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.


(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

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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 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 the 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."



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


Percentage of fantasy football players who are female


Average entry fee for all fantasy sports leagues

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New England 2/1/15 5:30 PM
Dallas 6:00 PM
Sacramento 6:00 PM
Toronto 6:00 PM
Houston 6:30 PM
Philadelphia 6:30 PM
Cleveland 7:00 PM
Oklahoma City 7:00 PM
Portland 7:30 PM
LA Clippers 8:00 PM
San Antonio
Charlotte 8:00 PM
Phoenix 9:30 PM
Golden State
Washington 0 FINAL(OT)
Montreal 1
NY Islanders 1 3rd Prd 3:57
Detroit 4
Arizona 1 2nd Prd 10:55
Ottawa 1
Los Angeles 6:00 PM
Florida 6:00 PM
New Jersey
Carolina 6:00 PM
NY Rangers
Toronto 6:00 PM
Dallas 6:00 PM
Columbus 6:30 PM
Tampa Bay
Edmonton 9:00 PM
Chicago 9:30 PM
San Jose
Boston College 49 FINAL
Clemson 64
Western Mich 63 FINAL
Eastern Mich 69
NC State 81 FINAL
Georgia Tech 80
Wisconsin 74 FINAL
Iowa 63
Stony Brook 48 FINAL
New Hampshire 63
Notre Dame 72 FINAL
Pittsburgh 76
Providence 66 FINAL
St Johns 75
Davidson 70 FINAL
Saint Josephs 75
Xavier 82 FINAL
Seton Hall 90
Tulane 37 FINAL
Temple 55
Auburn 63 FINAL
Tennessee 71
Texas Tech 58 FINAL
West Virginia 77
Arkansas 56 FINAL
Florida 57
Penn State 58 FINAL
Illinois 60
Lipscomb 73 FINAL
Stetson 75
South Florida 71 FINAL
Tulsa 78
Bradley 58 FINAL
Indiana State 64
UMass Lowell 69 FINAL
Binghamton 76
Green Bay 62 FINAL
Cleveland State 76
Georgetown 67 FINAL
Creighton 40
Coll of Charleston 68 FINAL
Delaware 71
Villanova 68 FINAL
DePaul 55
Vermont 65 FINAL
Hartford 46
Iowa State 83
Kennesaw St 51 FINAL
Jacksonville 50
Kansas State 57 FINAL
Kansas 68
Boston Univ 86 FINAL
Lehigh 89
Illinois State 48 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 45
Albany 77 FINAL
Maine 59
Butler 72 FINAL
Marquette 68
Miss State 73
Mount St Marys 77 FINAL
Sacred Heart 71
Richmond 64 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 55
Virginia Tech 70 FINAL
Wake Forest 73
IUPU-Ft Wayne 75 FINAL
Nebraska Omaha 65
Arkansas State 43 FINAL
Georgia State 74
Loyola-Maryland 40 2nd Half 14:50
Army 36
Tenn Tech 43 2nd Half 9:12
Belmont 55
Bethune-Cookman 26 2nd Half
Florida A&M 16
Valparaiso 55 2nd Half 12:25
Ill-Chicago 42
UAB 42 2nd Half 13:41
TX-San Antonio 34
Idaho State 41 2nd Half 13:23
North Dakota 57
Evansville 39 2nd Half 13:03
Drake 40
Rutgers 36 2nd Half 17:50
Indiana 36
Ball State 38 2nd Half
Miami-Ohio 30
Southern U 5 1st Half 13:43
Alcorn State 8
UNC-Wilmington 14 1st Half 10:53
Drexel 11
Coastal Carolina 11 1st Half 11:43
Gardner-Webb 5
Morgan State 3:00 PM
William & Mary 26 1st Half 11:56
James Madison 8
North Carolina 10 1st Half 14:44
Louisville 10
Coppin State 3:00 PM
MD-Eastern Shore
Ole Miss 14 1st Half 11:14
Missouri 15
Wichita State 16 1st Half 11:00
Northern Iowa 16
Loyola Marymount 9 1st Half 11:45
Pacific 13
Winthrop 9 1st Half 12:20
Radford 13
George Washington 4 1st Half 14:31
Rhode Island 10
Bryant 6 1st Half 14:14
Robert Morris 7
Long Island 14 1st Half 12:47
St Francis-NY 13
Fair-Dickinson 12 1st Half 10:24
St Francis-PA 17
Massachusetts 14 1st Half 11:12
Saint Louis 15
Georgia 9 1st Half 10:10
South Carolina 13
Central Conn St 15 1st Half 7:33
Wagner 25
SIU Edwardsville 0 1st Half 17:57
Eastern Ill 2
Ohio 3:30 PM
Central Mich
Eastern Ky 3:30 PM
Morehead State
Incarnate Word 3:30 PM
Campbell 3:30 PM
Vanderbilt 3:30 PM
Texas A&M
South Alabama 4:00 PM
Western Carolina 4:00 PM
UNC Greensboro
Detroit 4:00 PM
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
Citadel 5:00 PM
Fresno State 5:00 PM
Colorado State
Yale 5:00 PM
Ark-Pine Bluff 5:00 PM
Grambling St
Nebraska 5:00 PM
Hampton 5:00 PM
Norfolk State
Purdue 5:00 PM
Alabama A&M 5:00 PM
Prairie View
Dartmouth 5:00 PM
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
Akron 6:00 PM
Bowling Green
Colgate 6:00 PM
FIU 6:00 PM
Brown 6:00 PM
George Mason 6:00 PM
NC Central 6:00 PM
East Tenn St
Saint Peters 6:00 PM
Alabama 6:00 PM
Abilene Christian 6:00 PM
Char Southern 6:00 PM
Hawaii 6:00 PM
Long Beach State
New Orleans 6:00 PM
McNeese State
Lafayette 6:00 PM
Elon 6:00 PM
Fla Atlantic 6:00 PM
Old Dominion
Harvard 6:00 PM
La Salle 6:00 PM
St Bonaventure
Furman 6:00 PM
TX A&M-CC 6:00 PM
Stephen F Austin
Duke 6:00 PM
Mercer 6:00 PM
Northern Ky 6:00 PM
Fla Gulf Coast
USC Upstate 6:00 PM
North Florida
Longwood 6:00 PM
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
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
Southern Ill 7:05 PM
Missouri State
Troy 7:15 PM
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
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
Air Force 9:00 PM
Cal Poly 9:00 PM
UC Davis
Seattle 9:00 PM
Montana State 9:05 PM
Portland State
Montana 9:05 PM
Sacramento St
Colorado 9:30 PM
UMKC 9:30 PM
Utah Valley U
Mount St Marys 64 FINAL
Sacred Heart 71
Texas-El Paso 53 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 74
Arkansas State 61 FINAL
Georgia State 47
Bryant 84 FINAL
Robert Morris 87
Central Conn St 83 FINAL
Wagner 67
Fairleigh Dickinson 78 FINAL
St Francis-PA 60
Long Island 53 FINAL
St Francis-NY 62
Bethune-Cookman 70 FINAL
Florida A&M 57
Longwood 56 FINAL
Campbell 68
Charleston Southern 40 FINAL
Winthrop 77
Louisiana Tech 68 FINAL
Marshall 67
Ohio U 74 FINAL
Central Michigan 66
Western Mich 61 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 53
Coppin State 58 FINAL
MD-Eastern Shore 66
Incarnate Word 34 FINAL
Nicholls 67
Samford 46 FINAL
East Tenn St 48
Western Carolina 72 FINAL
Furman 84
Gardner-Webb 71 FINAL
Coastal Carolina 65
Liberty 58 FINAL
High Point 41
Presbyterian 46 FINAL
UNC-Asheville 59
Kent State 67 FINAL
Akron 74
Northern Ill 65 FINAL
Ball State 62
Houston 66 FINAL
Cincinnati 69
SIU-Edwardsville 65 FINAL
Eastern Illinois 48
Eastern Kentucky 58 FINAL
Morehead St 76
Holy Cross 67 FINAL
American Univ 61
Army 62 FINAL
Loyola-Maryland 53
Niagara 53 FINAL
Manhattan 46
Lehigh 78 FINAL
Boston U 71
Navy 65 FINAL
Lafayette 60
Saint Josephs 57 FINAL
Davidson 52
Duquesne 56 FINAL
Fordham 46
George Washington 87 FINAL
George Mason 52
St Bonaventure 77 FINAL
Massachusetts 57
Milwaukee 64 FINAL
Youngstown St 87
Jacksonville 78 FINAL
Kennesaw St 64
North Florida 49 FINAL
USC Upstate 61
St Marys-CA 41 2nd Half 7:58
Pepperdine 38
Nebraska Omaha 35 2nd Half 11:21
Houston Baptist 42 2nd Half 16:43
Sam Houston St 27
Mercer 39 2nd Half 7:45
(25) Chattanooga 61
No Dakota State 45 2nd Half 11:05
South Dakota St 61
Oral Roberts 45 2nd Half 11:58
South Dakota 59
Southern Miss 46 2nd Half 10:32
Western Ky 43
TX-San Antonio 38 2nd Half 12:13
UAB 53
East Carolina 44 2nd Half 10:20
Tulane 43
South Florida 46 2nd Half 7:39
Memphis 39
Buffalo 73 2nd Half 2:06
Eastern Michigan 53
New Mexico St 40 2nd Half 18:15
TX-Pan American 34
Utah Valley U 36 2nd Half 7:40
Jackson State 37 2nd Half 15:39
Miss Valley St 39
Louisiana 49 2nd Half 7:07
Texas State 49
South Alabama 32 2nd Half 10:39
ULM 36
Saint Louis 54 2nd Half 11:09
Dayton 64
Cleveland State 51 2nd Half 8:18
Oakland 45
Grand Canyon 56 2nd Half 11:18
Chicago State 35
UCLA 42 2nd Half
Oregon 33
Washington St 39 2nd Half
(12) Stanford 37
Alabama A&M 3:00 PM
Prairie View
Ark-Pine Bluff 3:00 PM
Southern U 3:00 PM
Alcorn State
Kansas State 6 1st Half 14:46
Texas Tech 2
UNLV 5 1st Half 12:56
Air Force 15
UCF 12 1st Half 12:14
Tulsa 8
UNC Greensboro 16 1st Half 10:41
Wofford 12
Delaware State 21 1st Half 9:36
SC State 18
San Diego State 18 1st Half 8:37
Utah State 17
Sacramento St 9 1st Half 13:18
Montana 13
Hampton 23 1st Half 10:55
Norfolk State 15
NC A&T 13 1st Half 10:33
Savannah State 13
Toledo 11 1st Half 12:20
Bowling Green 5
Marist 15 1st Half 11:22
Iona 13
Bucknell 17 1st Half 7:55
Colgate 20
North Dakota 20 1st Half 8:11
Idaho State 16
Ark-Little Rock 3:30 PM
Georgia Southern
BYU 4:00 PM
Santa Clara
Gonzaga 4:00 PM
Pacific 4:00 PM
Loyola Marymount
Abilene Christian 4:00 PM
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
Eastern Washington 4:00 PM
Stetson 4:00 PM
Washington 4:30 PM
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
Portland State 5:00 PM
Montana State
Columbia 5:00 PM
Northern Colorado 5:00 PM
Weber State
Charlotte 5:00 PM
(19) Princeton 5:00 PM
Penn 5:00 PM
UT Martin 5:00 PM
Murray State
Troy 5:00 PM
Morgan State 77 FINAL
Howard 64
Alabama State 5:30 PM
Texas Southern
Jacksonville St 5:30 PM
Tennessee St
Wyoming 6:00 PM
Oklahoma St 6:00 PM
Iowa State
CS-Bakersfield 6:00 PM
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
Cal State Fullerton 9:00 PM
Long Beach St
CS-Northridge 9:00 PM
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