I'm currently sitting in Newark Liberty Airport, waiting to board my flight to Austin, Texas. I've never been to Texas, as a matter of fact this is the furthest west of the United States I've ever traveled. I could be excited to see the city, the nightlife, the history. However none of that is on my mind currently. All I can think about is the reason why I'm boarding this flight to get down there.
Yep, you got that right. Good ol' fantasy football. This league is one of the best traditions I get to be a part of every year. It started back in 2014 on the third floor of my old and musty freshman dorm building at Penn State. Me and 7 other guys at the time who had just met at orientation were looking for something to talk about, and found our way to sitting in a 10 ft by 15 ft. non-air conditioned "study lounge" putting together the first draft. Names like Jamaal Charles, LeSean McCoy, and Eddie Lacy were hammered in the first round.
We were just getting to know each other at the time, and I don't think any of us would have thought that 7 years later, we would be boarding flights from all over the country to get together and draft another team hoping to achieve fantasy glory. Since that first season, we added 4 more guys into the league as we began to meet and grow our circle of friends. Every year without fail, the original GroupMe message blows up with trash talk discussing the failed fantasy picks and misfortunes from years prior.
We've got a trophy that myself and another league member spent a day building one summer back in college. On the back shows the names and years of our fantasy champs, and we make sure to remind those that don't have their name on it yet that we can't seem to find their name on it.
I'm pretty sure the first year we did the league we played for $10 or $20 a guy. As a freshman in college, that was about all we could scratch together. And even now with full time jobs, the league dues are still not more than a typical bar tab on a Friday night. The $ ultimately is not what motivates us for filling in our lineups every week, and spending hours researching who we think has a chance to break-out for 3 TD on any given Sunday. It's for the camaraderie, and the bragging rights you'll get to have for years to come if you are so fortunate enough to put together a winning squad.
I've been thinking a lot this past week or two about the power of community. I think I will most likely write a more detailed, deep dive into the power of it at some point in the near future. Whether you are into fantasy football, or horseback riding, or coin collecting, or baseball cards, the underlying driving force that continues to fuel hobbies in all walks of life is community.
Now don't get me wrong, if you haven't watched a snap of football in your life, no matter how much you enjoy the people that are in your league, you most likely will still not enjoy fantasy football. I do believe there has to be some level of interest in whatever hobby or activity it is that you participate in. But I am willing to bet, that the LARGER reason that you or anyone else you know is interested in a hobby or activity, comes down to community. The sense of belonging, and mutual interest shared with your peers is ultimately what drives someone's passion for a hobby or interest.
Human beings are social creatures by nature. For better or for worse, we yearn to find our "tribe" or our circle. The most successful people, products, and businesses even throughout our history all share one thing in common- they were built with a powerful and passionate community around them. From political leaders, to influencers, to brands alike, the ability to build a community is what has driven the adoption and success of the underlying mission.
Apple built an eco-system, and a community of passionate users that would rather pay an extra $500 for a phone just to make sure that their text messages show up blue, and their computers are synched with their text messages.
The NFL and NBA have grown their game globally, leveraging the active social community that exists in the speculation of their game. Whether it be the advancement into sports gambling, fantasy sports, or social media streaming, the growth can all be driven back to the growth in the community supporting the leagues.
Open your Facebook profile and scroll your news feed for a few minutes. The political communities, for better or for worse, are glaring and clearly driven by the shared interests and beliefs in the community that our political leaders have created.
I can go on, but I believe you get my point. As I am finishing writing this, my plane is being called to board.
So I will leave you with a few final points about the future.
Regardless of the technological and cultural advancements of the future, community will be the underlying driving force in most successful products, people, and business.
Teddy Fischer will still be without a fantasy championship in my Fantasy Football league.
I will still have my name on the back of that Fantasy Football Trophy.
Saquon Barkley will run for 2,000 yards and 15 total TDs. (Have you seen the man's calves?)
Good luck to all my fellow fantasy players on their drafts over the next few weeks. I wish you the best, and if you are in my league reading this, hope you did your homework because the Commish is coming for title #2.