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Fantasy Fervor

Fantasy football is scoring with millions of obsessive NFL fans competing for bragging rights and more
David Savona
From the Print Edition:
William Shatner, Sept/Oct 2006

(continued from page 2)

The NFL even publishes a fantasy football magazine. In June, the NFL.com Fantasy Football Preview 2006 went on sale, a 160-page periodical aimed at helping coaches live their fantasy NFL dreams.

If you think 160 pages on a fantasy sport is excessive, that doesn't even scratch the surface of what's out there. Footballguys, which has a staff of 31 (plus 25 freelancers) plans to pump out nearly 30,000 pages of information for the 2006 season. You can buy scores of books and dozens of magazines on fantasy football, such as Drafting to Win: The Ultimate Guide to Fantasy Football by Robert Zarzycki (AuthorHouse, 2005), and Fox even has a television program called "Ultimate Fantasy Football Show." Come draft day, a good fantasy football coach is packing more background information than a young Bob Woodward. Each coach sits down at the draft table armed with player rankings—known as cheat sheets—league schedules and expert advice, plus all manner of additional information. Of course, each league has a man (or two) who arrives utterly unprepared, and soon becomes fodder for the trash talk that is an accepted part of draft day.

Fantasy football fans "thirst for as much knowledge...as they can possibly get," says Yahoo's Funston. "Football fans are usually the most passionate among the big three sports to begin with. That passion carries over." Sometimes, the passion gets directed at him—as when one of his top picks turns out to be a bust. "I will certainly get my share of compliments for making a good pick," he says, "but I'll get a windfall of jeers if the pick is bad."

Funston says putting out serious fantasy football information is "more than a full-time job." Bryant describes his football Sundays as "controlled chaos.... Starting Monday morning, we are analyzing every single play from the previous day's games with an eye toward predicting player performance for the next week. We'll monitor every injury and every position battle along with any developing trends with regard to player performance or playing time." The information quest builds through the week, with the experts trying to predict not only how the players will perform, but also if they'll make it to the field. "My Sunday morning will be a blur, working contacts over the phones, e-mails, instant messages and through some 30 different Web sites in order to garner the latest information for our readers," says Bryant. "Our readers subscribe to Footballguys because they want the most accurate information as timely as possible. We do everything humanly possible to deliver that."

In the end, after absorbing all the information he can, a good coach should know the value of choosing backup running backs, picking kickers who play in domes, and swallowing the love of the local team to focus on quality players. The goal is to avoid wasting early picks on mediocre talent, to find a diamond or two in the rough, and to wheel and deal with the other coaches in the league to improve the lineup. And, to do it all without losing a job or alienating a wife. Yet even the most prepared coach can have setbacks—such as my Owens fiasco. But there's always this season.

The Perfect Fantasy Football Draft

When I leave this mortal coil, I know I will be remembered for at least one great act: starting my neighborhood's first fantasy football league. It went something like this: I moved in December, met most of the neighbors that spring, and was smoking cigars regularly with a small group by May. By the end of August, a dozen of us were sitting in my cigar-friendly basement around a large table, drafting players for our league.

These were infant steps, for sure, and over the four seasons we've played, we've learned many valuable lessons on how to draft well. Here are a few pointers to get you started to ensure that your draft is a great one.

THE SITE
The basics: Pick a place where you won't be disturbed for several hours—this is not a quick process. Budget at least four hours. Naturally, you need a cigar-friendly place. If you don't have a spot indoors where cigars are welcome, choose a deck or other open-air spot. You need a big table, or tables (people will be packing research, and things will be written down). The concierge level: Rent a suite in Las Vegas and hold your draft in style.

KEEPING TRACK
The basics: A draft board is a great tool for tracking each pick. Most consist of large sheets of paper, sectioned into grids for each team, with preprinted labels listing every NFL player. Hang the board on the wall where everyone can clearly see it. When you pick a man, put his label in the appropriate grid. An excellent version is available from www.draftkit.com, with color-coded labels for each position.


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Comments   2 comment(s)

Leslie Love May 26, 2011 12:58pm ET

I won a Fantasy Baseball competition one and I want more than bragging rights! I want some award plaques. Something tangible to back up my bragging.


David Savona May 26, 2011 4:36pm ET

Fair enough! I have a few trophies of my own, so I understand completely. Our league also began a jacket ceremony similar to The Masters. Only the jacket is the most garish thing imaginable.


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