fantasy footballWith the NFL Season officially starting this weekend, we thought it would be a great idea to talk about how football appeals to millions.

If you have the time and the know-how, fantasy sports leagues can be a challenge and a blast.

There are fantasy leagues in baseball, soccer, golf and hockey. Football leagues are the most popular. Some are free to join and others charge a fee. Many pay significant rewards to the winners.

It might be too late to join a football league this year. If you’re an avid football fan and think you want to join, you could and make a low-stakes hobby of it next year. Fantasy football could be right for you. Here’s how it works.

Leagues usually have 10 to 12 teams. Members gather before the season for a draft, where they create imaginary teams composed of real National Football League players.

During each weekend of the NFL’s regular season, these made-up teams “compete” with one another through a scoring system based on the actual statistics of the individual players.

A whole industry has sprung up to support fantasy league activities. There are sites that help them keep score, and there are statistics experts who sell their forecasts and draft advice for up to $600 a year.

In addition to regular leagues, large open-to-the public leagues compete. The “World Championship of Fantasy Football pays $350,000 to the top player in its Main Event competition. It pays $150,000 to the winner of a special Platinum league for experts.

Thanks to an exemption in Internet gaming laws, fans can wager on fantasy football and use the Internet for leagues that award prize money.

Unlike sports betting or casino-style card games, fantasy sports are considered games of skill rather than games of chance. They are therefore sanctioned by government gaming authorities.

The hobby also attracts geeks in business and finance who like to keep track of numbers and statistics, as well as avid and well-informed spots enthusiasts.