The NFL season kicks off this weekend and for 35 million people that means the start of something even more exciting — fantasy football.
It has gotten so popular, the NFL wants to get fantasy football into the elementary school curriculum.
"If you love football and you teach them math through football, the chances are you may teach them better math and more quickly," NFL Chief Marketing Officer Mark Waller told the Wall Street Journal.
Fantasy football is popular on Wall Street because it's like a real life trading game. Instead of physical contact, this form of football involves math. It also allows traders to treat football players as stocks, allowing them to trade, buy and sell their favorite players. And it involves gambling — sometimes big money. I used to joke, "During my divorce proceedings my ex-wife tried to take everything from me. She tried to take the beach house, the dog and Peyton Manning from my fantasy football team."
When I worked on Wall Street, there were rumors of a fantasy league where the league's GM's were a who's who of Wall Street and the entry was $100,000. One of that league's owners was Raj Rajaratnam, who is most notorious for other types of dubious trades.
Here are five things you might not know about fantasy football and Wall Street:
1. It is more valuable than the NFL. The most valuable team in the NFL, according to Forbes, is the Dallas Cowboys, which is valued at $3.2 billion. The NFL's total annual revenue per year is $10 billion. According to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, 32 million players spend an average of $467 on fantasy football which adds up to $15 billion.
The derivative market of fantasy football has higher revenues than the actual NFL — that is crazy!!
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Also, that number doesn't even include the lost man hours and lost productivity at work. For example the other night, my partner in fantasy football took a half day from work and flew up to New York just for the draft! Including those eight hours for the commute and time spent researching players, my friend has already spent 69 hours on our quest for an elusive fantasy-football championship.
2. It can be a boon to your Wall Street career. Fantasy football can be a great way to get to know your clients. The draft can be at a fun sports bar. It can be a great way for you to spend time with your client discussing something more interesting than Janet Yellen's hairdo, Twitter's market cap or the Black-Scholes model of financial markets.
While you can't always add value with your market calls, you can use fantasy football to get creative. Perhaps you can trade your client Adrian Peterson for Doug Martin and a million-share order of General Motors. That's a win-win for both parties.
3. It can be a bust to your career, too. It can backfire on you. Back in 2007, I executed a fantasy-football trade that was totally legit. However, some members of the league accused me and my trade partner (who I was a client of) of engaging in collusion. I was threatened with loss of business and ending friendships.
I did nothing wrong and was offended and hurt, but didn't back down. I doubled down. I responded by changing my team name to "*Caught Cheating" in honor of Bill Belichick and the 2007 Patriots that were caught cheating by videotaping their opponents practice. I embraced the villain role.
It was very ironic that "*Caught Cheating" went undefeated in my fantasy football regular season just like the Patriots in the 2007 regular season. Either one of these accomplishments is unheard of. Also ironic, we both lost our only game of the season in our respective Super Bowls and remain completely unsatisfied with that year's result.
4. Compliance monitoring. Fantasy football has gotten so popular, it is monitored by Wall Street compliance departments. Some firms tried blocking all fantasy games through their firewalls, but that is pointless because it can so easily be done through a smartphone. It makes more sense for compliance to search for words like "Lesean," "Gronk Monster" and "I lost because of your f**king kicker."
You have to be careful what you write. One time I got an IM from a broker, "Call me on an outside line. I have some info that nobody knows."
That IM got flagged and I was asked by compliance what was said in that conversation. Compliance thought I might have been involved in trading on some inside information.
The truth is I did – albeit in fantasy football, not real trading. The broker's friend was a spinal surgeon in South Bend, Indiana and examined Peyton Manning. The doctor's recommendation was Manning to sit out the year and consider retirement. And don't draft him in any round!
5. Fantasy football insurance. Millions of Americans don't have affordable health care but have no fear because you can buy insurance on your fantasy football stars! Yes that's right. Fantasy Sports Insurance is a website that allows you to buy insurance on a player. If the player misses at least 9 full games to injury, you receive payment. While Obama can't ram Obamacare through Congress, at least he can buy insurance on Matt Forte of his hometown Chicago Bears.
There is also a website called FantasyDispute.com which claims to resolve fantasy sports disagreements for $14.95. The firm's pledge is to keep the integrity of each fantasy league at the highest degree. Sounds like a Fantasy Fooball version of the Securities and Exchange Commisssion.
Here are my sleepers and busts:
Sleepers: Quarterback Jay Cutler, Running back Giovanni Bernard and Wide receiver Cordarelle Patterson.
Busts: Quarterback Cam Newton, Running back Arian Foster and Wide receiver DeSean Jackson.
Here's one thing I know for sure: At some point, during this season you are going to hear a random degenerate on a Sunday afternoon yelling something like, "Percy Harvin! Percy Harvin! Percy Harvin!"
Before you call the cops on this guy, remember he is not crazy he is just nuts over fantasy football!
Commentary by Raj Malhotra (Raj Mahal is his stage name), a former Wall Street trader-turned-stand-up-comedian. He has worked at Wall Street firms covering three continents, including at Bank of America, BNP Paribas and Nomura. He draws from his unique ethnic background and Wall Street career to entertain audiences nightly, highlighting the struggles of the 1 percent. He can be seen at Gotham Comedy Club, Broadway Comedy Club, NY Comedy Club, Greenwich Village Comedy Club, and the Tribeca Comedy Lounge. Follow him on Twitter @RajMahalTweets.