The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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The rise of online fantasy leagues

Alexandria Keeton, a 39-year-old mother of three stands outside on the patio of her small, but cozy, three-bedroom townhouse and looks out at the horde of vehicles crowding the busy street below as she reflects on her past of failed romantic relationships.

For a woman who had constantly invested too much of her own contentment in correcting her former husband’s “problems,” she finally came to the realization last year that the “perfect man” ceased to exist, so she decided to create not just one ideal companion, but an entire panel of them.

Keeton is just one of 750 members of a booming new online web site, (FHL) that lets its members manage and monitor a cyber-marriage between them and 20 eligible men in an online league born from the original idea of the male-dominated fantasy football.

According to a September 2006 article on, more than 15 million adults in the United States play fantasy sports, generating $1 billion to $2 billion a year on publication subscriptions, entrance fees, mail-order draft kits and other paraphernalia. Offbeat sites are popping up almost daily now and include people of both genders, not just males, who, in the past, have made up 86 percent of the online fantasy world.

Since the launch of FHL, founder Kim Cramer has been reaping the financial benefits of her “offbeat” site with all the shocked and humble approach of someone with realistic expectations of any startup business.

“I really didn’t expect any of this,” Cramer laughed. “Fantasy sports are predominantly taken over by men. Now that women have something to do, the media frenzy this has caused is just surreal.” Despite the normally male-oriented popularity of the game, Keeton begs to differ on behalf of the 14 percent of players who are women. “We (women) seem to be coming up in other aspects of the world in relation to our male counterparts,” she argues. “So why not have the same equality in computer games? “Keeton has been a member of FHL since its cyber-birth in August 2006 and has since been hooked.

As fun as it is, though, it is not exactly a realistic account of how most men really react to situations while in a relationship,” she regrets. “At least not in my experience.”

So how does a player choose and manage their harem of handsome and eligible cyber-bachelors?

After paying a small fee of $6.95 for a seven-week session, the members get to choose one “husband” from their group of 20 whom they believe will correctly answer a relationship scenario question that is posted on the web site each week.

One example of a scenario reads, “Your wife had an affair with a man from her office.

She swears it’s over and is sincerely working on getting your marriage back on track, but she refuses to quit her job. What do you do?”

“Although the men aren’t real, their answers are,” reads the FHL web site. “We’ve polled the 20 men to see what they’d say in response to the relationship scenarios and their responses are then graded by award-winning relationship experts according to their potential to foster a normal, healthy, loving and supportive marriage.”

Experts in turn post feedback about the winning husbands’ answers in order to help shed light on the rationale behind them. At the session’s end, the player with the most points, and the perfect hubby, wins a diamond necklace. “I haven’t won anything yet,” Keeton said. “But I’m still new (to the site).”

What are the reasons for the sudden interest in playing executive to a frivolous team of people who are not even real?

“For one, it gives these individuals a sense of community, commitment and a sense of belonging which is what many of these social-based web sites provide,” said Valerie Fishman, Pierce College psychology professor.

“But more than anything, it feeds the underlying need for control, power and feeling of importance, which used to satisfy the once male-dominate society. Now we’re seeing much more of this authoritative trend coming from women.”

Whitney Wing, 26, of Los Angeles, can relate to the popularity of women-oriented fantasy leagues. She, like many others based in L.A., has taken to the entertainment industry to become a manager of celebrities via the Internet.

Wing is also one of the many devoted female members to (TABFL), which allows a member to create and manage a team of celebrities who, when discussed in that week’s gossip magazine, gain or lose the player points.

The point system is based on whether or not that celebrity in the member’s portfolio had a negative or positive story written about them that week.

“Unfortunately, when Britney (Spears) shaved her head and lost her mind, that lost me points because she was on my top five list of celebrities I thought would appear that week in US Weekly, People or Star,” Wing said.

“But I put her there thinking that she would better her life after her split with Kevin (Federline), therefore putting me at a better chance of winning.”

If the public thought that the superstar was under careful scrutiny before, the entertainment industry has another thing coming. Now, wild antics such as Nicole Ritchie’s infamous opposite-side-of-the-freeway joyride or Anna Nicole Smith’s drug overdose carry a burden, not just for the stars themselves, but for the TABFL members who decide to “manage” them.

“I’m a gossip junkie,” Wing admits. “I’m always reading those stupid tabloids and even get daily text messages from to keep me updated on the latest dirt, so I think I’ve got a pretty good chance of winning one of these days.”

She adds, “I’ve also always been addicted to the Internet and competitive games so any site that combines those two together, I’m there.” Steve Reese, a 28-year-old accountant, laughed when he was told what a surprise it was that he admitted to being an online fantasy league junkie himself. What’s his fix?, a reality TV show fantasy league.

“I can’t even watch sitcoms anymore without thinking they’re scripted and cheesy,” Reese said. “Ever since the popularity of reality TV shows, I watch or record almost every one of them every week. “He continued, “I think the biggest reason for my being signed up to a web site such as this is that it gives watching (the shows) more purpose. I guess I don’t feel as guilty spending so many hours on these shows if I know that there’s a contest behind it.”

The contest on is based on what the viewers expect to happen that week in the show. Players receive points depending on which character they believe will stay on the show in hopes they will not get voted off that week.

“I won’t name names, “he said. “But many of my friends who are guys play on sites like these that aren’t sport-related. It just gives us something else to do besides checking our MySpace,” he laughed. Although text messaging, MySpace and online competitive games may seem like a harmless way to pass the time on a Sunday afternoon, experts seem to argue that this ascending trend of further involvement in online group exchanges could pull us deeper into social withdrawal.

“What I see happening eventually,” Fishman said, “is that human beings are going to end up with severe social anxiety because the rise of technologically communicative habits keep people from corresponding face-to-face anymore.”

And for people such as Keeton, it seems that now she does not hold much faith in a “real” husband anymore since her “fantasy husbands” came along.

“I like to see what these husbands have to offer me that my ex-husband never could,” she joked.

But others say this new trend of online gaming has its upsides by arguing that participating in these competitions also teaches the players valuable lessons.

“My hope for (FHL) would be a game for fun but something that also teaches a lesson when it comes to relationships,” Cramer said. “The marriage counselors I worked with were excited to see this
because the divorce rate (in the U.S.) is 50 percent, so anything that addresses relationship issues is great! Now if only men would go on this site to read about the proper way to deal with marital problems,” added Keeton, “relationships would be OK.”

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