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Are you ready for some ... Fantasy Football?

September 2, 2011
By MIKE HUGHES - The Scene , Times Leader

A brief glimpse into the future

On a cold, blustery Dec. afternoon in Pittsburgh, the Cleveland Browns are driving toward the end zone, threatening to score for the first time all game.

Browns' quarterback Colt McCoy takes the snap and turns to pitch to running back Peyton Hillis.

The burly Cleveland running back breaks a tackle and barrels his way into the end zone for a Browns' touchdown.

The Steelers' crowd unleashes a torrent of boos that echo throughout the stadium. Yet, somewhere, a rabid Pittsburgh fan, dressed in a black No. 7 Ben Roethlisberger jersey, quickly glances around to assure no one is looking and gives a quick, almost unnoticeable fist pump at the events that have just transpired.

What is this? Sports blasphemy you say? A member of Steele rs' nation couldn't possibly be excited at a Browns' touchdowns scored against his beloved Black & Gold. Could he?

Oh he could and oh he is. And while the prospects of this particular scenario coming true this Dec. 8 at Heinz Field are debatable depending on what city you're in, you can bet that if it does happen, a few fans will be feeling equal parts jubilation and disappointment as the head official raises his hands signaling a touchdown.

Because while the Pittsburgh 'D' may have just surrendered six, for those select fans, who have Hillis one of their starting backs on their fantasy team, it's another six points closer to victory.

And folks, in fantasy football, it's all about the 'W.'

The birth of fantasy sports

While fantasy football, and fantasy sports in general, seem like a relatively new phenomena, you actually have to travel back in time to 1962 to discover the invention of the game.

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.

Draft Day

For fantasy football players, there is no day more important than draft day.

Whether playing in standard, keeper or dynasty leagues, draft day is the official start to the fantasy season.

It's talked about months in advance and is carried out in a number of different ways. A draft party is a staple and they range from the simple to the elaborate.

Some people simply get together at a league members house, get out the old pen and paper and start picking players. After all, it is that simple.

Others go all out, renting out rooms or hotel suites and making an entire weekend event out of it.

And while the draft is the official start to the season, much prepwork and research is conducted months before the draft takes place.

Players scour the internet and fantasy football periodicals for information on who's expected to have a breakout year, who may be a sleeper pick in the late rounds and who is best to just leave waiting on the draft board.

It's equal parts art and science. After all, for all the research and statistics, sometimes the experts are just wrong. And sometimes, you just have a feeling about a guy and pick him. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn't.

You have some players that will follow their fantasy draft cheat sheet to a tee, crossing off players as they are selected and never veering from the suggest draft order. Others will mix expert opinion with gut feelings. Still, other fantasy players stick true to their team of chance and draft a majority of their players from the same team.

If your favorite team is say, the Patriots or Steelers or Colts, this could work to your advantage. But this method can easily backfire. And you won't likely see many Detroit fans drafting a fantasy team full of Lions' players. That is, unless they hate winning.

Draft mechanics

A draft order first must be determined and can be done so in a number of ways. Players can draw numbers from a hat, draw straws or even compete against one another. It's not unheard of for say, a video game tournament in Madden on the Playstation 3 or Xbox 360 to be held to determine the order of selection.

The draft usually is done in serpentine method, meaning in odd numbered rounds, the would be 1-through-10 for a 10-team league. The even numbered rounds, the selection order would be 10-through-1.

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 of fantasy leagues, 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.

Scoring system

How teams score points can be tracked in a number of different ways but can generally be classified into one of two groups: yardage leagues and scoring leagues.

In scoring leagues, only touchdowns, field goals, extra points and safeties can earn a team points. If they score, you score. It's fairly simple.

Yardage leagues also award points for scoring plays but points are also awarded based on yards gained by each player in the team's starting lineup.

For example, say a team has New England quarterback Tom Brady as its starting quarterback. Brady finishes the day 35-of-42 for 320 yards with four touchdowns and one interception.

Since quarterbacks usually receive four points per touchdown thrown, he starts off with 16 points for the four TD passes. Subtract two points for the interception to give you 14. Now for the yardage. A fixed number of points can be given for reaching certain markers in yardage, say a point for every 20 yards; two points for every 50.

Let's say this league awards two points for every 20 yards. That would give Brady an extra 16 points for the day. Now say one of Brady's touchdown passes was a 75-yard bomb. Some leagues award extra points for touchdowns greater than 50 yards in length. Add in another two points and his total for the afternoon is 32. Not a bad start to the day.

The scoring system is generally left up to the league commissioner and is hashed out prior to the start of the season. The type of scoring the league utilizes will also have an effect on the draft as a player who is only of average worth in a scoring league may be considered a great pick-up in a yardage league and vice versa.

Each week players must set their starting lineup. In most leagues, this consists of: one quarterback, two running backs, two receivers, a tight end, a kicker and a team defense. Some leagues have began utilizing individual defensive players, adding a defensive lineman, linebacker and secondary player into the mix. IDPs further complicate the scoring system but also add an extra degree of fun to the league.

Big games, big money

While some people play fantasy football for the fun and bragging rights amongst their buddies, that's seldom the case.

Most leagues charge an entry fee, ranging from $20 up to several hundred dollars. Sometimes its winner take all and sometimes there is a smaller prize for the runner-up.

Some leagues have purchased elaborate trophies that the winning team gets to keep throughout the year.

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.

Big games, big money

While some people play fantasy football for the fun and bragging rights amongst their buddies, that's seldom the case.

Most leagues charge an entry fee, ranging from $20 up to several hundred dollars. Sometimes it's winner take all and sometimes there is a smaller prize for the runner-up.

Some leagues have purchased elaborate trophies that the winning team gets to keep throughout the year.

Hughes may be reached online at



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