Fantasy football (American)
||This article may contain original research. (September 2011)|
Fantasy football is an interactive competition in which users compete against each other as general managers of virtual teams. The players that an individual is able to manage are professional American football players in the National Football League. The different actions people are able to make are drafting, trading, adding or dropping players, and changing rosters. Due to the growth of the Internet, Fantasy football has vastly increased in popularity, particularly because Fantasy football providers such as ESPN, Yahoo, CBS, and the NFL itself are able to keep track of statistics entirely online, eliminating the need to check box scores and newspapers regularly to keep track of players. Most leagues have a single week championship in Week 16 of the NFL season.
The rules for what eventually became fantasy football were developed starting in 1962 at New York City's Milford Plaza Hotel by a limited partner in the Oakland Raiders named Wilfred "Bill" Winkenbach together with Bill Tunnell, former Raiders public relations manager, and Scotty Stirling, a former reporter.
The inaugural league was called the GOPPPL (Greater Oakland Professional Pigskin Prognosticators League), and the first draft took place in the rumpus room of Winkenbach's home in Oakland, CA in August 1963. The league consisted of eight members, made up of administrative affiliates of the AFL, pro football journalists, or someone who had purchased or sold 10 season tickets for the Raiders’ 1963 season. Each roster consisted of the following in the GOPPPL: two quarterbacks, four halfbacks, two fullbacks, four offensive ends, two kick/punt returners, two field goal kickers, two defensive backs/linebackers and two defensive linemen. The current GOPPPL roster now includes: two quarterbacks, four halfbacks, six wide receivers/tight ends, two kickers, two defensive backs, one return team, and a bonus pick for any position. As of 2012, the GOPPPL will celebrate its 50th season and still maintains its TD-only scoring heritage.
In 1969, Andy Mousalimas, an original creator of GOPPPL and participant in the inaugural draft, brought the game to his sports bar, the King's X in Oakland, CA, where he added another couple leagues. When the patrons of other Oakland and San Francisco bars visited for trivia contests they soon learned of the game and passed the word about it. Due to the time consuming nature of the game's scoring it was difficult to pick up and spread slowly across the country.
One of the oldest continuously running known fantasy football leagues is the G'national Football League (GFL), founded in the Summer of 1979 in Lakeland, Florida by Wayne Wesley. The idea was inspired by a March 1979 Sports Illustrated score card column detailing clever team names of "fantasy teams" (including the Pomona Fighting Pimentos), but the GFL included completely re-written rules. Before switching to internet scoring in 1997, the team owners were required to send in weekly line-ups via postcard to both the commissioner and opponents. At the beginning, newsletters were typed on a manual Remington portable typewriter each Tuesday and mailed to team owners. The only scores that were counted were those reported by the designated newspaper, determined at the beginning of the season (usually the Lakeland Ledger or Tampa Tribune). The original scoring system included only actual points scored by a 7-man offensive team - no yardage, no special teams, no defense. The league still has two original owners, including the founder and Eddie Winoker, who has been hosting banquets and drafts since 1988. The league boasts several multi-generational team owners and several international team owners over its rich 34-season history. TV interview with the founders here.
Another early fantasy football league is “The league formerly known as Maria’s”. This league was founded in Spokane, Washington on September 2, 1981, at the now defunct Maria’s pizza parlor. Originally, Maria’s Fantasy Football League had eight franchises drafting from a single player pool. Today, the league boasts twenty-four franchises divided into two conferences each drafting from a separate player pool. The playoff system mirrors the NFL playoffs with weekly live auction redrafts as the player pool diminishes culminating in a Super Bowl between the two conference champions. Like other pre-information age leagues, Maria’s was founded as a TD only league to simplify manual scoring. Since, the rules have been modified by adding “bonus points” for milestone yardage achievements – but otherwise Maria’s franchise owners have opted to maintain the spirit of Maria’s TD-only history.
For years, the popularity of Fantasy football grew slowly. In 1997, CBS launched the beta version of the first publicly available free fantasy football website. The game immediately became widely popular. Within three years, all major sports media websites launched competing fantasy football hosting websites. The NFL released their own official game in 2010, NFL.com Fantasy Football, further driving industry growth. Fantasy football is now the single most important marketing tool for the NFL. Today it is estimated over 19 million people compete in public and private leagues online nationally.
In 2009, Fantasy Football was christened mainstream with a fantasy football based sitcom, The League. The League was created by the husband-and-wife team of Jeff Schaffer (Curb Your Enthusiasm, Seinfeld) and Jackie Marcus Schaffer (Disturbia, EuroTrip) who serve as executive producers and directors. The series is produced by FX Productions.
There are several different types of fantasy football leagues. The two most popular types are: head-to-head and total points leagues. Type of league is the first category in which a manager must designate to participate.
In head-to-head leagues, a team matches up versus a different team each week. The team who receives the most points of the two receives a win for that particular week. Points are dictated by the scoring system that is either standard set by the website or custom set by the commissioner. A team’s total is the sum of all players points in the starting lineup. The win-loss record is the most important statistic in head-to-head leagues, as it directly correlates with the league champion. Teams with the best win-loss record advance to the playoffs. If two teams have the same record, the tie-breaker is then decided by total points scored by each team throughout the season.
Total Points Leagues
Total points leagues are leagues in which teams accumulate points on an ongoing basis. The league standings are determined by the teams’ total points rather than their win-loss record. The teams who accrue the highest total of points throughout the duration of the NFL-regular season advance to the playoffs.
Dynasty "Keeper" Leagues
A dynasty "Keeper" style fantasy football league is a league where you retain most or all of your players from year to year. This creates an environment which is very different from that of a redraft league. In such leagues, the type of players available in the yearly draft is focused more towards rookies with long-term potential.
Salary Cap Leagues
The salary cap football league is a particular type of dynasty league which adds another factor of realism similar to the NFL: the salary cap. Just like in the NFL, this means each player has an associated salary and the total spent on all the players on a team has a maximum - the "salary cap." This can have many levels of complexity, e.g. a player may be signed for multiple years, etc.
GMs nominate players (in order) to be bid on by all GMs in the league. Each franchise has a cap (standard is $200) that they can spend on their entire roster. This is the fastest growing format of fantasy football. There are websites and podcasts devoted to this specific method of playing fantasy football. The first website and podcast dedicated to this type of fantasy football is the Fantasy Football Auctioneer.
Daily Fantasy Sports
Daily fantasy sports is like traditional fantasy sports where players draft a team of real world athletes who then score fantasy points according to set scoring rules. However, instead of being stuck with the same team through a whole season, daily fantasy sports contests last just one day (or in the case of NFL, one weekend). Users can play head-to-head or in larger field tournaments. Cash leagues as well as free contests are available for play.
Playoff Fantasy Football
Several websites, including NFL.com, offer a fantasy football league during the NFL's playoffs. Participants choose players from several different positions and receive points each week for their performances. The league lasts until the Super Bowl. Players who are on a fantasy roster for consecutive weeks earn double, triple, and finally quadruple points. Scoring is usually the same as in most season-long leagues.
New league types
A new style of fantasy football is modeled after the popular "survivor pool" or "knock out pool" style of weekly NFL wagering that allows each pool member to pick one NFL team to win each week, but he or she can only pick that team once all year.
Similarly, survivor fantasy leagues allow owners to draft a fresh team of seven players each week, with each player only available to each owner one week per year. This added level of strategy places an emphasis on weekly NFL match ups, while at the same time diminishing the negative consequences of injuries.
Another type of league that allows for year round fantasy football is called Simulation Football. Simulation Football uses a computer to simulate the games with simulated players, instead of relying on the NFL for its players and stats. The most basic type is a GM league, where all the player has to do is put together a team and the computer does most of the work. A much more involved type of simulation football is called a "Create-a-Player" or CAP league. In a CAP league, top players vie for the chance to be a GM and put together a team using players that are created by other people. There are different types of scoring for determining who is a "top player" but the people are charged with making their player as good as possible using the league's scoring system.
The popularity of fantasy football has filtered down into the collegiate level as well. Fantasy College Football is gaining in popularity as diehard fantasy players and college football fanatics combine two of their favorite passions into one. The most popular leagues involve the BCS only schools while other leagues incorporate all FBS schools or even just the "non-BCS" schools.
Just like in real football, each year fantasy football leagues have a draft (note: in dynasty leagues, this normally consists of NFL rookies only), in which each team drafts NFL players. These players are kept unless they are traded or dropped, whereby they enter a pool of unowned players that any team may claim. In most leagues, no player may be owned by more than one team, although some leagues do allow for this.
There are essentially two types of drafts. In a traditional "serpentine" or "snake" draft, owners take turns drafting players in a "serpentine" method, i.e. the owner who picks 1st in the odd rounds picks last in the even rounds, in the interests of fairness.
In an auction draft, each owner has an imaginary budget which he must use to purchase all his players in an auction format. Owners take turns nominating players for open bid. The owner who bids the highest on each player receives that player, reducing their remaining budget accordingly. Auction drafts are viewed as the more fair method since every owner begins on equal ground. A few leagues use a hybrid of the two styles, selecting a portion of their roster via auction, with the remainder selected through a serpentine method.
As the NFL has evolved, so have fantasy football draft strategies. The most commonly used strategies are value based drafting and opinion based drafting. Value base drafting entails projecting the total fantasy point value for each player in the draft and then figuring their value with respect to other players at their position, while standard cheat sheet based drafting requires ranking each player based on your opinion of worth, or other people’s opinion of said player's worth.
Drafts can be conducted in "live" or "auto" formats. Live drafts involve players utilizing real-time strategy and reactionary measures to acquire specific available players. Auto-drafts use preliminary draft rankings set by each team to automate the draft cycle and establish the teams. Live drafts are often preferred to automated as they are believed to require more skill.
The location of fantasy football drafts depend on the geographic location of each team manager. With the rise of the internet, all Fantasy football providers have made online drafting an option for leagues in which the managers are too far away to meet up in person. Other leagues make a tradition of meeting up to draft, and in some leagues, managers travel cross-country to attend annual league drafts. Group drafts conducted in-person are typically scheduled many weeks in advance. Common locations include boardrooms, offices, bars, or dining establishments.
Each owner assigns his/her team a name, which can be based on anything. Some names are based on the owner's life or personality, while many are based on current events or a pun or word play using the name of a favorite player. Choosing an especially clever or funny team name can win an owner accolades from other owners including digital league trophies for the best name, and sports writers who cover fantasy football often compile their own lists of their favorite fantasy football team names from a given year.  
Free agents and trades
Free agents and trades are important components to maintaining a competitive roster throughout the duration of a season. Free agents exist in fantasy leagues that do not allow multiple teams to have any one professional athlete. In these leagues, free agents are professional players that are not currently on any league member's roster. You can add, or claim, players anytime during the season.
Some leagues do not allow you to drop high profile players who may not be performing well (in fantasy scoring terms). This can be very challenging as an owners only option to get this player off their team is to find another owner who is willing to make a trade for the under performing player.
At the beginning of every week, after the Monday night football game, team owners can claim free agents. The waiver claims are processed later on in the week. If more than one team owner claims a player, a team's waiver wire position determines who gets the player. A team's waiver wire ranking is determined by things like team record and the number of free agents already added. The worse a team's ranking, the more likely they will get the best free agents. This helps competitiveness as the season wears on. Usually there are several surprise players that are not drafted by any team and yet become some of the best fantasy players.
Some leagues have trade deadlines that are set, and others have a waiver period before free agents can be picked up. This really depends as to how the league is set up. When a trade is proposed and accepted in some leagues there can be a voting period which will allow the league to decide if the trade is acceptable or not, while other leagues have a period in which the league manager can decide to veto the trade.
Fantasy trade referees
Often within fantasy football leagues trades are made that cause controversy and are considered unfair by many other members of the league. These disputes are sometimes settled by fantasy football trade referees. These third party sites feature experienced fantasy players who rule on trades and offer an objective third party opinion.
You may not need to use trade referees if your league uses the voting system in which the league can approve or decline the trade that has been placed. In some leagues if there is a voting period and a trade referee in place, the trade referee can overrule the league voting and this can cause controversy as well. Other leagues give their league manager the power to veto or pass the trade.
"Fuppets" and "FuppetMasters"
Fuppets are defined as, "A fantasy football owner who is a puppet or under the spell or controlled by another owner".
FuppetMasters are a more dubious and sophisticated breed of fantasy football manipulator. These individuals seek to create influence by calling others "Fuppets" in an attempt to distract the fantasy football league at large from the fact that they are actively manipulating them. It is the fantasy football equivalent of reverse psychology.
In many leagues, the FuppetMaster is commonly referred to as 'The Chief'. 'Chief' can also be used as a verb. For example, "Brian is getting 'Chiefed' again, he'll never learn".
Each team is allowed a pre-determined number of players on its team, as well as a specified number at each position that can or must be used in each game (the "starters"). Owners for each team then determine each week which players will start (within the rules) and which will be "benched". Just like in real football, bench players can become starters for various reasons: due to other players' injury, poor performance, or if another player's team has a bye.
Each week, owners choose their starters for a game before a certain deadline. Whether to sit or start a player is usually based on strategic considerations including the player's past and expected performance, defensive match ups, and so on.
Each team owner must designate which players from the team roster will be starters each week - i.e. the only players who will "score" any points. The following example is similar to many common formats required for a starting lineup:
- 1 Quarterback (QB)
- 2 Running Backs (RB)
- 2 Wide Receivers (WR)
- 1 Flex RB/WR/TEs (RB/WR/TE)
- 1 Tight End (TE)
- 1 Placekicker (K)
- 1 Team Defense/Special Teams (DST)
- 6 Bench (BN)
There are many variants on this. Some leagues use individual defensive players (IDPs) (and in some cases a punter) instead of or in addition to a combined Team Defense/Special Teams. Some other leagues use separate Defense and Special Teams. Another variant is the "flex" position, which can be filled by a player in one of several positions. Flex positions are often limited to "WR/TE", "RB/WR", or "RB/WR/TE". Traditionally, this flex was required to be an RB, WR, or TE; however, some leagues allow any position to fill this flex slot as an "OP" (any Offensive Player). Some leagues also have a two-quarterback requirement for a starting lineup, providing yet another twist into the complexity of different scoring systems and lineups (Hendricks, 2007 Fantasy Football Guidebook pg 21-44).
Players earn their team points based on their performance in their weekly games; for example, each touchdown counts as 6 points, a certain number of yards gained counts for points, and so on. In almost all cases, players earn points for passing, rushing, and receiving yards. Passing yards (sometimes touchdowns as well) typically earn about half as many points as rushing/receiving yards, since QBs normally get many more. Negative points are also usually given for turnovers, and kickers earn points for field goals and extra points (sometimes negative points for missed kicks). Bonuses can also be given for exceptionally good performances, like a QB throwing for over 300 yards, or a kicker making a long field goal. Team defenses earn points for things like sacks, turnovers, safeties, etc. Individual defensive players typically do not earn points for team-wide stats such as keeping the opponent under a certain score or yardage total, but rather for tackles or turnovers made.
A typical scoring format follows. Again, there are many variations used:
- 1 point for 25 passing yards
- 1 point for 10 rushing yards
- 1 point for 10 receiving yards
- 6 points for a touchdown
- 4 points for a passing touchdown
- -2 points for every interception thrown or fumble lost
- 1 point for each extra point made
- 3 points for each 0-39 yard field goal, 4 points for each 40-49 yard field goal, and 5 points for each 50+ yard field goal
- 2 points per turnover gained by defense
- 1 points per sack by the defense
- 2 points for a safety by defense
- 6 points for each touchdown scored by defense
- 2 points for each blocked kick
An alternate scoring format is the "pure yardage" league, in which touchdowns are ignored, and each player's passing, rushing and receiving yards are totaled. Some yardage leagues also convert defensive stats into yards (ex., 50 yards for an interception, 20 yards for a sack), whether for a team's defense, or individual players. Another scoring system counts only touchdowns, touchdown passes, and field goals for points. Many leagues also count points per reception (PPR). In PPR leagues your team scores points for every reception made by a player, usually a TE, RB and WR.
An alternative method for scoring defense is Individual Defensive Players or IDP fantasy football. The main difference being that players typically draft anywhere from 3 to 7 individual defensive players during a draft as opposed to just one team defense. Sometimes there are required positions to fill like 2 Linebackers, 2 Defensive Backs and 2 Defensive Linemen and sometimes it's just 5 defensive players of any position you choose. There are many different ways to draft IDPs and many have found this makes the later part of the fantasy draft more exciting. For instance, instead of drafting a 5th wide receiver in the 16th round that will typically be on your bench or dropped part way through the season, you are instead drafting a "full-time" starting defensive player that can help you win your league.
League Manager and Gambling
Many leagues are composed of friends, family, co-workers and even strangers that are in the fantasy league to prove who is the greatest couch coach. Millions upon millions of dollars are won and lost each year in fantasy league betting. The Federal government has determined that fantasy league gambling is not a "game of chance" and as such is not illegal. Websites such as FantasyHook.com and Leaguesafe.com make fantasy fee transactions simple by completely automating the buy in and the payout of the winnings.
All individual players
There are a few dynasty leagues that follow the NFL's roster model and score all possible NFL players at all individual positions. Offensive linemen (OL) are scored by total yards and points minus sacks given up. Fullbacks are partially scored as offensive linemen because of their blocking duties. Kick and punt returners are scored by yardage and touchdowns. Punters are scored by net average and punts inside the 20 yard line.
Effect on spectatorship
The explosive popularity of fantasy sports, coupled with the availability of venues showcasing numerous live football games via satellite, has had significant effects on football viewing and rooting habits among participants. Fantasy sports players watch more game telecasts, buy more tickets and spend money at stadiums at a much higher rate than general sports fans. For example, 55 percent of fantasy sports players report watching more sports on television since they started playing fantasy sports.  Fantasy participants also are reported to attend 0.22 to 0.57 more NFL games in person per season. The NFL entered into a reported five-year, $600 million deal in 2006 with Sprint that was driven at least in part because of fantasy sports, allowing subscribers to draft and monitor their teams with their cellphones.  Many sports and football-related sports news shows discuss fantasy-related topics. Besides the fictional The League, multiple TV programs that focus on fantasy football news exist; examples include ESPN's Fantasy Football Now and CBS's Fantasy Football Today.
A fantasy owner might have the quarterback from one team and the running back from the opposing team on his roster, and end up hoping both teams score frequently. However, he will only cheer passing scores from the first team and running scores from the second. As another example, if a team is up by many touchdowns, the "owner" of a running back on the losing team may be upset since the losing team will prefer passing instead of rushing for the score. Finally, a fantasy owner may wish to see an opposing team tie or take the lead in the final minutes of a game, thus giving the ball back to his player with one last chance to drive and score.
|“||"Hey, great game last week."
"Yeah, but we lost."
"But you threw five touchdowns, and that's all I need from you."
Critics charge that because of the varying interests, some fantasy owners may instead support the players on their fantasy rosters in any one game rather than supporting a favorite team. Players are mixed on the impact of the effects of fantasy football on fans' habits and preferences. Retired NFL QB Jake Plummer told ESPN "I think it's ruined the game", and retired New York Giants RB Tiki Barber said about fantasy fans, "there's an incongruity in the wants." However, former Washington Redskins tight end Chris Cooley plays in four fantasy football leagues himself,  and former Indianapolis Colts linebacker Cato June benched New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady from his fantasy team to avoid a conflict of interest when the two teams played in November 2006. Fans frequently ask players on their fantasy rosters to score more often; Peyton Manning reported that only autograph requests exceeded fan requests for "more fantasy touchdowns" from him. Fans also often seek inside information on injuries and future stars from coaches.
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