When Allison Lodish’s husband first started playing fantasy football, she viewed it as an innocuous pursuit. “Had I known where it would lead, I may not have been so eager for him to take up this hobby,” she says, having since reconsidered her initial stance. Over the course of the past five NFL seasons, her husband of 13 years has spent an inordinate amount of time reviewing player statistics, drafting teams, managing lineups, making trades, and trash-talking with fellow fantasy league participants—time that could have been better spent, in her opinion, with her and the couple’s two children.
Her hubby’s descent into fantasy football addiction explains why the 36-year-old Lodish—who emphasizes that she enjoys watching sports—decided to engage in a little good natured “retaliation,” partnering with Nichole Jordan and Azar McMaster to found Women Against Fantasy Sports (WAFS), a Web-based support group that provides an outlet for women to address their significant other’s fantasy sports compulsion. The trio launched womenagainstfantasysports.com in August 2008, and today the site has close to 3,000 registered members, who keep in touch via the message board, which is populated by individuals with user names like Myhusbandbelongsto6league [sic], ManningsSuck, and Ih8fantasydorks.
The site’s users might be surprised to learn that one of WAFS’s founders is male, and a recovering fantasy football addict to boot. McMaster says he once participated in ten fantasy leagues simultaneously—the year he “hit rock bottom,” as he puts it. “I wasted too much time on fantasy football,” he admits, an endeavor that involves mock drafting NFL quarterbacks, wide receivers, tight ends, placekickers, and team defenses, and then using their statistics to determine the outcome of weekly head-to-head matchups. “I realized that there were enough fantasy dorks to support an online gathering place for sharing stories and buying cool stuff that pokes fun at our addiction,” he continues.
There’s no denying that WAFS’s potential audience is huge. According to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, fantasy sports is a multi-billion dollar industry, with 27 million U.S. adults participating in any given year. (An estimated 15 percent of the audience is female, and in spite of WAFS’s name, the group readily welcomes interested males.) Yet it’s obvious that the site caters to women, generating revenue via advertising and WAFS apparel, which includes the “I thought I was your fantasy” T-shirt, and black hip hugger-style shorts that convey the message 'Closed for the fantasy season' in white lettering on the crotch.
According to the founders, creating a strong sense of community—a place where women can commiserate with each other—is WAFS’s overriding goal. Certainly, members haven’t been shy about sharing their personal experiences. Lodish heard from one woman whose husband carted his laptop into the delivery room so he could draft players while she was giving birth. Another claimed her husband delayed evacuating his family during a hurricane, staying put long enough to get an update on his team. And one wife related how she went shopping while her husband hosted a fantasy draft, only to return home to find her kitchen on fire—the assembled men so engrossed in fantasy land that they were oblivious to the smoke and flames in the next room.
With stories like these, it’s no wonder that WAFS periodically spotlights the experiences of members like 'trophy wife Suzi Shelton,' who married a Cleveland Browns fan with a large collection of fantasy football trophies, which “he designed and sculpted with his own hands.”
Those affected by fantasy sports addiction will no doubt be dismayed that the industry is still in growth mode. Companies like Fantasy Sports Insurance have sprung up to insure players in football, baseball, basketball, hockey, soccer, golf and NASCAR. Meanwhile, Web sites like fantasydispute.com and sportsjudge.com offer impartial fantasy dispute resolution—for a fee, of course.
Under the circumstances, it’s not surprising that Lodish is often asked for advice on how to handle a fantasy sports obsessed man. In general, she urges women to make an agreement that limits how much time their boyfriend or husband spends on his fantasy team(s). Lodish also advocates “finding some humor in the situation, because they’re the lame ones—not you,” she reminds.
As for Lodish’s personal situation, she admits that her husband—a Philadelphia Eagles fan who took her to Eagles training camp on their anniversary this year—remains a work-in-progress. “He took up fantasy baseball this year, perhaps out of spite,” she quips, noting that baseball (with its 162 game season) takes up more of his time than football. “I thought I had it bad when he was in ten fantasy football leagues,” she begins, “but one baseball league is worse.”