BNN: Fantasy sport adds new element to football

Tim Richer

By Tim RicherStaff Reporter

With 7:23 left in the fourth quarter of a blowout game on Sept. 10, Baltimore Ravens’ QB Steve McNair threw his first touchdown pass to put his team up 26-0 over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. While this play was irrelevant to the outcome of the game, the pass had much bigger implications.

McNair’s touchdown meant more points for his fantasy football owners. It also meant fewer points for the owners of the feared Tampa Bay defense. This seemingly meaningless play may have changed the outcome of many fantasy football match-ups.

Fantasy football, a growing phenomenon, is an online service that gives fans control of real-life NFL players and has their players’ statistics measure up to those of other fans’ players.

Each week, “owners” of the squads assemble a line-up of assorted players in hopes that their team will accumulate touchdowns, rushing and passing yards, sacks, interceptions and other various statistics that could be used to measure performance.

This new addiction is powered by all of the online sporting powerhouses: ESPN, CBS SportsLine, Yahoo! Sports, Fox Sports and even the NFL itself. All of these sites provide free and paid leagues for fantasy players.

According to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, approximately 13 million people in the United States play fantasy football each year.

Yahoo! Sports, which introduced fantasy football in 1999, has emerged as the leader in the industry. According to Nathan Noy, founder of, a site for fantasy enthusiasts, Yahoo! Sports will host approximately 6.5 million fantasy football owners for the 2006 NFL season.

Fantasy football was around long before the advent of the personal computer. In 1962, Bill Winkenbach, part owner of the Oakland Raiders, introduced a system of assigning point values to certain statistics in an eight-team league. The final scores were calculated by hand in this young, relatively unknown game.

As the Internet became more available, fantasy football re-emerged and became a part of the mainstream media. Through recent improvements, owners are now able to see players and team scores online up-to-the-minute.

While most Web sites and leagues have different types of scoring systems, there are a few constants. Players are assigned to teams based on a preseason draft, where the owners determine who gets control of specific players. Using custom scoring systems, owners can update their rosters by trading or adding players who are not already controlled by an owner.

Pre- and post-draft, owners spend countless hours researching players to determine which players are fit for their teams. This August, comScore Media Matrix predicted that almost 11 million people logged on to online fantasy football sites to view information such as NFL roster updates and injuries.

During the season, owners scour game box scores, injury reports and predictive sites to try and gain a leg up for their teams.

This Sunday during Week 1 of the NFL season, Kansas City quarterback Trent Green suffered a serious injury causing owners to scramble to find out the severity of the injury to one of the league’s top quarterbacks.

Another storyline during this Sunday’s games was the breakout performance of Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Donte’ Stallworth. Stallworth, known before as a solid receiver, showed he might have what it takes to become a star this season. Undoubtedly, this is big news to fantasy owners who might already own or are trying to obtain him.

Fantasy football has become so mainstream to the average football fan that sporting magazines such as Sports Illustrated and ESPN feature updates every issue, providing owners with player predictions and updates.

In 2006, starting from Sept. 10 and ending Dec. 31, almost 15 million people will be glued to the fantasy world.

In the final week of the regular season, the Cleveland Browns play at the Houston Texans on Dec. 31, in a game that is almost guaranteed to be meaningless in terms of playoff standings. Nevertheless, fantasy owners will keep a close eye on this game, while it may just be an insignificant NFL Week 17 match-up, for many fantasy owners it is championship week, the culmination of the year. This is the impact of fantasy football.