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But if you still think fantasy-dork mayors are a head scratcher, check out some of the fantasy-related cottage industries that have started up or expanded during the Great Recession. One of the hottest fantasy offshoots is in the trophy business, which is mind-boggling: on the unnecessary-expenditure scale, a keepsake for the winner of a fantasy league is off the charts. One site, TheUltimateTrophy.com just shipped an $800 prize to a fantasy-league commissioner. "Part of the jollies of fantasy sports is you get to stick it in the face of your buddies," says Tom Harkins, president of FantasySportsTrophies.com whose sales have risen 50% during the downturn. "That trophy says, I know more than you." It also says, I know how to spend money on stupid stuff.
What's more, for $15, a lawyer on FantasyDispute.com or SportsJudge.com will settle the inevitable arguments that arise in fantasy leagues, like accusations of collusion. Wait just because I have no chance to win my league, I can't trade my Peyton Manning to my wife, who has a shot at a $1,000 prize, for her Sage Rosenfels?
The fantasy craze has even crept into our educational system. Dan Flockhart, a former middle-school math teacher in California, designed a fantasy-based curriculum that thousands of teachers are using in their classrooms. His workbook, Fantasy Football and Mathematics, encourages students to draft teams and compute points according to formulas that incorporate basic math concepts like decimals, fractions and negative integers. But before you conclude that this trend is the final sign that American education is doomed, know this: fantasy math may be working. According to preliminary research by the University of Mississippi, most teachers who use Flockhart's program are reporting higher levels of math enthusiasm and better grades among students.
Why? "It's all about the hook," says Jennifer Wilnewic, a seventh-grade math teacher in Elgin, Ill., who plans to use the fantasy-football curriculum again this year. As the summer winds down, Wilnewic is prepping her lessons. "I'm going to have [Chicago Bears quarterback] Jay Cutler on my team," she says. Who knew the future of our children might depend on fantasy football?
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