Summer Olympics: All About Rugby Sevens

All About Rugby Sevens

Traditional rugby is an awesome game. If you’ve never watched it, you should. With fifteen players on each side, it has tactical complexity that outpaces most other team sports. At times, the players form into clusters that move together and look like nothing more than independent alien life forms. The problem with rugby as an Olympic sport, however, is that it is thoroughly dominated by a small group of countries — mostly the UK, its former colonies, and France. Their dominance is so severe that it would be hard for many other countries to field competitive teams. Rugby Sevens is a scaled down version of the sport that is arguably more exciting and inarguably more accessible around the world. This is the first Olympics that Rugby Sevens will be an event in.

How Does Rugby Sevens Work?

Rugby is a territorial game, like American football, where teams try to move down the field, and eventually end up in their opponent’s end zone with possession of the ball. It is a rough and tumble sport. Tackling is allowed, but players are not allowed to tackle above the shoulders or hit their opponents without wrapping them up with their arms. That’s one big difference between rugby sevens and American football. Another one is that players are only allowed to pass the ball backwards to a teammate — no forward passes allowed. Unlike American football, rugby sevens doesn’t stop between each play. There are brief pauses in the action when a player is tackled to the ground, but the play is only constrained by rules that come into effect at these moments, not completely stopped. One of the amazing aspects of this variant of rugby is that the organizers of the game reduced the players on each side from 15 to seven but did not reduce the size of the field at all! This gives players so much room to work with that spectacular offensive plays happen much more frequently. Games are short (two seven minute halves) and exciting. Teams can score by running into their opponent’s end of the field and placing the ball on the ground. This is called a “try” and is worth five points. After a try, the team that scored gets to attempt to kick the ball through the uprights for an additional two points. If a type wins a similar kick from a penalty or if it tries to drop kick the ball during active play, those kicks would be worth three points.

Why do People Like Watching Rugby Sevens?

Rugby sevens is a great spectator sport. It’s short, so it doesn’t require much of a time commitment. It’s close to non-stop action (half-times are only two minutes). The play is sudden and surprising and violent. The players are admirable for the mixture of respect and brutality with which they play the game.

Check out some highlights:

What are the different events?

Easy, peasy, lemon squeezy: Rugby Sevens has a men’s event and a women’s one.

How Dangerous is Rugby Sevens?

I don’t want to diminish the danger of rugby sevens. It’s one of the most violent Olympic sports and its athletes brave all sorts of injuries. From twisted knees and ankles to unintentional but common head wounds to broken ribs and fingers, rugby sevens players take and dole out a lot of damage. It takes a lot to get a rugby sevens player out of a game, but it does happen. On the other hand, for as violent a sport as rugby sevens is, the looming threat of brain injury that is so present in American Football and ice hockey is much less present here because of the tackling rules.

What’s the State of Gender Equality in Rugby Sevens?

The gender equality of this newest sport to be added to the Olympics is near perfect. The game does not differ between its men’s and women’s events and the uniforms actually tend to be much tighter on the men’s side than the women’s. 12 teams will compete for women and the same number for men.


Bookmark the full Olympics schedule from NBC. Rugby Sevens is from Saturday, August 6 to Thursday, August 11.

Read more about rugby sevens on the official Rio Olympics site.

Creating a culture of respect: what soccer can learn from rugby

This past weekend, I watched the championship match of the Rugby World Cup, which New Zealand won, 34-17 over Australia. The whole experience was great. Rugby is an awesome sport, full of athletic brilliance and suspense. I also love getting a chance to experience the titillating confusion one gets from engaging with an unknown sport. One of the most striking parts of rugby was the level of respect between the players and the referee. Particularly as someone who has played and watched soccer my entire life, I was astounded at the culture of respect rugby has managed to create. Soccer and rugby are quite similar sports, but the relationship between player and ref is so broken, so fractious, so disrespectful in soccer, that I couldn’t believe how good it was in rugby. What accounts for the difference? Is there something integral to the sport that makes soccer so unhealthy and rugby so healthy? Is soccer doomed to stay that way?

Soccer refs are petty dictators. They’re all-powerful and within the context of the game, completely unaccountable to anyone for anything. Yes, they have two or three linespeople/assistant referees, but those people are there only to provide information to the ref, every decision is hers to make alone. Even something as integral to the game as how long it lasts is controlled completely by the ref. Refs have total authority and their decisions are extremely important. Because soccer is such a low-scoring game, a ref’s decision to grant or not grant a penalty kick is often the difference between winning and losing. Likewise, a decision to give a yellow or red card can be vitally important.

Rugby refs have as much power as soccer refs but they’re infinitely more accountable and their decisions are slightly less important. Rugby is a higher scoring sport, which reduces the importance of most penalty calls. Rugby also does away with soccer’s silly insistence on living in a world where only the ref has the official time. Rugby refs can stop the clock but they do not control when the game is over. Red and yellow cards work similarly in rugby as in soccer, but because there are 15 players on the field, losing one for ten minutes (a yellow card) or the rest of the game (a red or two yellows) is not quite as big of an impediment to winning as it is in soccer. These technical differences pale in comparison to the major difference – refs wear body cameras, microphones, and ear pieces. What they say is constantly broadcast to television audiences and they are in dialogue with a replay official who can assist on penalty calls or even alert the ref of something he did not see. Video from their perspective is available to people watching on TV.

Let’s examine what happens when there’s a close, important penalty call to make in each sport. In soccer, a ref must make the call based only on what she sees, perhaps with some basic assistance from a linesperson who waves his flag if he believes there’s a foul. Soccer refs believe there’s an imperative to make the call quickly and decisively, so that they maintain order and continue to inspire respect from the players. They don’t need to explain their call to anyone, definitely not the players. Rugby treats this situation almost completely oppositely. Rugby refs don’t need to make a call only by memory and with an instant decision. They can stop the game, consult with their assistant refs on the field, watch video of the play, and ask the opinion of a video replay official. Although soccer has not implemented video replay, many American sports have. You can split them into two groups: baseball and hockey have centralized video replay offices that make the decisions when a play is reviewed; in basketball and football, the on-field refs watch video on court side or side-line video monitors and then make the decisions themselves. Rugby blends these two approaches. There is an off-field replay official, but she is there in a consultative role. The ref makes the final decision, based on video he sees. The major difference is this — the entire process is transparent! Audio from the conversation between the two officials is broadcast live on television and instead of running over to peer at a small and private video monitor, the ref reviews video using the stadium’s jumbotron screen, which both teams and the entire stadium audience can follow along with. There are no secrets about the process. By the time the decision has been made, everyone knows how the referee came to that decision.

Look at these videos to see the difference these two processes make.

First, a red card given to Jermaine Jones, a New England Revolution soccer player, after the ref misses an obvious red card.

Jones is understandably furious – not just because the ref should have seen and penalized the hand ball, but also because he knows that soccer rules offer no chance for reviewing this vitally important call. With such little respect between ref and player, there’s no choice for the ref but to throw Jones out of the game.

Compare that to an important call during the Rugby World Cup championship game (alas, this is not available on YouTube, but click this link and head to the 1:40 mark.) Ref Nigel Owens is making a decision about whether to give a New Zealand player a yellow card, forcing him to miss 10 minutes and his team to play a man down. He reviews the call on the video screen in the stadium and confers with his replay assistant. Once he makes his decision, he explains it to the player. He says that the evidence was “not marginal” and that the offense committed is a yellow card offense. He even ends his sentence with a rising, “okay?” seeking affirmation from the player for the decision. Almost unbelievably (to a soccer fan) the player nods, says okay, and heads off to serve his ten minute penalty. The two team captains stand alongside the ref, witnessing and validating the entire interaction.

Quick note — Nigel Owens is widely thought of as the world’s best rugby ref. He’s also gay. It doesn’t seem like a big deal, which is another giant difference between rugby and soccer. He’s also hysterical. Here’s a video of him chiding a player who was trying to affect his calls by reminding him that “this isn’t soccer.” And another of him making fun of a player’s line-out throw (which is supposed to be straight) by referring to his own sexuality.

Fixing soccer’s referee player interactions would be a big enough victory to look for in and of itself, but soccer’s culture of distrust and disrespect has wider implications. One example, and an important one, is the treatment of head injuries. In both soccer and rugby, once a player is substituted out, he cannot return to the field. This makes dealing with a suspected head injury tricky. Removing the player for a proper assessment means either playing at a numerical disadvantage or substituting and losing that player for the rest of the game, even if she doesn’t have a brain injury. Rugby has solved this problem neatly by allowing temporary head-injury substitutions so that players can be assessed and then return to the field if they are cleared without their team’s having to play down. The argument against this solution in soccer is that players could pretend to have a head injury to gain their team an extra substitution. It’s true that rugby teams are allowed eight substitutions compared to soccer’s three, so the incentive to cheat to gain another sub is less in rugby than in soccer, but I think the bigger difference is cultural. Soccer’s culture of distrust, which stems from its player referee interactions bleed over and make it more difficult to transform the game to be safer for its players.


So, where does soccer’s culture of disrespect and distrust really come from? Are ref player interactions really the source of all of this? I doubt it. You need look no farther than its governing body, FIFA, and the rampant corruption which is only now being addressed by international law enforcement. If soccer refs are the symbol of soccer authority and the top soccer authorities are almost unanimously worthy of incarceration, why should we expect players to respect refs?

How does scoring work in rugby union?

Dear Sports Fan,

How does scoring work in rugby union?


Dear Clara,

There are four ways to score in rugby, a try, a conversion goal, a penalty goal, and a dropped goal. A try is worth five points, a conversion goal, two, and both a penalty goal or dropped goal are worth three points. The three scoring methods with the word, “goal” in their names, all involve kicking the ball, while the try doesn’t. Two of them can happen in the course of normal play, while two are only done during a stoppage in play. Let’s go through each one and describe how it works.

How does a try work?

A try is scored when an attacking player with the ball places the ball on the ground in her opponent’s “in-goal.” The in-goal is rugby’s term for the area that in American football is called the end-zone. As opposed to in American football, where a player just needs to have control of the ball in the end-zone to score, in rugby, a player must get the ball into the end zone and place it on the ground. Two other small matters distinguish how a try works from how a touchdown works in American football. In rugby, a player’s body can be out-of-bounds and still score as long as the ball remains in play. Likewise, a player can be lying on the ground and reach his arm out to score a try. A try is worth five points and triggers the second form of scoring, the conversion goal.

How does a conversion goal work?

A conversion goal attempt is earned by scoring a try. After a team scores a try, they are given 90 seconds to attempt a conversion goal. A conversion goal is a mostly undefended kick that must go over the cross-bar and between the two goal posts of the rugby goal. I say, “mostly undefended” because the defending team is allowed to run, from the goal-line, toward the player kicking the ball, as soon as that player starts their kicking motion. The kick may be taken as a drop-kick (kind of like a punt in football, but the ball must be kicked as it hits the ground instead of while it’s on its way down) or from the ground, where the ball may be supported by a tee or a teammate to keep it upright and in position. The player who scored the try doesn’t have to be the one to take the conversion kick. Any player on the team is eligible to kick it.

The location of the dropkick is decided by where the try was scored. The conversion goal must be attempted from a spot “perpendicular” to where the try was scored. That means, if the try was scored in the exact center of the field, the conversion goal must be kicked from the center. If the try was scored all the way on the left edge of the field, the conversion must also be taken from the far left. The closer to center a conversion goal attempt is, the easier it is to score. That’s why you’ll sometimes see players try to run to the center before placing the ball on the ground for a try. As for the distance from the goal, there’s no requirement at all. In practice, the kicker chooses a distance that is far enough from the goal so that she feels comfortable she’ll be able to get the kick off free from interference by the other team. The farther the kick is from the center of the field, the more difficult it is to make. In order to get a reasonable angle from that wide, the kicker will generally move back a bit.

A conversion goal is worth two points and may only be taken directly after a try. There are two other forms of scoring. Both are similar to a conversion goal but do not follow a try.

How do a penalty goal and a dropped goal work?

A penalty goal is procedurally similar to a conversion goal, with the only real difference being that a player may not use a drop-kick to score a penalty goal. A penalty goal attempt is awarded to a team when the opposing team commits a foul. It is similar to a free kick set piece in soccer. The ref blows her whistle to call a foul, the opposing team must move ten yards away from the spot of the foul, and then the team benefiting from the penalty call can choose what to do. If the spot of the foul is close enough to reasonably score a goal and the game situation calls for it, they may choose to attempt a kick through the uprights. A successful penalty goal is worth three points.

A dropped goal is the active cousin of a penalty goal. Instead of happening when play is stopped, a dropped goal happens during active play. Whenever a player has possession of the ball, they always have the option of drop-kicking the ball through the goal. If they are able to do this successfully, their team scores three points. You’d think this might happen more frequently than it does, but going for a dropped goal means giving up the opportunity to score seven points (a five point try and a two point conversion goal), and giving possession of the ball to the other team. When a dropped goal is successful, the other team automatically gets the ball. When a dropped goal is unsuccessful (the ball misses the goal wide or isn’t high enough), play continues and whoever can get to the ball first (usually the defensive team) takes possession of it.

Thanks for reading,
Ezra Fischer


What happens in rugby union when someone gets tackled?

Dear Sports Fan,

What happens in rugby union when someone gets tackled? Can they get up and keep running? Do the tackler and the tackled player fight for the ball? What can their teammates do to help?


Dear Terri,

For people who didn’t grow up with rugby, myself included, it’s often helpful to think about the sport as a mixture of soccer and football. Your question gets at one of the essential inflection points where rugby has some elements of soccer and some of football. In soccer, play is not stopped, nor altered in any significant way by a tackle, as long as it’s legal. In football, a tackle brings play to a halt. The whistle blows, the ball is dead, and everyone has to get up, dust themselves off, and receive a new set of instructions before starting the next play. In rugby, a tackle changes the rules of engagement for how players can interact with each other and the ball, but it doesn’t stop the flow of play all together. It’s a blend of soccer and football.

A tackle in rugby happens when the player with the ball is forced to the ground by an opposing player. The ball-carriers knee or butt must touch the ground while she is in the clutch of an opposing player. Once that happens, the phase of play shifts, and the game is now guided by a set of rules which only apply to this particular situation.

  1. The player who tackled the ball-carrier must immediately let go and either get back to their feet or roll, crawl, or slither away from the tackled player and the ball.
  2. The player who just got tackled cannot get back up and run with the ball. He must relinquish control of the ball right away. He can, pass it, release it, or push it toward his teammates as long as the ball doesn’t move forward, in the direction his team is trying to score.

Passing the ball out of a tackle to a teammate is the ideal scenario for the tackled player, but to do so legally, it’s got to happen quickly. As soon as an opposing player comes to try to get the ball, if the tackled player is still holding on to it, a foul will be called against him. In reality, tackled players often have to simply drop the ball, hopefully in the direction of their teammates. What we’re left with, is two players on the ground, neither of whom can pick up the ball and run with it again until they get off the ground and away from the play. Teammates of the tackler and tackled player may get involved to try to win back possession of the ball as long as they follow these rules:

  1. If they want to grab onto one of their teammates, they have to approach their teammate from behind the farthest back point. In other words, they can’t come running in from any direction, they have to circle around to their side of the field and then jump into the pile. Every successive player who wants to get involved has to do the same thing, only this time, they must come into the pile from the farthest back point of the farthest back player.
  2. Once the two players initially on the ground our joined by at least one additional player, this is called a ruck.
  3. Players in the ruck, who are grabbing on to one of their teammates or an opponent, cannot touch the ball with their hands. They can only use their feet, knees, etc. to roll the ball backward.
  4. One player on each side, as long as they are not grabbing on to one of their teammates, can reach into the pile, grab the ball, and pass it backwards to a teammate or run with it.

What often happens, is that the ball remains relatively still while the two sides try to push their opponents backward so that their teammate behind the mass of pushing players has an easier time grabbing the ball. In this way, the ruck resembles the offensive and defensive lines in football engaging at the start of a play. It’s a test of strength for territorial gain. In the case of a rugby ruck, possession of the ball is also at stake.

Watch the first minute of this video. Players from the New Zealand team get tackled over and over again, and each time, their team wins possession of the ball in the resulting ruck. Note how players on both sides have to circle back behind the ruck in order to enter it.


Thanks for reading,


Sports creates heroes of all shapes

It’s been a while since I cleared out my inbox of all of the best articles I’ve read. There’s so much good writing going on about sports and I love sharing it with people through Dear Sports Fan! The quality of sports journalism is one of those things that gets lost among the thousands of formulaic articles about games unless you’re a sports fan or have a highly curated newsfeed. Today, I though I’d share four amazing articles about people in sports who are heroic for one reason or another. Our first hero is a man who has persevered through a disease that cost him his hands and feet and (worse, in his mind, as you’ll find out) being cut from the Paralympic Rugby team. Our second hero is a deeply flawed man who has struggled throughout his life with psychological issues. He also just happens to be the best snooker player in the world. In the third article, we learn about a man whose behind-the-scenes contributions have been a big part of one of the most impressive streaks in modern sports history — the Detroit Red Wings streak of having gone to the playoffs for the last 23 seasons in a row. Our fourth and last heroic appearance is a writer, who through no fault of her own, was subjected to intense abuse — just for having had the temerity to voice an opinion about sports while simultaneously being female.

Take these broken wings

by Kim Cross for SB Nation

Don’t don’t call it inspiring but you can call it a come back. Delvin McMillian is attempting to make the U.S. Paralympic Rugby Team at the ripe old age of 35. Okay, fine, you can be inspired by this story if you choose — in fact, it’s hard to read it without being inspired, but it’s also got some great tips for how to think about athletes and other people with physical challenges.

“When you’ve had something in your life for so long, and the wind gets knocked out of you, you’ve got to pick yourself up. Because if you don’t, you begin to sink. And the further you sink into this hole, the further you have to climb out of it.”

I ask Delvin point-blank the question that has been burning in my mind ever since I realized he was a man whose greatest challenge is not what I assumed.

“When you look back at the things you’ve had to overcome—the psychological trauma of the team situation, the physical trauma of losing your limbs—what was harder?”

He doesn’t have to think long to answer.

“Probably being cut from the team.”

Follow the White Ball

by Sam Knight for the New Yorker

Snooker is a British game that’s a lot like pool on steroids. It’s played on a much larger table with more balls and smaller pockets. Like many games that most people play for fun, when played as a sport at the highest levels, it becomes a brutal psychologically challenging sport. That makes Snooker’s reigning champion, Ronnie O’Sullivan, an even more interesting figure.

When discussing O’Sullivan’s game, commentators and rivals often talk about his unusual sequencing—the way he links shots together around the table. Phil Yates, who was the snooker correspondent for the Times of London for twenty years, compares O’Sullivan to a savant, able to perceive mathematical solutions without knowing how or why. “I don’t think he can break down why he is as good as he is,” Yates said. “He just is.” According to Hirst, O’Sullivan often comes off the table in a fugue state: “I go, ‘What about that pink you potted?’ And he’ll go, ‘What pink?’ He’s blank. He’s totally startled. It’s like van Gogh. I go, ‘You did brilliantly there.’ And he goes, ‘Did I?’ ”

The Seeker: Scout Hakan Andersson a hero of the Red Wings’ playoff streak

by Michael Farber for Sports Illustrated

Sustained excellence in any pursuit is a curiosity worthy of investigation. How have the Red Wings kept being better than everyone else for more than 20 years? One of the answers certainly lies in Sweden, the country where the Red Wings have found more of their best players than any other team. This is the story of the man who found most of them.

At 5’ 10″ and 165 pounds, Holmström was barely a keeper when Andersson first saw him in 1991, at a training camp for 1973-born players. He was a clumsy 18-year-old winger who wasn’t the best skater but was dogged on the puck and eager to get to the net. Two years later Andersson asked a coaching friend in northern Sweden to name the best player in the area and was told it was Holmström, now two inches taller and 25 pounds heavier. Andersson remembered the aggressive teen and went to watch him again. “I mentioned him to our Czech scout, who’d seen him in a tournament there,” Andersson says. “The scout said, ‘I don’t know about that guy. His skating is pretty suspicious.’” On Andersson’s recommendation the Red Wings drafted Holmström in the 10th round in ’94. (There were 11 rounds then.) Holmström won four Stanley Cups, played in 1,026 regular-season games and scored 243 goals. He was known for screening goalies while getting whacked like a piñata and yapping in an incomprehensible linguistic blend that made him sound like a second cousin of the Muppets’ Swedish Chef. “That one,” Andersson says of the Holmström pick, “propelled my career.”

Women who write about sports, and the men who hate them

by Amy Bass for the Allrounder

Sports writers shouldn’t have to be heroes. There’s no logical reason why heroism should ever be part of the job description. Unfortunately there’s a bunch of hateful jerks who take it upon themselves to try to intimidate, abuse, and silence any woman who writes about sports. Luckily for all of us, most of those women identify what is happening to them and decide to add “hero” to their job descriptions instead of allowing themselves to be silenced. Amy Bass, the author of this article, is one of those women.

Women taking flack for opining on sports is part and parcel of how women have to live their lives every moment of every day. It is part of the same world in which women battle against domestic violence and sexual assault and the wage gap. It is part of the same machine that sees male politicians trying to legislate female bodies, corporations firing women for breastfeeding on the job, and male professors receiving better teaching evaluations than their female counterparts. I have earned my position in this world as an authority on sports. So to every single one of those commenters, I say: thank you for reading.

The best sports stories of the week

No theme this week, just a selection of wonderful articles about sports that I flagged throughout the week. One of my favorite parts of writing Dear Sports Fan is reading other great writers cover sports in a way that’s accessible and compelling for the whole spectrum from super-fans to lay people. Here are selections from the best articles of the last week on the subject of attitude:

Wilt the Stilt Becomes Wilt the Stamp

by David Davis for the New York Times

I just love that these stamps are extra long. Fitting for a man who was 7’1″ and loved to (ahem) rack up statistics.

Chamberlain, the only man to score 100 points in an N.B.A. game, will become the first player from the league to be honored with a postage stamp in his image. And fittingly enough, the two versions being issued by the Postal Service are nearly two inches long, or about a third longer than the usual stamp.

That time an NFL team used truth serum on an injured player

by Andrew Heisel for Vice Sports

This article wins the award for craziest sports story of the week. And the craziest part of it is that the contract the Buccaneers were trying to get out of paying by proving that their employee was malingering was not even a big contract. If they went as far as injecting him with sodium pentothal, how far would they have gone to avoid paying a player with a bigger salary? 

In a drug-soaked environment where the ends almost always justified the means, is it really shocking that an NFL team doctor would shoot a player full of a substance that was used by the CIA in the 1950s and 1960s as part of a top-secret mind control program? As McCall emphasized about Diaco, when a player enters a team’s training facility, he’s not dealing with his doctor but “their doctor.” There’s a difference.

When dyslexia blocked his path to college football, Maryland high school player took unusual route

by Dave Sheinin for the Washington Post

Wait, did I say the last story won the prize for craziest sports story? Hmm… let’s just say it’s a tie then. I’m actually surprised false identities don’t happen more often in order to get around the academic requirements to play top-level college football or basketball. I guess there are so many quasi sanctioned ways to cheat the system that going this far out of the box is rare.

He wasn’t a former power-lifter who turned one season of football at a prep school in Maine into a scholarship to Kansas State. He was actually a former all-state lineman from Maryland who, after failing to qualify academically for the NCAA, assumed the identity of his best friend — John Knott — and, using Knott’s transcripts and some forged documents, went off to chase his NFL dreams.

Yes, there was a real John Knott. But instead of the 6-foot-5, 280-pound black man who showed up in Manhattan, Kan., in January 1996 — touted by the National Recruiting Advisor as the “sleeper of the class,” because he was big and fast and nobody knew much about him — the real John Knott was actually a 5-9, 140-pound former high school teammate. And he’s white.

Thunder At Dawn, Or Prayer Of A Rugby Dad

by James Howdon for The Classical

Children often find ways to separate themselves from their parents’ avocations. For some children of sports fans, that means learning to play music or joining the debate club. For others, like the son whose father lovingly describes in this article, that means choosing a sport to play which his father knows nothing about.

There are outbursts of loudness, sudden messes, emotional extremity and inexplicable decision-making in our house, part of life with a bright and hasty teenaged boy. In rugby, it’s reversed: he’s the recipient, the object of constant chaos. Especially during the first few workouts, it must’ve felt like life in a tiny random universe: balls came his way without warning, bodies careened and bumped, and the flow of play suddenly reversed or stopped or accelerated in ways utterly surprising to him.

He is learning a sport about which his old man definitely doesn’t know better. He digs that part of the deal with a really big shovel, to be the one teaching.

Fantasy Football Isn’t Just a Man’s Game

by Courtney Rubin for the New York Times

As I wrote about earlier this week, the fantasy football playoffs start this weekend in most leagues. That means people all over the country, not just men, will be going crazy — screaming with joy, frustration, and staring fixedly at their phones, hoping for miracles!

Unflattering stereotypes abound about the female fantasy football player — does it only because of her boyfriend/husband, picks based on how cute the players are — but these days, young women are turning to fantasy football as a way to bond with friends, especially faraway ones with whom they communicate about their hobby on social media and GChat.

She [Adrienne Allen] is so competitive that she refuses to name her favorite research sources, lest she tip off the competition. But she will reveal that her diligence includes scanning the Internet for articles about players’ personal lives because drama can affect performance. “It’s a huge soap opera,” she said of the N.F.L.