The fantasy football culture is sweeping the nation and has become more widespread than probably anyone ever thought possible with popular media outlets such as ESPN.com, NFL.com and Yahoo.com hosting a large proportion of the fantasy football leagues on the Internet.
The trend of users playing fantasy football has been steadily increasing in the last decade, and some reports estimate that approximately 15 to 18 million people will participate in some form of a fantasy league for the 2010 NFL season.
Wilfred Winkenbach, a former Oakland area businessman and partner of the Oakland Raiders, created fantasy football in 1962 with the help of two friends and established the original rules that eventually evolved into fantasy football.
The first inaugural league was called the GOPPPL (Greater Oakland Professional Pigskin Prognosticators League). The league consisted of eight people, primarily people involved with the American Football League (AFL) at that time as well as pro football journalists.
Each roster in the GOPPPL consisted of the following: two quarterbacks, four halfbacks, two fullbacks, four offensive ends, two kick/punt returners, two field goal kickers, two defensive backs/linebackers and two defensive lineman.
Fun fact: George Blanda, a quarterback and field goal kicker for the Oakland Raiders at the time, was the first ever number one overall fantasy football selection.
However, fantasy football has evolved into a culture, a hobby or sometimes even an obsession for pro football fans across the country, and it is seemingly unanticipated by Winkenbach.
Many fantasy football leagues are modeled after the realism of NFL in terms of a variety of different factors. Before the NFL season starts, each fantasy football league holds a draft. People participating in a given league are put in a random order in which to draft their team, so no two teams can have the same player.
After the draft, there are many levels of complexities to fantasy football involving free agents, trades and waivers that simulates the NFL procedures.
For instance, if a player is dropped by a fantasy owner, every other owner in the league has a chance to put in a waiver claim on that player with the player going to the owner with the worst record in the league who made the claim.
Does this sound familiar to a particular Vikings wide receiver who was recently released?
That being said, people play fantasy football for a variety of reasons.
“I play fantasy football because it’s an enjoyable hobby that doesn’t take up too much time but allows me to keep in touch with friends that I don’t get a chance to talk to a lot in a different format,” Senior Kevin Dumke said.
“I play fantasy football because I think it’s an interesting game because there is a lot of strategy involved that you might not think about right away. It’s kind of fun to compete with your friends and try to win some money,” Senior Tanner Winslow said.
Indeed, there is plenty of strategy that goes into deciding on which players to play each week based on the teams they play or if a certain NFL team is on bye, meaning your star running back or quarterback might not be playing that particular week.
“I enjoy the strategy behind it, looking into matchups and trying to make sure you are picking up players that will be good in the long run. [I enjoy] managing my team over the course of the season,” Winslow said.
Despite the overwhelming amount of information released about fantasy football each week, most started playing fantasy football at very different times.
“I first played fantasy football when I was in sixth grade,” Dumke said. “My dad was in a neighborhood league, and all of their sons got together and did their own league for a couple of years. After that I haven’t played for a while except for the past few years.”
“I started playing my sophomore year,” Winslow said.
However, if fantasy owners have one thing in common, it’s to cheer on players on other teams in which most people would have no interest whatsoever if they weren’t playing fantasy football.
“I enjoy fantasy football because it keeps me invested in teams and players other than the Vikings who break my heart on a weekly basis,” Dumke said. “It gets you involved in teams you don’t normally watch because you have an interest in specific players and their stat lines. It gives you people to root for and teams to cheer for in games that wouldn’t have any impact on the Vikings.”
“It gives me someone to cheer for on other teams, so I’ll cheer for my players in other games rather than just the Vikings,” Winslow said.
Fantasy football has indeed become a separate culture apart from the NFL for numerous sports players. Fantasy owners can read a wealth of information published each week by a variety of sports media outlets, such as which players have favorable matchups, which players could be complete busts or which players may be surprisingly successful.
Many of these outlets have their own fantasy experts, who publish weekly columns solely devoted to fantasy football.
Just imagine what fantasy football might become in the next five to ten years.