Tips for Sports Fans During the Off-Season

The worst time of the year for sports fans probably doesn’t have anything to do with holidays or the weather outside. Instead, diehards who follow leagues like the NFL, NHL, MLB, and NBA are probably more focused on the championship game… which kicks off months of off-season.

The NFL has the longest break, which lasts close to seven months until Week 1 kicks off in early September. Aside from the NFL Draft, preseason games, and trade rumors, there’s not much for fans to follow. Even the NHL, which only has around four months of off-season per year, can leave fans feeling high and dry.

If you’re already dreading the off-season for your favorite league, then consider making a plan to stay engaged during the long months of boredom. Here are five suggestions to hold you over.

Shop Around Futures Markets

Back in 2018, the Supreme Court lifted a federal ban on sports betting. Since then, dozens of states have opened up online and in-person betting markets. With free bets available from sites like  OddsChecker, finding a suitable sportsbook and competitive lines has never been easier.

And while most fans wager on their league during the regular season, you might consider perusing futures bets. Many futures markets open right after a league’s championship game concludes. Not only are these often high-value odds, but they challenge even the most seasoned fans to predict the next season’s outcome a year ahead of time.

Nail Down Your Fantasy Leagues

For decades, fantasy leagues have been the stomping grounds of dedicated (and often relentless) fans. They act as managers of teams, along with recruiters and coaches. But not all fantasy leagues are created equally.

If you’re one of the thousands of sports fans that dive into fantasy leagues, consider diversifying your competitions. Have you stuck to a fantasy league with friends or coworkers? Put your skills to the test by entering a larger pool of competitors. CBS Sports, for example, hosts an annual free fantasy football challenge with thousands of participants nationwide.

Dive into the League’s eSports Partner

In the last five years, pro sports leagues around the world have pivoted to focus on eSports. In addition to staying relevant for gamers, leagues like the NBA and NFL host eSports competitions alongside game development affiliates like 2K Studios and EA Sports to attract new fans.

For example, the NBA 2K League runs each year with varying tiers. 2K players, who may or may not follow the actual basketball league, compete nationwide by joining franchise-sponsored teams of either three or five players. In 2024,  Bucks Gaming (affiliate of the Milwaukee Bucks) took home the grand prize. If you’re interested in sports simulation games, then consider reading the fine print on how to join an eSports team related to your favorite league.

Check Out a Fringe or Amateur League

The beautiful thing about professional sports in North America is that most leagues have affiliate amateur leagues. Rather than a system of relegation, like the UK’s Premier League, franchises can send their players to and from amateur leagues to foster development. The MLB has Triple-A baseball, for example, while the NBA has its G-League.

If you’re missing out on the action, then consider following a rookie team. While the action isn’t quite as quick-paced and the players aren’t quite as skilled, it’s the prime way to identify future stars. Even better, most affiliate teams have stronger connections to the local community where they’re stationed, as they’re often in mid-sized cities rather than metropolises, like a normal franchise. 

Play the Sport for Yourself

Here’s where the rubber meets the road. The vast majority of sports fans aren’t active in local or rookie leagues. They might be past their golden athletic years, unable to join due to physical or external circumstances, or simply don’t know where and how to get started. If you’re looking to join an amateur league, then simply ask around at locations where sports fans gather, whether at a local restaurant or a gym.

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