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Living the fantasy,

August 11, 2009

Does your boyfriend or husband insist on watching every NFL game that's playing on TV each Sunday, only diverting his attention away long enough to catch updates on the internet for the games that aren't?

Does he spend countless hours online and sift through five to six copies of what appears to be the same magazine with a different cover, all in the name of "preparation?"

Does he insist on spending an entire evening or weekend in late August, locked in some room or at some secluded location with his buddies, for something he refers to only as "the draft"?

Article Photos

FANTASY football draft can have a more serious tone than the average person might think. From left, John Nixon and Chris Nash of Wheeling, along with Greg Davis from Bellaire hammer out the early rounds of their draft. The advent of technology allows members of a league who are unable to make the draft meeting still participate, via the internet.

If you answered yes to any of these questions, there's a good chance you have a fantasy football fan on your hands. And while there are plenty of women who play, this is primarily a man thing.

But just what is fantasy football and what' the basis of its appeal?

For the first question, travel back in time to the year 1962.

Wilfred Winkenbach, a part owner of the Oakland Raiders who had already come up with the idea for fantasy golf and baseball, was meeting with Raiders' public relations man Bill Tunnell and Oakland Tribune sports journalist Scotty Sterling.

Together, they came up with an eight-team fantasy football league dubbed the Greater Oakland Professional Pigskin Prognosticators League (GOPPPL).

The premise was simple, each member of the league would draft a set number of NFL players at various positions to comprise his fantasy team.

Those players accumulated money for their owners each week, depending on their real performances during professional games. The main difference in the original league was that instead of performance equaling points, it equaled cash. For example, in the GOPPPL, a rushing touchdown was worth 50 cents, instead of its modern equivalent of six points.

The modern game seemed to evolve thanks to Oakland restaurant owner Andy Mousalimas, who introduced the idea of leagues at his sports bar, Kings X. Mousalimas was given credit for developing the performance-based scoring that is used today.

Fantasy football picked up steam in popularity, but its explosion coincided with the internet, which made information, and more importantly, statistics, just a click away.

Millions of people play across the country. Some play for free, most, pony up a cash entry fee in hopes of claiming the monetary prize at the end.

It would take an entire book to touch on every fantasy football topic. So let's look at the basics.

There are four main types of leagues that can be utilized in fantasy football and the all-important draft is the deciding factor.

First, and most common, is the standard-draft league.

A set number of people come together, usually with draft cheat sheets in hand, to select their players for the upcoming season.

For example, a league of 10 guys will pick an order for the draft, which can be decided upon in a number of ways: numbers in a hat, order of finish in the previous season, even video-game tournaments. It all depends on the individuals.

The draft usually is done in serpentine method, meaning in odd numbered rounds, the order is 1-through-10. In even numbered rounds, the order to select is 10-through-1, to make it fair.

The number of rounds is set by the roster size. The roster size varies from league to league, but a standard is anywhere form 16-20. The participants draft players at different positions, usually consisting of quarterbacks, running backs, receivers, tight ends, kickers and a team-defense, although in recent years, individual defensive players have replaced or been added in addition to team defenses in some leagues.

Enough players are usually drafted to fill out each teams starting lineup, plus at least one backup per position and is done near the beginning of each season.

The second and third types, Dynasty Leagues and Keeper Leagues, are similar in their format.

In a Dynasty League, owners only meet to draft NFL rookies, because each team retains its players from season to season. A Keeper League is the same, except owners specify a set number of players on their rosters to keep and place the rest back in the draft pool.

The fourth type is the Auction Draft, or Salary Cap, where players are specified a monetary value and owners are allocated a set amount of money to bid on certain players. In this type of league, depending on the rules, it is possible for a player to be on multiple teams.

After the draft, the next division in league type comes in to play, how the scoring is calculated. There are two main scoring formulas used, either scoring based or performance based.

Scoring-based leagues are pretty straight forward. If a running back runs for a touchdown, he gets six points. No more, no less. It's all about touchdowns, or field goals and extra points for the kickers.

Performance-based leagues range from the simple to the intricate. One example would be a quarterback throws a 65-yard touchdown pass. He would receive four points for the touchdown throw, three points for the yardage (1 point for every 20 yards passing) and 1 bonus point for a touchdown pass of 50 yards or more.

The numerical value assigned in a performance league is usually hashed out during the draft and approved by the league's commissioner, who also has final say of any free-agent pickups (non-drafted players) and trades in-between games during the season.

Owners set their starting lineup each week and the points are tabulated after Monday Night Football to decide each week's winners in either head-to-head or league-wide competition.

While the NFL's regular season is 17 weeks, the regular season in fantasy football is shorter, as the championship game of the playoffs generally coincides with Week 17 of the NFL season.

When the league champion is crowned, the money is usually divided up to the top two finishers, or in some leagues, the winner takes all.

But what's fantasy football's appeal.

It's simple. What football fan doesn't think he knows more than his team's general manager and coach. And what football fan wouldn't love the opportunity to prove it. Fantasy football allows fans the chance to be the owner of a team.

It's also an opportunity for bragging rights over the other league members.

Plus, it's just another excuse to watch more football because now there's a routing interest in practically every game.



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