Fantasy King thanks you.
Austin Lammers is the editor-in-chief of The Pine Needle.
Kaleb Hedman and Tyler Quillen contributed to this story.