Fantasy football fans kick-off NFL season in downtown Rochester - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

Fantasy football fans kick-off NFL season in downtown Rochester

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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) -- Experts say the number of fantasy football players has doubled in the past five years. It's fueling dozens of economies, from television and Internet revenues to magazine sales and chicken wing and beer sales. Research shows that younger players are now getting more involved and older players have no plans of retiring.

Those statistics were backed up Thursday night in downtown Rochester, where a crowd of fantasy football fans showed up at Dooley's Pub to watch the Broncos take on the Ravens in the first game of the 2013 NFL season.

In Minneapolis, fantasy football is also big, where some fans attended a fantasy training camp, hosted by Paul Charchian. Charch, as he's known, has been a big player in the industry for 20 years. He also hosts the first and longest running fantasy football radio show in the country. "Minnesota is a great market for fantasy sports," he explained.

Charchian is also the President of the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, and the organization has been tracking a meteoric rise. 20 years ago, an estimated 3 million people played fantasy sports. "Now there are 33 and a half million Americans playing. Fantasy sport is now a $1.6 billion industry," he notes, adding football fuels 75% of the industry.

"The amount of time being spent playing fantasy football is pretty amazing. 9 hours, on average, will be spent in front of the computer. By comparison, we'll spend 7 hours a month on Facebook." Charch also notes the average fantasy football player watches twice as much NFL football on TV when compared to the average fan.

And it's not just a man's world. 20% of fantasy sports players are women; meaning 6.7 million women compete. "Well I commission 7 leagues," Michelle Aherns said proudly, before admitting she competes in a couple of other leagues as well. "I want as many people as possible to have fun during football season because it's the best time of the year," she said. We asked how women play, compared to men. "The women that are in the leagues... they whine less," was her reply.

Fantasy football has also changed the way we watch the NFL on Sundays. It's not uncommon for a diehard player to watch 3 different TVs while monitoring stats on 2 different laptop computers. "I love going to the game live, but then you miss watching your team," Trevor Van Shyndel said.

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