Playing in a fantasy world

  • Article by: CHIP SCOGGINS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 19, 2012 - 6:36 AM

Fantasy football players come in all shapes, sizes and genders. What draws them in? The competition, money and camaraderie.

hide

(left to right-front row-in NFL jerseys) Tom Chandler of Inver Grove Heights, Kenny Cruzen of Minneapolis, Patrick Wirkus of Inver Grove Heights and Zach Cruzen of Minneapolis attended a fantasy football camp at Sneaky Pete's in downtown Minneapolis. The bar was packed with 400 to 500 fans of fantasy football.

Photo: Bruce Bisping, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Lara Mord and Diedra Geye found a spot at the bar in a downtown Minneapolis establishment on a perfect Saturday afternoon. They talked and laughed as good friends do, but they came primarily for business.

They craved fantasy football insight from experts at a four-hour fantasy boot camp in preparation for their league draft.

"We do a lot of research," Mord said.

They aren't alone. Fantasy football is played by 36 million people in the United States and Canada, according to Paul Charchian, president of the Fantasy Sports Trade Association.

Fantasy football has mushroomed into a billion-dollar enterprise that attracts a diverse swath of the population. Charchian estimates the industry adds two million new players every year and that women now make up 20 percent of leagues. The fastest growing demographic is 18-and-under as more parents introduce their kids to fantasy football.

Hundreds of players -- men and women, young and old -- attended a fantasy camp hosted by Charchian and a panel of analysts who offered tips and suggestions as fans, armed with laptops and notebooks, consumed their words like gospel.

One segment focused on running back "sleepers." Panelist Christian Peterson presented research on "lightly regarded running backs who thrive in zone blocking schemes." That microscopic detail underscores how sophisticated fantasy players have become.

"You have to dig way deeper to try and find angles and some insight," Charchian said.

Computer sport

The fantasy football boom coincided with the birth of the Internet, which made fantasy teams easier to manage while allowing family, friends and college buddies to connect more effectively. High traffic dot-com outlets such as ESPN, CBSSports and Yahoo! devote considerable resources to assist in league operation and glean statistical analysis, injury news and draft advice from fantasy "experts."

The NFL embraced fantasy's mainstream appeal in the mid-2000s and launched its own platform on NFL.com in 2010. The league recently held its first NFL Fantasy Draft Week in New York, which included appearances by Commissioner Roger Goodell and several Hall of Fame players.

Fantasy football has contributed significantly to the NFL's soaring popularity and TV ratings success. More people share a rooting interest in the league because they're emotionally (and financially) invested in the weekly performance of their fantasy team. That helps drive various NFL media platforms such as DirecTV's Sunday Ticket and NFL RedZone. Studies show that a majority of fantasy players use multiple screens while watching games, typically a TV, laptop and a tablet or iPhone.

"Fantasy owners consume twice as much televised football as their sport-loving counterparts who don't play fantasy," Charchian said. "These are super-consumers."

They come from all walks of life. Fridley native Noel Thompson formed a league made up of youth children's pastors and ministers in California. Eagan resident Glenn Hamilton plays in a league with fellow air traffic controllers around the country (their league name: FAA Interservice Area Coalition). Beth Rohde of Lino Lakes was selected randomly for an all-Twitter league organized by the brother of Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers last season.

Back to basics

Bloomington native Michelle Battles started an all-female league with friends and co-workers in Los Angeles. Her group included a few women who knew nothing about football, so Battles held a party and conducted a power-point presentation on Football 101.

"Everything from the basics of, 'There are 32 teams in the NFL, they play 16 games, QB stands for quarterback, what a running back does,'" Battles said.

Tom Carr grew up in Blaine and helped form a fantasy league comprised strictly of punk bands in the Las Vegas music scene.

"It's a weekly contest where you have no control over it," said Carr, a guitarist for a band called The Quitters, "but yet you get to destroy your buddy."

Adrian Peterson doesn't play fantasy football, but the Vikings star running back hears from people who do "every day." Fantasy players inundated Peterson's Twitter feed this summer looking for updates on his progress from knee surgery. Peterson thinks it's "cool" that people draft him in leagues, but he admits some become overzealous in their pursuit for inside information.

"I don't pay attention to it to the point where I get involved and give guys [injury] information," he said. "You've got some crazy fans on there. If you don't give them the type of information they want, they'll go left field on you with some of the stuff they say. It's like, 'Wow, fantasy football is this important?'"

'Until they die'

Charchian offers one stat to illustrate fantasy football's grip on fans.

"Eighty percent of current fantasy players plan to play for at least a decade more," he said. "Half of them plan to play until they die."

Fantasy players devour analysis before drafts. Geye listens to Charchian's two-hour fantasy show every Saturday on KFAN to stay current on fantasy news. She and Mord took copious notes at Charchian's fantasy camp.

Mord started their league 12 years ago because the men in her husband's league had a strict no-female policy. Her league is co-ed and has become a social hub.

"I'm competitive and I like to win," Mord said. "And I like to beat the boys."

The social component drives interest and allows people to stay connected across time and distance.

"I always call fantasy the first social network because it brings friends together," said Cory Mummery, director of NFL Fantasy.

Most leagues also offer a financial prize for winning. The average league entry fee is $70 across all fantasy sports, but players are attracted by competition as well.

"It gives you that little edge for a game that you normally wouldn't care about," said Hamilton, who has played in his air traffic controller league since 2005. "All of a sudden, you're rooting for Eli Manning to throw that touchdown on Monday night because you need it."

Drafting the enemy

Sometimes that creates a dilemma. Thompson, the youth minister, has an outline of the state of Minnesota tattooed on his right arm and is a diehard Vikings fan. But he drafted Rodgers last season when the Packers quarterback "kind of fell in my lap."

"I said, 'Man, I'd be crazy not to draft him,'" Thompson said. "When they played the Vikings, I said I hope the Vikings win 100-99."

Fantasy football occasionally carries deeper personal significance, too.

Brian Szulczewski served as commissioner of a fantasy league at a Twin Cities restaurant where he worked as a bartender for 25 years. In 2006, he suffered a brain aneurysm and died 10 days before his 50th birthday.

"When the league found out about his death, a bunch of them wanted to end the league because Brian was the heart and soul of it," said Brian's sister, Sue.

Instead, one of the owners invited Sue to continue Brian's team in his memory. She accepted and won their league the following season. Team owners share stories and memories of Brian every year during their draft.

"It's a fellowship of people and a common interest," Sue said. "I'm grateful that they asked me to continue on by taking over his team to keep the league going."

BY THE NUMBERS

36

Million fantasy football players in the U.S. and Canada

20

Percentage of fantasy football players who are female

$70

Average entry fee for all fantasy sports leagues

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

New England 2/1/15 5:30 PM
Seattle
Dallas 6:00 PM
Orlando
Sacramento 6:00 PM
Indiana
Toronto 6:00 PM
Washington
Houston 6:30 PM
Detroit
Philadelphia 6:30 PM
Atlanta
Cleveland 7:00 PM
Minnesota
Oklahoma City 7:00 PM
Memphis
Portland 7:30 PM
Milwaukee
LA Clippers 8:00 PM
San Antonio
Charlotte 8:00 PM
Denver
Phoenix 9:30 PM
Golden State
Washington 12:00 PM
Montreal
NY Islanders 1:00 PM
Detroit
Arizona 2:00 PM
Ottawa
Los Angeles 6:00 PM
Boston
Florida 6:00 PM
New Jersey
Carolina 6:00 PM
NY Rangers
Toronto 6:00 PM
Philadelphia
Dallas 6:00 PM
Winnipeg
Columbus 6:30 PM
Tampa Bay
Edmonton 9:00 PM
Calgary
Chicago 9:30 PM
San Jose
Boston College 12 1st Half 3:39
Clemson 27
Western Mich 24 1st Half 4:06
Eastern Mich 24
NC State 37 1st Half 2:42
Georgia Tech 27
Wisconsin 42 2nd Half
Iowa 36
Stony Brook 25 2nd Half
New Hampshire 29
Notre Dame 33 1st Half 1:28
Pittsburgh 37
Providence 27 1st Half 3:33
St Johns 33
Davidson 28 1st Half 5:00
Saint Josephs 22
Xavier 31 1st Half 3:33
Seton Hall 26
Tulane 8 1st Half 1:06
Temple 24
Auburn 24 1st Half 4:21
Tennessee 21
Texas Tech 14 1st Half 5:41
West Virginia 30
Arkansas 12:00 PM
Florida
Penn State 12:00 PM
Illinois
Lipscomb 12:00 PM
Stetson
South Florida 12:00 PM
Tulsa
Bradley 12:05 PM
Indiana State
UMass Lowell 1:00 PM
Binghamton
Green Bay 1:00 PM
Cleveland State
Georgetown 1:00 PM
Creighton
Coll of Charleston 1:00 PM
Delaware
Villanova 1:00 PM
DePaul
Arkansas State 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Vermont 1:00 PM
Hartford
TCU 1:00 PM
Iowa State
Kennesaw St 1:00 PM
Jacksonville
Kansas State 1:00 PM
Kansas
Boston Univ 1:00 PM
Lehigh
Illinois State 1:00 PM
Loyola-Chicago
Albany 1:00 PM
Maine
Butler 1:00 PM
Marquette
LSU 1:00 PM
Miss State
Mount St Marys 1:00 PM
Sacred Heart
Richmond 1:00 PM
VA Commonwealth
Virginia Tech 1:00 PM
Wake Forest
IUPU-Ft Wayne 1:00 PM
Nebraska Omaha
Loyola-Maryland 2:00 PM
Army
Tenn Tech 2:00 PM
Belmont
Bethune-Cookman 2:00 PM
Florida A&M
Valparaiso 2:00 PM
Ill-Chicago
UAB 2:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Idaho State 2:00 PM
North Dakota
Evansville 2:05 PM
Drake
Rutgers 2:15 PM
Indiana
Ball State 2:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Southern U 3:00 PM
Alcorn State
UNC-Wilmington 3:00 PM
Drexel
Coastal Carolina 3:00 PM
Gardner-Webb
Morgan State 3:00 PM
Howard
William & Mary 3:00 PM
James Madison
North Carolina 3:00 PM
Louisville
Coppin State 3:00 PM
MD-Eastern Shore
Ole Miss 3:00 PM
Missouri
Wichita State 3:00 PM
Northern Iowa
Loyola Marymount 3:00 PM
Pacific
Winthrop 3:00 PM
Radford
George Washington 3:00 PM
Rhode Island
Bryant 3:00 PM
Robert Morris
Long Island 3:00 PM
St Francis-NY
Fair-Dickinson 3:00 PM
St Francis-PA
Massachusetts 3:00 PM
Saint Louis
Georgia 3:00 PM
South Carolina
Central Conn St 3:00 PM
Wagner
SIU Edwardsville 3:15 PM
Eastern Ill
Ohio 3:30 PM
Central Mich
Eastern Ky 3:30 PM
Morehead State
Incarnate Word 3:30 PM
Nicholls
Campbell 3:30 PM
UNC-Asheville
Vanderbilt 3:30 PM
Texas A&M
South Alabama 4:00 PM
ULM
Western Carolina 4:00 PM
UNC Greensboro
Detroit 4:00 PM
Milwaukee
Idaho 4:05 PM
Eastern Wash
Marshall 4:30 PM
Louisiana Tech
Jackson State 4:30 PM
Miss Valley St
Houston Baptist 4:30 PM
Sam Houston St
Louisiana 4:30 PM
Texas State
Denver 4:30 PM
South Dakota St
Oral Roberts 4:30 PM
South Dakota
Texas 5:00 PM
Baylor
Citadel 5:00 PM
Chattanooga
Fresno State 5:00 PM
Colorado State
Yale 5:00 PM
Cornell
Ark-Pine Bluff 5:00 PM
Grambling St
Nebraska 5:00 PM
Minnesota
Hampton 5:00 PM
Norfolk State
Purdue 5:00 PM
Northwestern
Alabama A&M 5:00 PM
Prairie View
Dartmouth 5:00 PM
Princeton
Pepperdine 5:00 PM
St Marys-CA
NC A&T 5:00 PM
Savannah State
Delaware State 5:00 PM
SC State
Western Ky 5:00 PM
Southern Miss
Nevada 5:00 PM
Wyoming
Akron 6:00 PM
Bowling Green
Colgate 6:00 PM
Bucknell
FIU 6:00 PM
Charlotte
Brown 6:00 PM
Columbia
George Mason 6:00 PM
Duquesne
NC Central 6:00 PM
East Tenn St
Saint Peters 6:00 PM
Iona
Alabama 6:00 PM
Kentucky
Abilene Christian 6:00 PM
Lamar
Char Southern 6:00 PM
Liberty
Hawaii 6:00 PM
Long Beach State
New Orleans 6:00 PM
McNeese State
Lafayette 6:00 PM
Navy
Elon 6:00 PM
Northeastern
Fla Atlantic 6:00 PM
Old Dominion
Harvard 6:00 PM
Penn
La Salle 6:00 PM
St Bonaventure
Furman 6:00 PM
Samford
TX A&M-CC 6:00 PM
Stephen F Austin
Duke 6:00 PM
Virginia
Mercer 6:00 PM
Wofford
Northern Ky 6:00 PM
Fla Gulf Coast
USC Upstate 6:00 PM
North Florida
Longwood 6:00 PM
Presbyterian
Ark-Little Rock 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
SE Missouri St 7:00 PM
Austin Peay
CS-Northridge 7:00 PM
UC Riverside
Towson 7:00 PM
Hofstra
UT Martin 7:00 PM
Murray State
San Jose St 7:00 PM
New Mexico
Rice 7:00 PM
North Texas
Toledo 7:00 PM
Northern Ill
Oklahoma 7:00 PM
Oklahoma State
San Francisco 7:00 PM
San Diego
Utah State 7:00 PM
San Diego St
Northwestern St 7:00 PM
SE Louisiana
UCF 7:00 PM
SMU
Southern Ill 7:05 PM
Missouri State
Troy 7:15 PM
Texas-Arlington
Jacksonville St 7:30 PM
Tennessee St
Alabama State 7:30 PM
Texas Southern
Stanford 7:30 PM
Washington St
Santa Clara 8:00 PM
BYU
TX-Pan American 8:00 PM
New Mexico St
Northern Ariz 8:00 PM
Southern Utah
Middle Tennessee 8:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Weber State 8:00 PM
Northern Colorado
Chicago State 8:00 PM
Grand Canyon
UC Santa Barbara 9:00 PM
UC Irvine
Memphis 9:00 PM
Gonzaga
Air Force 9:00 PM
UNLV
Cal Poly 9:00 PM
UC Davis
Seattle 9:00 PM
CS-Bakersfield
Montana State 9:05 PM
Portland State
Montana 9:05 PM
Sacramento St
Colorado 9:30 PM
UCLA
UMKC 9:30 PM
Utah Valley U
Mount St Marys 40 2nd Half 12:24
Sacred Heart 49
Texas-El Paso 14 1st Half 3:25
Middle Tennessee 29
Arkansas State 21 1st Half 4:05
Georgia State 15
Bryant 12:00 PM
Robert Morris
Central Conn St 12:00 PM
Wagner
Fairleigh Dickinson 12:00 PM
St Francis-PA
Long Island 12:00 PM
St Francis-NY
Bethune-Cookman 12:00 PM
Florida A&M
Longwood 12:00 PM
Campbell
Charleston Southern 12:00 PM
Winthrop
Louisiana Tech 12:00 PM
Marshall
Ohio U 12:00 PM
Central Michigan
Western Mich 12:00 PM
Miami-Ohio
Coppin State 1:00 PM
MD-Eastern Shore
Incarnate Word 1:00 PM
Nicholls
Samford 1:00 PM
East Tenn St
Western Carolina 1:00 PM
Furman
UNC Greensboro 1:00 PM
Wofford
Gardner-Webb 1:00 PM
Coastal Carolina
Liberty 1:00 PM
High Point
Morgan State 1:00 PM
Howard
Presbyterian 1:00 PM
UNC-Asheville
Kent State 1:00 PM
Akron
Northern Ill 1:00 PM
Ball State
Houston 1:00 PM
Cincinnati
SIU-Edwardsville 1:00 PM
Eastern Illinois
Eastern Kentucky 1:00 PM
Morehead St
Holy Cross 1:00 PM
American Univ
Army 1:00 PM
Loyola-Maryland
Niagara 1:00 PM
Manhattan
Lehigh 1:00 PM
Boston U
Navy 1:00 PM
Lafayette
Saint Josephs 1:00 PM
Davidson
Duquesne 1:00 PM
Fordham
George Washington 1:00 PM
George Mason
St Bonaventure 1:00 PM
Massachusetts
Milwaukee 1:00 PM
Youngstown St
Jacksonville 1:00 PM
Kennesaw St
North Florida 1:00 PM
USC Upstate
Buffalo 1:30 PM
Eastern Michigan
St Marys-CA 2:00 PM
Pepperdine
Nebraska Omaha 2:00 PM
IUPUI
Houston Baptist 2:00 PM
Sam Houston St
Mercer 2:00 PM
(25) Chattanooga
No Dakota State 2:00 PM
South Dakota St
Oral Roberts 2:00 PM
South Dakota
Southern Miss 2:00 PM
Western Ky
TX-San Antonio 2:00 PM
UAB
East Carolina 2:00 PM
Tulane
South Florida 2:00 PM
Memphis
New Mexico St 2:00 PM
TX-Pan American
Utah Valley U 2:00 PM
UMKC
Jackson State 2:00 PM
Miss Valley St
Louisiana 2:00 PM
Texas State
South Alabama 2:00 PM
ULM
Saint Louis 2:00 PM
Dayton
Cleveland State 2:00 PM
Oakland
Grand Canyon 2:05 PM
Chicago State
UCLA 2:30 PM
Oregon
Washington St 2:30 PM
(12) Stanford
Kansas State 3:00 PM
Texas Tech
UNLV 3:00 PM
Air Force
UCF 3:00 PM
Tulsa
Delaware State 3:00 PM
SC State
San Diego State 3:00 PM
Utah State
Sacramento St 3:00 PM
Montana
Portland State 3:00 PM
Montana State
Northern Colorado 3:00 PM
Weber State
Hampton 3:00 PM
Norfolk State
NC A&T 3:00 PM
Savannah State
Alabama A&M 3:00 PM
Prairie View
Toledo 3:00 PM
Bowling Green
Ark-Pine Bluff 3:00 PM
Grambling
Southern U 3:00 PM
Alcorn State
Marist 3:00 PM
Iona
Bucknell 3:00 PM
Colgate
North Dakota 3:00 PM
Idaho State
Ark-Little Rock 3:30 PM
Georgia Southern
BYU 4:00 PM
Santa Clara
Gonzaga 4:00 PM
Portland
Pacific 4:00 PM
Loyola Marymount
Abilene Christian 4:00 PM
Lamar
Colorado State 4:00 PM
Fresno State
New Mexico 4:00 PM
San Jose St
UC Davis 4:00 PM
UC Santa Barbara
San Diego 4:00 PM
San Francisco
New Orleans 4:00 PM
McNeese State
TX A&M-CC 4:00 PM
Stephen F Austin
Old Dominion 4:00 PM
Florida Atlantic
Tenn Tech 4:00 PM
Belmont
Eastern Washington 4:00 PM
Idaho
Stetson 4:00 PM
Lipscomb
Washington 4:30 PM
California
USC 4:30 PM
(7) Oregon State
IUPU-Ft Wayne 4:30 PM
Western Ill
Northwestern St 4:30 PM
SE Louisiana
SE Missouri St 4:30 PM
Austin Peay
Columbia 5:00 PM
Brown
Charlotte 5:00 PM
FIU
(19) Princeton 5:00 PM
Dartmouth
Penn 5:00 PM
Harvard
UT Martin 5:00 PM
Murray State
Troy 5:00 PM
TX-Arlington
Alabama State 5:30 PM
Texas Southern
Jacksonville St 5:30 PM
Tennessee St
Wyoming 6:00 PM
Nevada
Oklahoma St 6:00 PM
Iowa State
CS-Bakersfield 6:00 PM
Seattle
La Salle 6:00 PM
VA Commonwealth
Cal-Irvine 6:00 PM
Cal Poly
Fla Gulf Coast 6:00 PM
Northern Ky
Southern Utah 7:00 PM
Northern Ariz
Green Bay 7:00 PM
Illinois-Chicago
Cal State Fullerton 9:00 PM
Long Beach St
CS-Northridge 9:00 PM
Hawaii
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England NoonX30-7
Sep 21 - at New Orleans NoonX20-9
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pmX41-28
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pmX42-10
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit NoonX17-3
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo NoonX17-16
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay NoonX19-13 ot
Nov 2 - vs. Washington NoonX29-26
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago NoonX21-13
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay NoonX24-21
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina NoonX31-13
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets NoonX30-24 ot
Dec 14 - at Detroit 3:25 pmX16-14
Dec 21 - at Miami NoonX37-35
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago NoonX13-9

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who will win the Super Bowl?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close