By SHANNON LYNCH
What happens when three men, all fanatical football fans, put their minds together and discuss how to simulate owning their own National Football League team? Fantasy football.
The Fantasy is Born
It all started in October 1962, when Wilfred Winkenbach, a business man in the Oakland, Calif., area and part Oakland Raiders owner, along with Bill Tunnell, a Raiders P.R. man, and Scotty Stirling, an Oakland Tribune reporter, organized one of today’s biggest fall frenzies – fantasy football. The deliberation they had that night in their Manhattan hotel room led to the creation of the Greater Oakland Professional Pigskin Prognosticators League, which eventually developed into the popular hobby known today.
Based on its popularity today, it might appear that football was the first fantasy sport, but it was not. It was actually golf and baseball. In the mid 1950s, Winkenbach created fantasy golf, where members would draft professional golfers. Then, the member left with the lowest scoring player(s) at the end of the tournament would win. Later on, the same principles were adapted to baseball.
The original GOPPPL fantasy football league, made up of Oakland Tribune writers and Raiders coaches, consisted of eight owner-coach teams with a commissioner and secretary to oversee the league. In order to qualify for the league, a member had to meet one of three qualifications. One was an affiliation with an AFL professional football team in an administrative capacity. Another was a direct relationship to professional football in a journalistic capacity and the last option was a purchase or sale of 10 season tickets for Oakland’s 1963 season.
According to the original GOPPPL rules, their purpose was to “bring together some of Oakland’s finest Saturday-morning gridiron forecasters to pit their respective brains (and cash) against each other. Inasmuch as this league is formed only with owners having a deep interest and affection for the Oakland Raiders Professional Football Team, it is felt that this tournament will automatically increase closer coverage of daily happenings in professional football.”
The Fantasy Begins
In August of 1963, before the beginning of the NFL season, the founding members gathered in Wilkenbach’s basement to draft their teams. These were hardcore football fans who took this job very seriously. Since points would be scored based on a player’s performance in a game, they needed quality players. Each week the team had to report their picks before kickoff and then wait for the game.
The men enjoyed being able to play owner and coach to the teams. There was a rush of excitement and power in making the decisions they thought the staff should make. And, in the beginning, the men would spend more time during the game focusing on their players rather than the outcome of the game.
The Fantasy Evolves
Andrew Mousalimas, the partner of Stirling in the first draft, helped to advance the game by his purchase of the Kings X bar, located in Oakland, Calif., in November of 1968. He and Wilkenbach clashed on some of the rules of the game and Wilkenbach resigned from the league. This left Mousalimas to run the league and, for the first time, he opened it up to the public. Through Mousalimas’s hard work, he was able to spread the popularity of the game throughout the Bay area.
The Fantasy Goes Viral
In 1988, Gary Chiappetta and David McNamara, sometimes credited with the creation of fantasy football, helped keep the fantasy football frenzy going by creating rules and a scoring set that are still used today. With the invention and popular usage of the Internet, people of all ages, genders and races have become fantasy football connoisseurs.
The Fantasy Today
According to Fantasy Sports Trade Association, “fantasy sports participation has grown over 60 percent the past four years as over 32 million people now actively playing in the U.S. and Canada…”
Joey Falanga, a 29-year-old, four-year veteran of the game, now actively plays in six leagues and said, “The thing I like best is you find yourself watching more games on Sunday, as opposed to only teams you normally watch, and hey, more football is always a good thing.”
Currently, members pick players from the following positions: quarterback, running back, wide receiver, tight end, kicker and defense. Depending on the league each position will score a variety of points based on their action in the game.
“I pick my players based on a combination of things. I use knowledge I have of players as well as knowledge of ‘experts’ that I can find on the Internet. I try to read as many articles as I can, especially on rookies,” said Brian Zimmerman, a 33-year-old computer specialist and 12-year seasoned fantasy football player.
Rachel Weltcheff, a Mount Mary College junior, said that during the game, there can be tension between members as well as overall frustration. “One main thing is when your team is playing against the Packers! You want to root for the Packers no matter what, but if you have someone going against them or the opposing team’s defense, it makes it difficult to cheer them on sometimes. Another difficult thing, is sometimes the friendly competition goes a little too far, as it can in any situation,” she said.
Fantasy members today have many more opportunities to play thanks to the Internet and can be involved in multiple leagues at the same time. While the basic premise of the game has stayed the same, there are a few changes. There are several different types of leagues and people can play with their friends, co-workers or unknown people online.
There are different types of leagues based on what the player is focused on – money or fame. Every fantasy team host can decide on and choose the rules, while players pick the style that suits their needs and wants. Weltcheff has been playing fantasy football for three years and she plays in two leagues with prizes ranging from $150 to $1,000.
“I have made it to the play-offs every year that I have played. Last year I won the league I played,” she said.