It's fun ... To Win!

KIRK PENTON -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:28 AM ET

Fantasy sports, according to the experts, are a good thing.

There are no doubt wives and girlfriends out there who will burn this newspaper immediately.

There hasn't been much research done about fantasy sports compared to more serious forms of gambling, but early indications are fantasy is the positive side of using sports for entertainment purposes.

Here's a look at why they play:

IT'S A SOCIAL GAME

Dr. Bo Bernhard, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas (naturally), recently produced a study on fantasy sports specifically about baseball. And if you're a fantasy player who is getting heat from your significant other, he's about to become your hero.

"Although you don't hear about it as much, there are certainly positive aspects to gambling behaviour, a lot of which are present in fantasy play. Which is to say it's a form of social networking," said Dr. Bernhard, who studied -- and played baseball -- at Harvard. "It allows people to network. It allows people to engage others socially.

"It sort of captures, in a lot of ways, the best aspects of gambling behaviour. When gambling is good, it can be a very social activity. People can use it for fun.

"It's sort of gambling at its best."

Mike Shiner, a 36-year-old operations manager who has been in pools since he was in high school, believes fantasy is the glue that has kept his group of friends together all these years.

"It's a way for us to bond,"Shiner said," to cajole with each other if you screw somebody over in a trade."

Ryan Paradis, a 28-year old life guard who dedicates four hours a day to his fantasy football and baseball teams in the fall, also loves the social aspect.

"It's a good excuse to stay in contact with a lot of friends that you may not see otherwise, " he said. "And it's not like I'm spending hours a day in a casino, pumping quarters into a machine. "

IT'S NOT BINGO

Dr. Garry Smith has dipped into the fantasy issue as a gambling research specialist at the University of Alberta's Gaming Research Institute in Edmonton. He said the brain is the difference between sports gambling and hardcore machine gambling.

Fantasy is a game in which the player has control -- even more than just betting on a game's outcome -- while bingo, slot machines and the lottery are all about luck.

"With sports betting there's an element of skill involved, so people are less likely to become addicted to sports gambling, " Dr. Smith said. "It does happen, but not as much as a machine gambler.

" They could be (addicts) in some cases, because it becomes a preoccupation, just as sports in general could be. Anything that takes you away from the intimacy of the family ... if you're doing it so much that you forget your kid's birthday or your anniversary, then it's a problem.

"But if it's just a hobby that you like to indulge in, then it's fine. "

PRIDE (FOR MEN), FUN (FOR WOMEN)

A hockey pool is like a sports trivia game that lasts seven months, and you want to be the one among your group of friends who knows the most.

You can prove that by picking the best players or making the monumental trade.

" Contrary to popular belief, it's not at all about winning any kind of prize," said Colin Briosi, a Victoria native who created officepools.com more than 10 years ago.

"It's to prove to your friends that you know more about hockey than they do, and that you could be a real coach in the NHL if only you had the chance.

"It's 99% about pride for men, and for women, in most cases, it's simply 99% about fun. There are many all-female pools. "

COLD, HARD CASH

All of this doesn't mean the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow isn't a nice bonus.

Shiner can pocket up to $1,500 for winning his annual hockey pool, while Paradis yearns for a trophythat his league recently purchased -- and the cake, of course.

"It's more about the pride, but the money on top of the pride makes it really something worth striving for, " Paradis said.


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