I play fantasy football, and I love how it makes games unrelated to “your” team interesting. More than anybody else, Raider fans appreciate the value of keeping NFL games exciting late in the season when, with the exception of 2011, there isn’t any hope for life beyond Week 17.
Cashing in on the fantasy football market (or trying to), the Jags recently announced they’re creating a “fantasy” lounge at EverBank Field, and the 49ers are doing the same in their new stadium (set to open next year). In theory, fans would go to this lounge to drink and watch the “Red Zone” channel and other games to keep up with their fantasy leagues. Since the announcement, the critics have laughed at the Jags and attributed the move to the lackluster team’s inability to engage its fanbase. Unsurprisingly, the Niners have emerged from the conversation unscathed.
As part of the NFL, each franchise should act as ambassadors in good faith for the game. In this case, its difficult to judge the merits of in-stadium “fantasy” lounges in terms of whether or not its “good” for the game.
On one hand, it appeals to a broader fan base. It helps to keep people happy and spending money, especially the casual fans. Teams need to ensure that fans are treated as customers; every successful business understands the importance of client satisfaction.
On the other hand, everything in a stadium is secondary to the main event – the game on the gridiron. Without it, you have nothing. It seems counterintuitive to distract from the main event. It feels like we aren’t far from introducing movie theaters or video arcades to the next stadium experience.
There are a number of good questions raised by the threat possibility of a “fantasy” lounge.
Will this still be an issue when its time for the Raiders to get a new stadium (wherever it may be)? Will it be considered in the Coliseum before that? Would the conversation be different if it wasn’t called a “fantasy” lounge? Would anybody even talk about this if it was just a large room with seats, booze and the “Red Zone” channel on the screens?
We shouldn’t be too critical of teams that go the route of fantasy lounges. Stadiums have undergone many changes over the years, and I’m sure that even the introduction of video screens on scoreboards had people up in arms. There is a simple solution: just call this new entity a lounge. It might take away the marketability of having the lounge in the first place, but how many more fans are REALLY going to buy a ticket because they heard about a “fantasy” lounge?
If fans want to watch different game after paying NFL prices to get through the gates, who really cares? It gives the real fans a little more space to watch the game that should matter most.