Chapman students contribute to a billion dollar distraction

Fantasy Football

Photo by Nicholas Mazmanian
Fantasy Football

It’s no surprise that a popular office distraction is the combination of a man’s two favorite “F” words: fantasy and football. Fantasy Football has become so popular that it is responsible for billions of dollars of lost work time at the office, according to “PC World.”

While they may not be working in offices yet, many Chapman students also take part in this enjoyable distraction. For some, checking Fantasy Football homepages becomes a daily routine like e-mailing and Facebook because it takes football off of the couch and onto the fingertips.

“Fantasy Football is so popular because it is an extension of the game we love,” according to Dan Leonard, associate dean of the Dodge College of Film and Media Arts and eight-year Fantasy Football veteran.

Fantasy Football involves assembling a football team through a fake draft of players and using their actual stats from weekly games to keep score. A commissioner heads up each league, which can vary in size, but is usually comprised of 10 different teams. Each team is managed by an owner who makes the decisions on what players to start or trade.

There are various types of leagues, but in a points league, the most common type, points are accumulated weekly and, after the 17-week season, the team with the most points wins its league. Some leagues have monetary prizes, but most play for bragging rights.

The point system determines how many points owners win or lose depending on plays made by his or her players. In a Yahoo league, if a quarterback throws a touchdown, the owner’s team gains six points, but if he throws an interception, the owner’s team loses two points.

Owners are able to choose players from several different NFL teams. While someone’s quarterback may be Aaron Rodgers from the Green Bay Packers, his or her wide receiver can be Randy Moss from the New England Patriots.

Fantasy football was conceptualized in the early 60s by Wilfred Winkenbach a part owner of the Oakland Raiders, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. He tossed the idea around with two journalist friends and a few other executives from the Raiders before starting the first ever league. In its inaugural season, their league had eight teams and all statistical tracking was done by hand.

With the spread of the Internet in the early 90s, Fantasy Football began to grow in popularity. League owners did not have to call in their weekly roster changes, but could now update them easily on the Internet. The Internet brought a new complexity to the game with the addition of live updates, more options for researching and even statistical forecasting. According to PC Magazine, Fantasy Football is now the most popular online game in the world.

Fantasy Football is such a major distraction because it can require a lot of time commitment and research depending on how serious an owner is. Some spend hours researching, predicting and making changes each week. There are even several Fantasy Football magazines loaded with tips that are published weekly.

Chapman junior Matt Garbutt has been playing Fantasy Football for four years. His team, the 69ers (a homage to his favorite team the San Francisco 49ers) is currently first in his league. There are a lot of hidden strategies involved in Fantasy Football, according to Garbutt.

“I have some players on reserve because I am thinking they are going to be good later in the season,” he said.

For example, when big-name quarterbacks Tom Brady and Tony Romo were out with injuries early in the season, it changed things for a lot of Fantasy Football owners, according to Fantasy Football players. Owners may have switched their starting receivers reserve players because the receivers on Brady or Romo’s teams probably wouldn’t be producing good numbers until their quarterbacks returned.

It is also important to draft big-name players for trading, according to Garbutt.

“I did this with Chad Ocho Cinco [from the Cincinnati Bengals]. He isn’t doing that well, but he is a big-name receiver so if I want to trade him, I’m sure I could,” he said.

Some critics of Fantasy Football argue that the game puts too much emphasis on individual performance rather than on actual NFL teams. However, most owners never forget loyalty to their NFL when making decisions for their fantasy teams.

Chapman senior Jason Brescia has finished first in his league for the past two years, but has always remained a devoted Colts fan.

“If one of my fantasy players is playing against the Colts I bench them. Even if it’s my best player like Adrian Peterson,” said Brescia.

Although professional football has always been popular, Fantasy Football may be making it the most popular sport in the U.S. Because of Fantasy Football, NFL television ratings have gone through the roof, according to ESPN-NFL analyst Sean Salisbury.

“Fans now have a personal stake in almost every game each weekend rather than just a team or two they are a fan of. They look up more information and think about football more often than if they were not playing [Fantasy Football],” said Leonard.

There are fantasy leagues for almost every sport: golf, basketball, baseball and even NASCAR. However, Fantasy Football is the most popular. According to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, there are 15 to18 million participants each season. In many leagues, owners are competing against friends, family and co-workers.

Chapman junior Anthony Frey used to play with his dad in a father-son league. He remembers every Friday night after his dad got home from work when they would sit down at the computer and come up with their rosters for that week.

“We weren’t that serious about it. But it was something fun my dad and I could do together for a few hours each week. It was our thing,” said Frey.

Perhaps the best reason to play Fantasy Football is the trash talk, especially for college students. Most host sites like ESPN and Yahoo have text boxes where owners can trash talk other teams in their leagues.

“I am in a league with my roommates so we always talk a lot of garbage to each other. I am obviously the best, which is why I am in first place,” said Garbutt.

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