Football season has officially arrived, and that means millions of fans are huddling in front of their TVs — and their computers.
Some industry estimates say more than 20 million players participate in fantasy football. And a small — but growing — group of them dedicated to the online game are women.
On a recent Wednesday night, four women huddle over their laptops in a living room in Arlington, Va. Jeanette Casselano kicks back on the couch. She's wearing an Eagles jersey and making draft picks.
"I have a quarterback, two wide receivers, three running backs and a tight end," Casselano says. "I think I'm gonna go for a defense."
A League Of Their Own
These women started their all-girls league after watching their guy friends play.
Casselano and her teammate Susie Schoenberger say it's a slightly different game with women. Both admitted that looks sometimes played into their picks.
"I'm sure many guys don't pick some of their players based on looks," Schoenberger says.
While explaining that looks don't often factor into picks, Schoenberger says she occasionally chooses players on that basis.
"I guess if all of your favorite players were gone and that's all you had to go on, OK, yes, for sure," she says.
Casselano is also making draft picks for the league she's playing in with her male co-workers. She says she is excited to show them she can hold her own.
"A lot of times when you're telling people you're playing fantasy they're like, 'Oh, that's awesome,' " Casselano says. "They say, 'Wait, who's in your league?' You say all girls, and they're like, 'Whatever.' But we play just as hard and watch the games every weekend and really enjoy it. We know what's going on and can intelligently talk about it."
But the women in this league do admit that they spend less time every week trading players and choosing lineups than some of their male friends.
"They're realizing that, 'Hey, I don't need to spend 50 hours a week dedicating myself to poring over data in order to have fun,' " says David Geller, director of fantasy sports products for Yahoo.
According to Geller, more than 14 percent of Yahoo's fantasy football players are female, and new online tools now make the game more accessible to both sexes.
Men Psyched, Not Threatened
Paul Charchian, president of the Fantasy Sports Trade Association and host of a fantasy football radio show, says the men he talks to haven't minded women joining them on the virtual field. In fact, for men who are married to these fantasy enthusiasts, it's a point of pride.
"It's almost one-upping your friends who have to try to carve out a few hours to sit in front of the TV on Sunday because their wife doesn't like it," Charchian says. "And they don't understand it and it's an area of contention."
Charchian also says there's more to men enjoying their partners' interest in fantasy football than simple camaraderie. "It is hot. Absolutely," he says.
Many of these men are so happy, Charchian says, to be sharing the game with their spouses that they don't even mind losing to them.