Football '"widows" and locked out sports fans delight in competing with their own celebrity teams.
For decades, some Minnesota women have found themselves "widowed" on the weekend of the deer hunting opener. They face a similar scenario all autumn, as fantasy football grabs hold of their men -- and doesn't let go.
Now they're fighting back by joining celebrity fantasy leagues, in which players "draft" famous folks and earn points based on published photos and items in celeb-centric magazines.
"It has really been a lot of fun," said Amanda Wood of the 10-woman league at her St. Cloud office. "The consensus was that we were pretty sick of husbands or boyfriends talking all the time about fantasy football. Now we love this game. We give each other crap in the hallways all the time."
Uh, sounds like ... guys, actually.
It turns out that more than a few men have tapped into the Celebrity Fantasy Draft site, many of them retired or rebuffed fantasy sports fans.
The NHL lockout prompted Kevin O'Malley to start a league with co-workers at the Edina Super Target.
"I usually am in a hockey fantasy league, and I needed something to fill the void," O'Malley said. "One of the guys I work with had said that his wife is in a celebrity fantasy league, and being that I work with all women, I'm, like, 'Let's do this.'"
Since the online game (www.celebrityfantasydraft.com) was launched a year ago, more than 2,000 players have gathered and selected their very own British royals and Kardashians, Beyoncés and Biebers. Once the teams (five women, four men, one child) are selected and entered into the site, Celebrity Fantasy Draft tracks the scoring and rules on unforeseen anomalies.
"In a photo of Katy Perry, she had Prince William painted on all her fingernails," site manager Denise Riley said. "We decided that each one should count. The level of attention people pay is pretty amazing."
Three weekly magazines are used: People, Us Weekly and InTouch. A cover shot earns a celeb's "owner" 10 points, a marriage or birth announcement five and sundry mentions or photos from one to five. Bad news or a fashion faux pas can cost participants from two to 10 (for a rehab stint) points, which makes the Lindsay Lohans and Charlie Sheens of the world precarious picks.
Better to be risqué than risky in this realm.
"All the royals have been doing really well," said Bryan Oliver Smith, director of a coed league at General Mills, "William and Kate for good reasons, Harry for less good reasons."
Seasons run for two months and end on magazine issues dated the last Monday in January, March, May, July, September and November. So as one season is about to end and another to begin, aspiring leagues should plan drafts for Nov. 19 to get in a full season.
Draft preparations tend to be casual, Smith said. "Unlike football, there's not a lot of data and hard research. Smart players will look at what movies are coming out, what TV shows are starting or ending."
Woods, whose St. Cloud league put together a small kitty for the winner, agreed.
"I guess there is a lot less strategy," she said. "Some of the people who had put the most planning and thought into it are not in first place. Some who joined on a whim, they are doing well."
O'Malley's was perhaps the most haphazard draft.
"One person didn't show up so we, as a group, picked her team," he said, "She's winning, so we give her a lot of crap for that." Another participant spent the draft on the phone with his wife, a veteran celebrity fantasy player, and appears poised to win thanks to "owning" Barack and Michelle Obama.
Revenge could be nigh, however. "With the amount of buzz going around the store on this," O'Malley said, "there is no question that we are going to triple the amount of players next season."
Bill Ward • 612-673-7643