From 75 attendees to 500 from one year to the next, the Fantasy Football Expo grew much like the industry itself.
And Bob Lung, fantasy football expert and author who started the Expo in his hometown of Canton, couldn’t be happier.
“When I saw my Consistency article published in a magazine for the first time I said, ‘This is the biggest thing ever’,” Lung said. “Then in 2018 my Consistency Guide won best fantasy football publication I said ‘There’s no way this can get any bigger.’
“Then with the Expo idea I said, ‘How can it get any bigger than this?’.”
It has gotten bigger indeed and likely will get bigger still.
The third Fantasy Football Expo will be held Aug. 12-14 in Canton. Expo tickets and general information can be found online at https://thefantasyfootballexpo.com/.
“Make a road trip with your buddies,” Lung said. “Whether you just want to go to the (Pro Football) Hall of Fame or have interest in fantasy football. You can meet the experts that are going to be there. I don’t care what type of fantasy football you play, we have a panel discussion for it. We want people to learn, we want people to enjoy, we want people to just relax and have a good time.”
Among the fantasy experts at this year’s Expo are the Dynasty Nerds, NBC Sports Edge, Fantrax, Trophy Smack, Fantasy In Frames, Fantasy Headliners, FTN Fantasy, The IDP Guys, The Fantasy Doctors, Fantasy Points and Football Guys.
Lung has written for numerous fantasy football websites, hosted The Fantasy Football Consistency Show podcast. He created the BigGuyFantasySports.com website and publishes his annual Fantasy Football Consistency Guide, which has be nominated by Fantasy Sports Writesr of American for three straight years as the best fantasy football publication.
That a singular event celebrating fantasy football took so long to be given life is surprising.
According to an article written by George Williams and published June 10 online at www.sportsfinding.com, NFL fantasy football has more than 40 million players.
One survey said in 2019, more than 59.3 million individuals in Canada and the United States played fantasy sports. According to the same survey, 81% of fantasy sports players are males, and 19% are females. The same survey also revealed that around 50% of all fantasy sports players are between 18 and 34 years old.
A story written by Ed Dixon last September and published online at www.sportspromedia.com, the global fantasy sports market was expected to be $22.31 billion in 2021 and grow to $38.6 billion by 2025.
Lung put together the first Midwest Fantasy Football Expo in 2019. It was called Midwest because a similar more heralded event was being held in Dallas. Despite the publicity it received, the national fantasy football event left much to be desired.
“A bunch of friends went to it and said it was expensive, not much about fantasy football,” said Lung. “They were more worried about autographs.”
A public accountant by day, Lung thought why not have a fantasy football event for people interested in fantasy football, either as a fan or content creator. Lung was already holding the Kings Classic, a fantasy football draft with team managers from all the major big-time websites. So that first year, the Kings Classic draft was held on a Saturday and those who drafted remained in Canton and took part in the Expo on Sunday.
“Everybody was awesome,” said Lung, who plays in a touchdown only fantasy league he helped start as commissioner in 1985 and drafts still today in the Pro Football Hall of Fame board room. “These guys at the big (web) sites are just like us. No egos, no talking down to anyone because you don’t work for (big site). People really liked the comeraderie.”
As Canton grows the area around the Hall of Fame and Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium, the Expo has an opportunity to grow with it. Lung said the Hall of Fame Village will make Canton a destination for people beyond fantasy football.
“The person that says they can’t come because they have a spouse and two kids … now bring your spouse and kids and let them hang out in the water park or Hall of Fame Villege while you do fantasy football,” he said.
Fantasy football has been a connector that has brought people to Canton from all over the country. It has bonded life-long friends in a way nobody could imagine 30 years ago.
”We’re all fans,” Lung said. “Just because we write for our own sites … I’ve been a subscriber to Football Guys for 20 years. We share the same passion but have different ideas. That’s what makes it great. All fans of each other and that’s unique and exciting.”
Reach Mark Huber at 937-556-5765, via email [email protected] or on Twitter @wnjsports