Fantasy island: Fantasy football brings gridiron fans together

There’s no arguing that Nate Reuss is a Broncos fan.

But Reuss also has also taken a liking to the Raiders, Eagles and Colts ... to a point.

Reuss has split his allegiance for one reason — he is one of millions of people who play fantasy football.

“I thought I’d never root for the Colts,” Reuss said. “But I have the past two years because I’ve had Peyton Manning as my fantasy quarterback, so I root for the Colts a lot.”

Reuss is the assistant general manager at Bub’s Field Sports Pub on Horizon Drive. In the past two years, he’s been able to keep tabs on his fantasy football team as he serves his customers.

“We have all the games, so if I’m wondering how one of my running backs is doing, I can walk 10 feet and check it out,” Reuss said. “Plus, I find more often than not, people watching the games are also fantasy players.”

Reuss said he builds a connection with customers through fantasy football.

“It’s a good icebreaker,” Reuss said. “You find yourself having conversations about certain players.”

Fantasy football can be played in different formats, but the most popular is a 10- to 16-team league, with each “owner” having a roster of 16 players.

Each week, owners fret over who to start. With one quarterback, two running backs, two wide receivers, one tight end, one flex player (RB/WR), one kicker and one team defense, owners pore over statistics and injury reports to come up with a winning lineup.

Games are head-to-head against other owners, with points awarded for touchdowns, passing or rushing yardage, interceptions, points allowed, etc.

The season traditionally lasts through Week 16 of the NFL season, with a champion crowned by a tournament in the final three weeks.

The Daily Sentinel isn’t immune to the temptation of fantasy football. There are two leagues in the office, one that encourages trash talk and one that doesn’t.

Ben Husband, who works in the special sections department, is one of the fantasy owners at the Sentinel.

He didn’t get involved with the game until 2003, but Husband said he’s now in four leagues.

“I always thought it sounded like a waste of time,” Husband said. “But once I went to that first draft, it was so addicting, and I’ve been playing in multiple leagues since.”

Husband has always been a football fan, but said since he started playing fantasy football he pays closer attention on Sundays.

“The draft can be a crapshoot to get good players,” Husband said. “But once the season starts, you start to see who the good players are, and you learn more about teams and players you never really paid attention to.”

As fantasy football has become more and more popular with fans, it has become more accepted in football’s inner circle.

NFL players have even begun to endorse the game. Washington Redskins tight end Chris Cooley and Seattle Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselback both play in fantasy football leagues, and have admitted to getting burned by their own big days on the field.

In fact, when Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew took a knee last Sunday against the New York Jets instead of scoring a touchdown, he cost many of his fantasy owners (including this one) crucial points.

A fantasy football player himself, Jones-Drew apologized after the game.

“Sorry to my fantasy owners,” Jones-Drew said in a press conference after the game. “They told me to get as close as I can and take a knee.”

One of the attractions to fantasy football is being able to arrange and manage the team as the owner sees fit.

That starts with picking a team name — The McDaniels Dollar Menu is just one example.

Then comes draft preparation, the draft itself, which can be anything from an online draft to gathering at the owners’ favorite tavern to a catered party.

Most fantasy leagues include trades, picking up players off the waiver wire and playoffs to determine a winner. Some have a weekly cash prize for having the highest-scoring team, and league entry fees are used to pay the league champion — as if bragging rights weren’t enough.

Ron Elliott could be called a fantasy football founding father of Grand Junction.

After being introduced to fantasy football during his first year of student teaching at Bookcliff Middle School by Ray Gates, Elliott has played every year since 1979.

“We got a bunch of teachers together in a league, and that’s how I learned,” Elliott said. “I had so much fun doing it that I started a league with my family.”

The league Elliott started still has five original owners, and has seen the evolution of fantasy football first-hand.

As commissioner in the early years, Elliott was in charge of computing all the points.

“What I would do is get the stats from the AP wire in Monday’s Sentinel and do the points,” Elliott said. “Then I would write a newsletter and would mail them out on Tuesday morning so the owners would have it by Thursday.”

Elliott said the process would take roughly two hours. If an owner wanted to make any changes to their roster, they had to call Elliott before 8 p.m. on Friday — or earlier if there was a Thursday night game.

My, how times have changed.

With the Internet boom in the 1990s, Elliott moved his league online. Now, something that used take hours of sifting through boxscores, making and taking phone calls and writing newsletters now takes seconds with a click of a mouse.

“It’s been amazing, we don’t do anything now,” Elliott said. “We are on CBS’s Fantasy Football and they take care of everything. It’s like day and night.”

Elliott has been a fantasy football fan for a long time, but said he still plays for the same reason he did 30 years ago.

“It’s something that connects everyone in the league on a weekly basis,” Elliott said. “One of the only reasons I started the league was so everyone could keep in touch.”


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