Interview with Dr. Robert Meeds on “Types of Fantasy Sports Users and Their Motivations”

By Libby Hussung, Tiffany Sanchez, and Xavier Mendoza

Robert Meeds, California State University, Fullerton

Our group had the privilege of interviewing Dr. Robert Meeds on his research study article, “Types of Fantasy Sports Users and their Motivations”, which aims to understand what type of people play fantasy sports and their reasons for doing so. In our interview with Dr. Meeds, we sat down to discuss his role in the study, the motivation behind the study, the methodology that was used, challenges that were faced, and what surprised him about the study.

Read More: Interview with Dr. Robert Meeds on “Types of Fantasy Sports Users and Their Motivations”

Dr. Robert Meeds is currently a professor at California State University, Fullerton in the department of communications. During the early 2000s, when this study was conducted, he was the director of the graduate program in mass communications at Kansas State University. The lead author of the study was Lee Farquhar, one of his master students at the time. Meeds explains that he was asked to be the thesis advisor for the study, therefore, also becoming the co-author of the research article.

At the beginning of the interview, when speaking on the motivation behind this research study, Meeds mentioned how this study started back in 2005. This is important to note because, at that time, fantasy sports was a developing online social activity. No one knew if it would be a “fad” or if it would stick. Now, almost 20 years later it’s clear to see it wasn’t just a fad, but it has grown immensely in popularity and variety. To explain, fantasy sports is a social game where people create imaginary, virtual teams that consist of real life players of an actual professional sport. These fictitious teams play against one another based on the real life players statistical performance in real life games. Back in 2005, this hobby was brand new, so much so that Farquhar was one of the first to study fantasy sports as a social media communication phenomenon. 

Picture taken from The San Diego Union-Tribune

In order to understand the different types of fantasy sports players and their motivation, the study’s participants were asked to sort through sixty statements and place them into three separate piles. The three piles were labeled as “Most characteristic of my viewpoint”, “Most uncharacteristic of my viewpoint” and “Neutral/Ambivalent”. After the piles were made, the participants were then asked to place the three statements they most agreed with into the far right column and the three statements they most disagreed with into the far left column. They were asked to continue this pattern until they had a remaining ten phrases in a middle, neutral column. The participants were also given an open-ended question that asked them to elaborate on their most agreed and most disagreed with statements as well as their overall opinion of fantasy sports. 

For this study, Meeds and Farquhar used a research method known as Q-methodology, which the article noted as an obscure methodology in most disciplines. When asked why Q-methodology was used in this study despite its obscurity, Meeds responded that the method is “a good quantitative means for setting up typologies of people with respect to how they orient around some topic”. He clarified that the difference between Q-methodology and other methods, such as R-methodology which is more commonly used in social science studies, is that it focuses on figuring out “how people correlate among variables”. In most R-methodology studies, it is the other way around, focusing instead on how variables change among people. As a result, Meeds still holds, to this day, that this is the ideal method for the purpose of this study. While he wouldn’t recommend using another method to conduct this study, he reflected that if they had more time he would have liked to have followed up with additional testing on the factors. He would have liked to have conducted either interviews, focus groups, or surveys. However, he stated that the q-methodology was a pretty good methodology for the distance they wanted to take this particular study.

Meeds admitted that one of the limitations of using Q-methodology in this study came when evaluating the results. It was difficult to measure exactly how much participants of the study actually resonated with or how much they opposed the statements. He explained that in order to get a normal distribution, the participants had to sort the statements in a way that is a bit artificial. The participants were essentially asked to say they’re neutral on a lot of statements, when in reality they might have agreed with the majority of them. However, this doesn’t matter too much, he explained, as long as all the participants in the sample follow the same procedure. Meeds added, with this methodology you might not know the degree to which the participants agree or disagree with the statements, but you know what the distribution is in terms of statements. With this being said, Meeds stated that a perk of using Q-methodology is that once a researcher finds participants and acquires the necessary data, the process is pretty smooth. As far as Meeds recalled, they did not run into any real challenges worth noting.

Something interesting Meeds mentioned in his interview, was that when a researcher uses Q-methodology, they approach the study without a hypothesis. So going into this study, they had no expectations and weren’t necessarily surprised with the results since they had no preconceived expectations. On the other hand because this type of research is exploratory, Meeds explained that it was all kind of surprising, because of the fact that they didn’t know the results they were going to get. When asked what surprised him the most while conducting this research study, Meeds mentioned he was surprised by which factors were most important, casual fantasy sports players being the biggest and most stable factor.

Mean z-scores for primary components on all factors taken from the article “Types of Fantasy Sports Users and Their Motivations”

Towards the end of the interview, we wanted to get Dr. Meeds thoughts on the current state and future of fantasy sports. We asked him how he thought the results might differ if the study were to be done today. He thought it would be interesting to do a study like this today, to take some of these principles and apply them into motivations for all kinds of online social gaming, whether it be role player games or typical fantasy sports, in which you have to set up teams and leagues. He mentioned that even his son plays in an MLB fantasy sports league, but for he himself, fantasy sports is not much of an interest anymore. So we probably won’t be seeing any more research from Dr. Meeds on the topic of fantasy sports in the future. However, we were thankful for this time where we were able to speak to him, discuss his research article further, and grow deeper in our understanding of research.

Zoom Interview with Dr. Robert Meeds

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