How Has Fantasy Football Affected the NFL Fan?

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How Has Fantasy Football Affected the NFL Fan?

How many people are actually into fantasy football?

How can something like this even be that much fun?

It's not a sport. It's for people who could never actually play football themselves.

Okay, that was my opinion until the summer of 2001 when my buddy, after drilling me about joining his fantasy league for the previous two years, finally convinced me to do it.

If I had only known prior how much fun it truly is, I would have been doing this for years.

Does anyone have any idea how long this has actually been around? Who started this addictive, non-contact "sport" so many of us play today?

Try 1962 when Bill Winkenbach—a partner for the Oakland Raiders—along with Philip Carmona (PR man), Bill Tunnel, Scotty Stirling, and George Ross first developed the concept. Stirling and Ross both worked for the newspaper, and created the idea on a team trip.

Upon returning, they set up a league known as the Greater Oakland Professional Pigskin Prognosticators League. Unfortunately, having to manually do all of the stat work, it did not grow into the fantasy game we know today.

The major difference between then and now—computers. Around the early '90s, fantasy football really took a hold on a lot of American football fans.

So now, in 2009, any ideas as to how many of us actually play this game?

Fantasy football alone is played by over 30 million people.

When I joined, I joked about how only "geeks" probably did this, then realized how hooked I became after my very first draft.

It was exciting when you picked your own team of players you'll never actually sit or start depending on what their matchups look like from week to week.

I decided my team name had to be Shadow Knights, and of course I had to pick out the absolute most evil-looking skull face for my jet black helmet.

We fans of fantasy football spend more time during football season preparing our lineups, performing drop/adds (especially when that kicker had such a great game last week), trash talking it up with our next opponent, and making sure to have that one good running back, for that one good matchup in Week 17—just in case we make it to the championship game.

We have complete dedication to the game, even if we forget to pick the kids up at school, or your wife asked you to make dinner, while you instead, decided to chomp down half a bag of Doritos while checking the latest injury report on your star receiver.

There also happens to be an insane amount of money spent in the quest for the bragging rights of each league. From the purchasing of software to run a league, to online gambling in different leagues, to chipping in $10 to $50 or more, assuring your league's top-four receive a nice cash prize.

My hopes and dreams fell this past season when I saw my starting quarterback, Tom Brady, go down with a season-ending injury. I knew it would cost me a great chance at making the final game.

I'm sure there were quite a few fantasy football fans whose hearts sank too, knowing that killed their season as well.

But how much did that really cost Tom Brady owners?

Try approximately $150 million (in fantasy football money), if not more.

It was estimated that fans spent over $500 million this past season to enter into fantasy football leagues, and that teams with Brady on their roster had a 30 percent chance of winning their league.

You could probably buy the Detroit Lions for that kind of money!

I have discovered, after partaking in fantasy football for the last eight years, that I have become a walking stat sheet, seemingly pulling numbers out of my rear at any given moment, remembering how this running back's 54 yards cost me a game back in week three.

And how, if my receiver would have gotten credit for one more yard, it would have given me that one more win, placing me in a better playoff spot, which in the end I would have won it all.

We all do this. And we all know way too much about stats and backup players than any one person should.

And there is nothing more enjoyable—unless your team is 1-5 after Week 6, of course.

I used to only take great joy from a Cowboys or Raiders game. Now, I can sit and watch any game, and I mean any game, even if it's the Bengals-Browns, as long as I (or my opponent) have Carson Palmer or Jamal Lewis.

A lot of people, myself included, even have our TV's set with our NFL Sunday Ticket to show us on the screen every time one of our players does something. While watching a Cowboys game, I loved seeing "A. Peterson runs for a 25 yard TD" flash across the bottom of my TV.

The greatest for me is being down about 10 points, knowing my opponent has no one left to play, and I'm sitting down on Monday night, about to watch my star player attempt to get me those all-important 11 points to seal the victory.

If there are actually any NFL fans out there who do not play fantasy football, I would beg you to do so. It makes any fan that much more aware of all that goes on throughout the entire season, especially making it possible to enjoy every game you watch.

I've loved football my entire life, but I would have to say, since playing fantasy football, it has become a passion. It gives me a greater understanding as to how good players from other teams really are, and what they are really accomplishing on a weekly basis.

For me, I'll be hooked forever.

Feel free to tell me your creative team names, and share your fantasy football experience. That is, if you can pry yourself away from making your 2009 draft board.

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