The Great Willy Winkenbach!
What if you were completely out of shape but I told you could run 60 yards for a touchdown – or maybe you never kicked a football in your life but I could show you a way you could kick a 70-yard field goal without breaking a sweat? Now even people who have no athletic ability or those people who are incredible at sports can be on an even playing field – just because of how fast they can click a mouse (plus a little bit of luck!) That’s right – I am talking about the world of Fantasy Football!
There is a subculture that exists today in our society and it is taking over the minds of millions. People crazed over every sport statistic they can find! Unknown players and obscure teams all of a sudden take on huge importance. For 16 weeks, wives lose husbands, mothers lose sons, as their obsession with their “fantasy team” consumes their lives. My Dad introduced me to this world for the first time last year and my life has never been the same.
You may already be familiar with fantasy football, but for the people who don’t know what I’m talking about, I will explain: According to Wikepedia: Fantasy Football, “is an interactive, virtual competition in which people manage professional football players versus one another and that allows people to act as general managers of a pseudo-football team.” But oh, this would be way too easy to just pick and choose as you please. To make things more challenging and more realistic… there is an online draft! Within a league, each player can only belong to one fantasy team. So if all ten teams of fist pounding football maniacs want the same number one quarter back in the NFL… it’s a race to who can click their mouse the fastest. No, seriously, the draft for Fantasy Football is very much like the draft for professional Football. After each person has filled all the slots for players for his fantasy team, he mentally prepares himself for the battle that is yet to come. Each professional player racks up points for their fantasy team based on their performance in whatever pro game they are playing in that week. Whether it’s how many yards they run or throw, touchdowns, fumbles, and incompletions, it all adds or subtracts to their fantasy score. In other words, according to Fantasy Football Extreme, “Fantasy Football is a game where the participants (called fantasy owners) draft a team of real-life NFL players and then each fantasy team scores points based on all those real-life players’ statistical performances”.
This is not just a game, but a way of life. There are a few basic requirements to join a fantasy football league: beauty, brains, breeding… Seriously – the only thing needed to join a Fantasy Football League is a computer and the money required to pay the fee for the league that you are joining (the fee money everyone pays is used to pay the winners at the end of the season). Then one must find a TV, newspaper, internet – or even better – go to a sports bar and watch football for an unreal amount of time, talk about it for seven days nonstop until Sunday comes around again and the whole cycle repeats. Picking a restaurant for a date now has some pre-requisites, as the guy makes sure that he has access to a TV (as well as the seat at the table with optimal viewing capabilities).
Now I am just focusing on fantasy football, but there are other fantasy sports leagues as well, including basketball, baseball and ice hockey. Did you know that the first fantasy league sport was for GOLF??!!? (Now THAT sounds exciting!) But I think we should widen the fantasy sports scope. How about Fantasy Bowling? Or Fantasy Ping-Pong?. There are thousands of bowling teams in America – and just think about how many people play ping-pong – it could work!
As read on howstuffworks.com, Fantasy Football is HUGE today, with an estimated 30 million people (including 6.5 million women) who play in some sort of league in America. But how did it start? Who was THE person who invented fantasy football? The answer to this question is… Wilfred Winkenbach (no genius has a normal last name). Wilfred was a businessman who partially owned the Oakland Raiders. In 1963, he came up with the idea of fantasy football and founded the first league called the GOPPPL (Greater Oakland Professional Pigskin Procrastinators League [I’m not joking]). Fantasy Football was a lot different then than it is now. For one thing, team members were awarded money after ever touchdown by one of their fantasy players: 50 cents for rushing touchdown by any player, 25 cents for any player receiving a pass for a touchdown, 25 cents for any player throwing a touchdown pass, $2.50 for a kickoff or punt return for touchdown, $5.00 for a touchdown by defensive lineman… well – you get the idea. It’s much different now. There are many different leagues you can join now to play Fantasy Football, including: Head to Head Leagues, Total Point Leagues, Auction Draft Leagues, Dynasty Leagues, Keeper Leagues & IDP Leagues. Something for everyone! My Dad and I play in a Total Point League. (& might I mention, we took 1st place the last 2 years!)
In 1969, Andy Mousalimas (who was a member of GOPPPL), brought the idea of Fantasy Football to the masses by introducing fantasy football leagues at his sports bar, but fantasy leagues didn’t become really popular until the baseball strike in 1981. Mousalimas sports bar, the Kings X, is considered the “ground zero” of Fantasy Football and still continues to run many leagues today. But it was the internet that took Fantasy Football from sports bars to becoming the billion dollar business it is today.
Before I started playing fantasy football, I typically only watched the Bears or Jets games unless it was the Playoffs or the Superbowl. When my dad and I started playing fantasy football… that completely changed. Our Sundays were devoted to intensely watching every game. Even games like the Kansas City vs. Panthers game was exciting because one of the Kansas Cities players was on my fantasy team. Although we didn’t see much of the rest of our family on those days – this was definitely male bonding at its best. It was fun to spend the time with my Dad- deciding on our players and tons of other details.
Now I know that there are a lot of women out there that love football, but in my house – I’ll have to check if they have Fantasy Glee for me to do with my Mom!