Students try their hand at fantasy sports March 20, 2018 — by Alex Wang Online fantasy sports leagues give students new players to root for. As sophomore George Bian watched Todd Gurley, running back for the Los Angeles Rams, rack up more 200 yards and two touchdowns on week 16 of the NFL season, he was ecstatic. Bian knew that with Gurley’s stellar performance, he had secured the win and title over sophomore Leo Cao in their fantasy football league. In fantasy football, participants can form leagues of eight to 14 people on websites such as NFL.com, ESPN and Yahoo! Sports. Before the NFL season starts, teams draft a roster of real-life NFL players. Everyone in the league chips in a certain amount of money to form a small cash pool; for instance, everyone in Bian’s league contributed $5. The winner takes all the money, and it also gives “extra motivation for everyone to keep competing,” Bian said. Throughout the season, fans act as managers of their own team, and they can trade, add or bench players. Every week, teams are put against each other in head-to-head matchups. The team that scores the most points, based on the performances of its players in real life, wins that matchup. There are strategies for which players to play and which players to trade or add, based on what happens around the NFL that week. For Bian, this means reading articles on the NFL app about breaking news or expert opinions. “I read the articles when I'm bored because not only do I enjoy following football, I also want to get an edge in my fantasy football league,” he said. Near the end of the NFL season, there are fantasy football playoffs where the winner of the final matchup is crowned champion. In his league, Bian nabbed the title after defeating his 13 other friends by an overwhelming margin. He had assembled a star team by trading “overhyped” players and finding “hidden gems.” “It was a great feeling to win fantasy football because I like following what goes on in the NFL,” he said. Bian first got into fantasy football two years ago when he was talking with his friends and wanted to join their league. He said that playing fantasy football really enhances his experience as a fan. “I like fantasy football because I really like watching football in real life,” Bian said. “On game days, when I watch a game that the 49ers are not in, I can root for my fantasy players because I want them to get more points.” However, because Bian wants both his favorite team, the 49ers, and his fantasy players to do well, this often creates a conflict of interest, especially when his fantasy players play the 49ers. Sometimes he will root for one certain player to play well but will still want the 49ers to win in the end, he said. Besides fantasy football, another popular fantasy sport among students is fantasy basketball. Fantasy basketball is similar in many aspects to fantasy football. Fans manage teams of players from the NBA and matchups are also played on a weekly basis, with the total points calculated as a cumulation of the players’ points from their games that week. Because of this similarity, students like junior Anuj Changhavi and sophomore Shyam Nuggehalli began playing fantasy basketball after experience in fantasy basketball. For Nuggehalli, it was because many of his players got injured so he transferred from football to basketball, he said. Changavi and Nuggehalli both said that they enjoy playing fantasy basketball because it gets them more involved with the sport. “As a fan, fantasy basketball gets you way more invested because you are always watching out for other players,” Changavi said. On the other hand, Nuggehalli said that he likes the aspect of simulating a general manager. In addition, he said that managing a fantasy team helps educate him on the strengths and weaknesses of each player. To him, fantasy sports represents another way fans can be more connected to a game they love. “If you really like sports and want to compete with friends for bragging rights and money, then fantasy is for you,” Nuggehalli said.