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Beyda: Mark Sanchez, Hashtag StanfordNFL and a whole lot of fantasy football

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It was a stressful Sunday for me in The Daily sports crew’s fantasy football league. I thought I’d jumped out to a safe lead on Vignesh Venkataraman, who had five players on bye weeks and had started Brian Hoyer at quarterback for a grand total of seven Thursday-night points. But behind 41 points from Marshawn Lynch (four rushing touchdowns) and 27 more from the Cardinals D (two defensive scores), Viggy crept a couple of points ahead of me going into Monday night’s Eagles-Panthers game.

After being screwed over by a former Cal running back, the fate of my team — whose leading scorer on Sunday was former Notre Dame receiver Golden Tate — now rested squarely on the shoulders of a former USC quarterback, my recent waiver-wire pickup Mark Sanchez. I guess that’s what I get for naming my team “Hashtag StanfordNFL,” especially on Andrew Luck’s bye week.

If you’ve been playing fantasy football for a while, this all probably sounds pretty typical to you. The game is so fun because of the emotional swings elicited in each and every owner by players at a dozen NFL stadiums every week. No amount of analysis, research or experience can prepare you for each Sunday’s surprises, and no, the better team doesn’t always win.

But besides toying with my playoff hopes, this week’s craziness also drove home another point: Even though it wasn’t created by the NFL, fantasy football is perhaps the best marketing campaign in the history of mankind.

Fantasy football is perfect for the league because it increases both the breadth and the depth of the casual fan’s involvement. Of course, there are some ultra-fans who, even without fantasy sports, would scour Rotowire for six days each week and spend the seventh staring at a TV screen. But most followers of football or other sports are motivated by some sort of ownership — my city, my alma mater, my favorite player — even if only to justify to the rest of the world why they’re spending every waking hour watching multi-millionaires sweat.

But if fans just followed a couple of teams they felt attached to in those ways, things would be very inefficient for the NFL. It would be like watching just one episode of House of Cards each season or listening to just one song on Taylor Swift’s new album. What kind of model is that for the entertainment industry?

Fantasy football ensures that the NFL gets the biggest bang for its buck. By making me an owner of my very own team, the game enticed me into following all 32 teams in some way or another.

But that’s true for fantasy sports with other professional leagues, so what makes fantasy football special? I’ve tried fantasy baseball and hockey before, but they became too unmanageable because all of the players were in action every day or two. With fantasy football, though, I have a week to sit back and analyze what’s going on across the NFL — and I know that I’ll be at a severe disadvantage if I don’t.

Here’s an example: If you put them in a room, I probably couldn’t tell Lamar Miller from Lamar Odom, but in the process of replacing the struggling Toby Gerhart (an emotional, yet misguided, second-round pick) at running back, I learned all about Miller and the rest of the Miami Dolphins offense. Since then, he hasn’t just lifted me to a few key fantasy wins; he’s got me following the injury to Knowshon Moreno and the run-pass balance of the Dolphins’ offense. How’s that for a Bay Area native who usually splits his time between Stanford and the Sharks?

If that’s not enough to convince you of fantasy football’s power, let me remind you that a 17-year Stanford football fan started Mark Sanchez at QB this week. And Hashtag StanfordNFL won.

Joseph Beyda still mistakenly believes in the power of the Sanchize. Remind him of any game Mark started in the past four years to teach him a lesson at jbeyda ‘at’ stanford.edu.

Joseph Beyda is the editor in chief of The Stanford Daily. Previously he has worked as the executive editor, webmaster, football editor, a sports desk editor, the paper's summer managing editor and a beat reporter for football, baseball and women's soccer. He co-authored The Daily's recent football book, "Rags to Roses," and covered the soccer team's national title run for the New York Times. Joseph is a senior from Cupertino, Calif. majoring in Electrical Engineering. To contact him, please email jbeyda "at" stanford.edu.