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ESPN's Matthew Berry traces the rise of fantasy sports in 'Fantasy Life'

Cover for Matthew Berry's book,
Cover for Matthew Berry's book, "Fantasy Life: The Outrageous, Uplifting and Heartbreaking World of Fantasy Sports From the Guy Who's Lived It."
Penguin Books

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For most teams, NFL training camps begin this week. It's a time when pro football's super stars get ready for the season and everyone else is jockeying for positions on the roster.

It's also a time when millions start to analyze every piece of information they can to get ready for their fantasy football draft. No longer the solely the realm of jocks and nerds, fantasy sports has become the great equalizer.

From CEOs to students, politicians to citizens, regardless of race, gender or age, fantasy sports puts everyone in the same same room, on equal footing, all for the sheer fun it. And maybe for the bragging rights.

Matthew Berry is the senior fantasy sports analyst for ESPN and has written a new book, "Fantasy Life: The Outrageous, Uplifting and Heartbreaking World of Fantasy Sports From the Guy Who's Lived It."

Interview Highlights:

On fantasy sports as the original social media:
"I always say that before Facebook or MySpace, fantasy football was the original online community. I talk about this in the book. I've been playing since I was fourteen years old. My very first league is still together to this day. I'm 43 now. Next April will be the 30th anniversary of the Fat Dog Rotisserie League out of College Station, TX, which is where I grew up. It's still going to this day. Six of the original ten members are still there, two others have been it for 20+ years. I fly back every year for it."

On the importance of the fantasy draft:
"Draft day is the most important day of the year. If you don't have a good draft, you're in for a long season. So, no question about it, people will do whatever it takes. I know people who have braved hurricanes, that have braved brushfires. I have a guy that was in Afghanistan serving overseas, and literally, he was getting bombed. There was an attack on his station. He was still drafting."

The financial impact of fantasy sports:
"There have been studies that have shown that the average sports fan watches about three hours of football per week. The average fantasy sports player watches six hours. There have been studies that show that fantasy football players are more likely to buy tickets, more likely to watch games, more likely to buy jerseys, more likely to buy shoulder programming like NFL Sunday Ticket, that sort of thing. So owners love that because it's more revenue for them."

On finding a balance between fantasy and reality:
"I've known people that are in 50 leagues, in 70 leagues, that are just...hardcore. My take on fantasy, like anything, look, everything in moderation. Nothing is good in excess...I'll do between eight and ten. Last year I was in eight. It's really fun. I try to limit it; there was a time when I was in as many leagues as you are and it's too much, with the job. I have five kids and a wife, so there's only so many hours in the day.

Fantasy Life by Matthew Berry