July 10th, 2009

Where Fantasy Football Meets Celebrity Leagues?

Friday, July 10th, 2009

The “commissioner” of Fantasy UnSports must like sports at some level, but the new fantasy-style game has very little to do with them.

The concept here begins with building a team of football players (for now; more sports promised for the future), but rather than scoring points for on-field performance, the winning owner will be the one who’s team gathers the most public screwups.

“Fantasy UnSports is a fantasy sports game where touchdowns and yards mean nothing, and arrests and outlandish behavior mean everything,” the site’s intro explains. “Your player had three touchdowns against the Redskins? Big whoop. Your player got a DUI? Jackpot!”

There’s a long list of “qualifying events” that earn points for the teams, including — but certainly not limited to — such things as “jury duty,” committing “manslaugher” and having “someone attacked in athlete’s home when athlete is not present

Is this the sports equivalent of emerging fantasy celebrity league platforms, which score for items that get celebrities in the news — an inevitable product of a marketplace that has grown so large that it requires new concepts? Probably in part. The key difference, though, seems to be that the primary celebrity fantasy outlets seem to focus just on publicity-inducing events rather than crimes.

To me, the UnSports concept is reminiscint of the “death pool” format, where participants select a team of celebrities and then score points when someone on their roster dies. That concept seemed to be growing in the early 2000s before apparently reaching enough prominence that it engendered a backlash, leading that prominence to recede.

Is it wrong to virtually cheer on and benefit from these illegal transgressions of others? I doubt there’s one right answer to that. On one hand, the idea of rooting for a receiver to commit DUI (and if he runs someone over, even better) is vile. On the other, can you fault a group of friends for trying to make light of bad things that too many athletes seem to be doing these days anyway? It’s not as if a small online game is enabling such behavior.

In the end, such pursuits are likely to exist at some level no matter what public opinion might prefer. Death pools are certainly out there. Even this concept isn’t new, as competitions such as the Fantasy Turd League have existed for at least a few years. The Fantasy UnSports platform probably won’t ever find mass appeal, however.

For what it’s worth, Fantasy UnSports is capping its competition at 500 entrants for this year but hopes to build to the point of automating the game and going year round in the future. With any luck, the points source will start to dry up.