The Urban Legend

The School Newspaper of Urban School of San Francisco

The Urban Legend

The School Newspaper of Urban School of San Francisco

The Urban Legend

Tattoos and milk miles

While professional athletes play on courts and fields, some fans compete on screens. Fantasy sports leagues allow fans to assemble dream teams made up of professional players from leagues like the NFL and the NBA. But punishments for losing such as beer miles, 24 hours in an IHOP and tattoos have raised the question of whether fantasy sports have gone too far.  

Fantasy leagues are often made up of friends who assemble their teams digitally on online platforms such as Yahoo Sports and ESPN by selecting athletes in a draft. Fans then compete against other league members’ fantasy teams to gain the most points based on players’ real-life performances. 

Fans play fantasy sports for a number of reasons. Zac Rose ‘25, who plays fantasy football with friends and family, said, “I’m a big sports fan in general. [Playing fantasy sports] is a way for me to keep up with sports [while being] competitive about it.”

“I play [fantasy sports] because of peer pressure,” said Kai Maufe ‘26, who plays in fantasy football and basketball leagues. “My friends sort of force me to, but it’s also a way for me to get closer with my friends and family [because] it brings us together.”

The fantasy sports market continues to grow, valued at $25.43 billion in 2023 according to the Fantasy Sports Global Market Report. 

Fantasy winners may come out of the competition with a cash prize, while losers often face creative punishments planned by other competitors from within their league.

From getting waxed to chugging four beers and then running a mile, the vast range of punishments serves to entertain other participants in the league. 

According to USA Today, 68% of fantasy sports leagues had a punishment for last-place finishers after the 2016 fantasy football league ended. “[Fantasy] punishments enhance pressure [to not lose] because the punishments are embarrassing and [often filmed]. [The video can] get sent around and people mock you,” said Maufe.

  In the ESPN fantasy basketball league Maufe plays in, the loser is challenged to spend 24 hours in an IHOP restaurant. This 24-hour time period can only be reduced by eating pancakes to shave off time by the hour.

The IHOP challenge and “The Cage” may only seem embarrassing, but at what point do these punishments risk the physical and mental well-being of the fantasy participant? 

“Some punishments can be really high-risk. I’ve seen people on TikTok who have had to get tattoos, go streaking and even one guy who had to spend the entire night in the woods alone,” said Maufe. “At some point, it [gets] out of hand.”

As a result of punishments like these along with the culture around fantasy sports, participating can lead to worsened mental health. “Those who spent the most time [playing] had significantly worse mental health scores than those who played less,” said a survey of nearly 2,000 fantasy soccer participants in 2021 by the American Heart Association (AHA).

Fantasy sports’ high stakes can cause tension between friends playing in the same league and hurt relationships. “I’ve seen firsthand people [fighting] in real life and getting mad at each other over the risks around winning and losing,” said Maufe. 

By avoiding taking league punishments to the extreme, fans can make fantasy punishments a form of entertainment that is both safe and exciting. “[In TikTok posts where people are] shipping someone off to Mexico, it [is] unsafe,” said Rose. “But in my experience, the punishments are a fun way to incentivize people to actually try [to win].”

About the Contributor
Aida Cooney
Aida Cooney, Staff Writer