The NFL gridiron at your fingertips

Oct. 7, 2004, midnight | By Kiran Bhat | 19 years, 8 months ago

Fantasy football's competitive nature sparks interest in many sports-minded Blazers

Once upon a time, fans cheered and jeered as 22 burly musclemen bumped helmets in grainy black and white. Gridiron devotees donated their Sundays to football and then slept, hoping next week would come soon.

But the dawn of the information age has ushered in a new breed of football fans. Nowadays, many aficionados play fantasy football, an Internet-based game in which fans pit their knowledge of football statistics against each other, often for money. According to ESPN The Magazine, 15 million Americans now play fantasy football, and this growing national trend is reflected here at Blair. According to an informal Silver Chips survey of 100 students on Sept. 22, 32 percent of Blazers said that they participate in a type of fantasy football league.

Fantasy football is helping to strengthen friendships, says Fantasy Football Index Magazine Editor Bruce Taylor. Many Blair teachers and students who participate in fantasy football value the social aspect of the game and compete in leagues involving friends and acquaintances, finding that fantasy football is an entertaining way to keep in touch.

"Mental part of sports"

When physical education teacher Louis Hoelman explains why he enjoys fantasy football, his eyes sparkle. "Instead of going out and playing sports, [fantasy football] is a substitute," he says. "This is the mental part of sports."

Creating and maintaining a fantasy football league is a three-step process. First, a group of football fans who usually know each other form a fantasy football league, each gaining status as an "owner" in their league. Then, a draft takes place in which each fantasy player selects 16 to 20 football stars to be on his or her team. Each week of the NFL season, the statistics of these drafted players are assessed to determine each owner's total fantasy points for that week. Finally, owners face each other one-on-one every week, and the team with the most fantasy points wins.

The allure of a fantasy

On fantasy football draft day, junior Mac Kpadeh and four other Blazers gather at the home of a friend to select players and share a day of NFL obsession. The tense atmosphere is heightened by the amount of money on the line, but the competitive gambling seems to draw Kpadeh closer to his friends. "It's like a rivalry with your friends because of the money," he says.

Taylor believes that cutthroat leagues spawn stronger friendships. "The more competitive you are, the better friends you become," he says. Taylor also notes that 98 percent of owners are men. The most obvious aspect of fantasy football, he believes, is the masculine gratification it provides.

Junior Peter Lopez derives much of his fantasy football enjoyment from verbally sparring with other owners over whose team will be better come Sunday. "I was number one for three weeks running, so I would talk [trash], until I lost miserably, and then it was just over," Lopez says with a laugh.

For junior Sarah Rumbaugh, the world of fantasy football is new. Rumbaugh proved her novice status by mispronouncing the name of star Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning at her very first draft meeting.

But, says Rumbaugh, the game has been a positive social experience, as fantasy football lets her prove herself to her male counterparts. When a male friend questions her ability to play fantasy football, Rumbaugh snaps, "Well, I won my first week, didn't I?"
Taylor believes that "as long as people enjoy talking to each other about it... fantasy will be there."

Kiran Bhat. Kiran Bhat is a senior who loves the Washington Redskins, 24, Coldplay, Kanye West, Damien Rice, Outkast and Common (Sense). He aspires to be the next Sanjay Gupta. He will miraculously grow a Guptaesque telegenic face and sculpted body by the age of 30. In … More »

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