Posted September 7, 2016
“So,” my son greeted me over the weekend, “How’s your team?”
I smiled inside. It quickly dawned on me: Here’s the new-normal for when people come together this time of year. Not: “How was your weekend?” or “How’s the wife/husband?” or “How’s the job?” Not: “How ya doin’ pops?” – but rather, “How’s your team?” Fantasy Football is back.
With the NFL regular season kicking off Thursday night, “How’s your team?” actually will be on the lips and minds of millions of Americans as they check Week 1 player performance projections, as they scan the waiver list, as they beg the owner of “Mr. Rodgers’ Neighborhood” to make a late deal. Admit it, America: You’re enslaved to NFL RedZone. As Dan Okrent, the godfather of modern fantasy sports put it: “I feel the way J. Robert Oppenheimer felt after having invented the atomic bomb: If I'd only known this plague that I've visited upon the world.”
Fantasy Football a plague, a virus? You bet! And one for which we don’t necessarily want a cure – though our bosses might, given estimates that Fantasy Football cost employers $16 billion in 2015 in unproductive work time over the 17-week season. I mean, the blame belonged either to Fantasy or productivity lost to watching puppy videos on Facebook, right?
Seriously, we’re seriously into Fantasy Football. According to The Fantasy Sports Trade Association, more than 57.4 million people age 12 and above played fantasy sports in 2015. Since we’ve been talking in pestilential terms, that’s nearly as many Americans who suffer colds a year.
To which I say: Thank goodness for energy.
No disrespect to Cam, Dez, AD and Odell, but without modern energy there’d be no pro football as we know it, and for yuks we’d be back in the 1850s talking about Fantasy Horseshoes or something. Thanks to the power of energy, there’s the NFL – and Fantasy Football is everywhere and accessible to nearly everyone.
Let’s focus on the Fantasy-energy link. We’ve posted before on the role of computers, the Internet and Big Data as integral to the functions of a modern society. U.S. data centers, where all those magical servers with all that magical sports data are located, use approximately 100 billion kilowatt hours a year, or 2 to 3 percent of the nation’s total electricity usage. That’s electricity increasingly generated from natural gas, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration data:
Beyond the data centers and servers that support the Internet, we’re talking about power for laptops during your Fantasy draft, power to charge smartphones when you’re reading and weeping about last weekend results, power to surf the Internet for the latest intel on Aaron Rodgers’ bunion. Power from natural gas – abundant and affordable because of the ongoing U.S. energy renaissance – that’s expected to reach a record level this year, EIA says.
There’s a lot of us looking. According to Nielsen’s 2014 Year in Sports Report, more than 70 million consumed sports on either their smartphones or computer in the third quarter of 2014. And of that group, the top 20 percent—10 million on phones, 15 million online—consumed 85 percent of the total sports minutes viewed in that quarter. A collective 72.3 million Americans consumed a staggering 7.1 billion minutes of sports content on their smartphones in October 2014, with 79 million online users consuming over 8.7 billion minutes of content. From October 2012 to 2014, the average user increased their monthly smartphone time spent by 35 percent. None of that happens without energy.
As noted in that previous post, if you use a home desktop computer and monitor for an hour a day, 240 days a year, you’ll use 28.83 kilowatts of electricity. A laptop might use 72 kilowatts a year. If you’ve got an iPhone that uses approximately 2 kilowatts a year. The battery holds a charge of 1,440 mAh, or about 5.45 watt hours. If you fully drain and recharge your phone every day, then over a year, you’d have to feed it about 2,000 watt hours, or 2 kilowatt-hours. (During Fantasy season, of course, you might be charging and draining your phone more than once a day, right?)
There’s a lot of energy involved for each league’s Draft Day festivities – whether you’re gathering at the local watering hole or in the basement at “Touchdownton Abbey’s” house.
Let’s say all your Draft Day trash talking and chest-thumping occurs at a sports bar. Everything – the bar’s lights, cooling systems, high-definition televisions, all-important Wi-Fi and surround-sound systems, the kitchen preparing the nachos and wings, the draught system dispensing cold beer, the transportation to and from the event—requires tremendous amounts of energy.
Restaurants and bars use about 2.5 times more energy per square foot than other commercial buildings. Kitchens are particularly energy intensive. For example, a typical electric deep fat fryer uses more than 11,000 kilowatt hours of energy per year. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration data, cooking in a typical restaurant accounts for 49 percent of total annual natural gas use, while refrigeration accounts for 31 percent of total annual electricity consumption. Again, thanks natural gas and the other leading fuels for utility-scale power generation (coal, nuclear, wind, hydro). The energy we use comes from somewhere – mostly, oil and natural gas (accounting for about 65 percent of the U.S. total in 2015; projected to be 65 percent of the U.S. total in 2040).
So here’s raising a glass to the spirit of competition, a salute to the next 17 weeks of friendly rivalries – adversaries going by names like “The Bacon Eaters,” “The Tannehills Have Eyes” and “Rudy Was Offsides” – to the 32 NFL teams and 1,696 players that entertain us, and most importantly, to the energy resources that make Fantasy Football an entertainment reality.
Now, let me go check on my team.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Green joins API after spending 16 years as national editorial writer in the Washington Bureau of The Oklahoman newspaper. In all, he has been a reporter and editor for more than 30 years, including six years as sports editor at The Washington Times. He lives in Occoquan, Virginia, with his wife Pamela. Mark graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a degree in journalism and earned a masters in journalism and public affairs at American University. He's currently working on a masters in history at George Mason University, where he also teaches as an adjunct professor in the Communication Department.