Commissioner Goodell has thrown his support behind this popular and growing hobby, which now has millions upon millions of participants (the Fantasy Sports Trade Association estimates 33,559,990 people played fantasy sports in the United States in 2013). This was clear during the discussion, as he mentioned "fantasy football" twice in his remarks and described it as a way to keep fan interest throughout the course of the NFL season.
"Even if your team isn't playing well, meaning the Giants as an example of your teams, you're still following your fantasy league or you're following the Red Zone or your mobile device," Goodell said. "So it has created more interest for a longer period of time."
"And we all know about fathers and their relationships with their daughters, maybe during those years sometimes they can get tense," Goodell said. The commissioner went on to describe how playing in a father-daughter fantasy league was a godsend for their relationship and "brought [them] back together."
Goodell's sense of family and how fantasy football can be a positive force certainly hits home for me.
In 2012 at the first NFL Fantasy Draft Week event in New York City, the commissioner was nice enough to meet members of my family who had attended the event. During an interview with myself and some of the other "NFL Fantasy LIVE" members, he mentioned that meeting and how fantasy football is a great way to bring people together. It's been true for me, as my 71-year old father plays in a fantasy league with my sister and other members of the family. My mother, soon to be 70, now participates in a league with her 79-year-old boyfriend and other family members and friends.
The support of Commissioner Goodell and the NFL is tremendous for the fantasy football industry and the millions of fans who participate, but it wasn't immediate. I can remember a time when fantasy sports were considered an outlet for "stat geeks" and not part of the sports mainstream. Things have changed over the last five years, though, as the league now clearly backs fantasy 100 percent.
The "NFL Fantasy LIVE" show started in 2010 and is now broadcast five days a week on NFL Network and Sunday mornings (during the regular season) on the Red Zone channel. The NFL is also supporting fantasy football fans in other ways, such as the initiative to install Wi-Fi in all 31 stadiums. That makes it easier for fans to attend games and keep track of their fantasy leagues. There are also plans for "fantasy football lounges" to pop up in stadiums across the league. In fact, the San Francisco 49ers and Yahoo! announced a deal that includes a fantasy football experience at the team's new state-of-the-art Levi's Stadium.
Well, the popularity of this mega-hobby will continue to grow on NFL.com and across online platforms that service fantasy sports leagues everywhere. We could even start to see more and more people playing in daily and weekly leagues, which have gained popularity in recent years. Whether it's family and friends, keeping in touch with old college buddies or playing against fans from across the country and the world, fantasy football is now a huge part of the NFL experience ... and it's here to stay.