Jussel: Fantasy FB players have a plethora of choices

My first fantasy football experience took place in the Pencil and Paper Age, fall of 1987.

It was local high school teachers, coaches and assorted hangers-on gathering for beers and nachos to conduct a draft of National Football League players.

Each team owner ponied up $50 for the privilege of selecting about a dozen players. Each selection was dutifully recorded on the official league roster in pencil by the league’s secretary in what became a four- or five-hour process.

Because it was my first fantasy experience and being a football “expert” of some note, I judiciously did my homework.

The draft order was drawn from a hat, and I came away with one of the first picks.

My pick was brilliant: “I’ll take Jay Schroeder, quarterback, Washington Redskins,” I casually announced.

I was certain everyone in the room would go “oooh” or “aaah.” Yes, that Jussel is a smart one, they would all be thinking.

I was smart indeed — until the second play of the season.

At 11 a.m. Schroeder pranced onto the field as I watched on television, first with great anticipation, then in horror.

Schroeder, a young Pro Bowl selection who had thrown for more than 4,100 yards and led the Redskins into the NFC title game the previous season, dropped back to pass and was sacked. To make a sad story somewhat shorter, he was surrounded by a variety of medical types as he reclined on the field. Schroeder was then carted off, most of his season wiped out after separating his right shoulder.

All of my fantasy dreams, not to mention my $50, had gone down the tubes.

It was a rather inauspicious fantasy debut, but I was hooked.

I’ve been playing ever since in one form or another, in sports ranging from baseball to basketball to football.

The fantasy football game, which now boasts more than 20 million members, according to NFL.com, was actually started in 1962 in a New York City hotel by a limited partner in the Oakland Raiders named Peter Staunton. The first league was called the GOPPPL (Greater Oakland Professional Pigskin Prognosticators League).

There were eight members in the league, and the rosters consisted of two QBS, four halfbacks, two fullbacks, four offensive ends, two kick returners, two field goal kickers, two defensive backs or linebackers and two defensive linemen.

Although not much has changed in the way players are divvied up in today’s fantasy games, the methods of creating or joining leagues has been streamlined to the max.

CBS Sports in 1997 created the first computerized version that could be played for free, and now there are leagues on too many websites to mention.

Want to play for free? Leagues are abundant on virtually every major sports website ranging from Yahoo! to ESPN to CBS to NFL.com itself.

Want to risk a little money?

Again, do a Web search for “fantasy football” and pick your poison: You can join for as little as $9.95, or you can spend thousands. Payouts can range from $15 for finishing third in a league to upwards of $25,000 if you opt to play with the big boys and girls.

You also don’t have to spend an entire evening in a draft process. If you are time-challenged, you can simply join up, notify your league you are ready to select, and after an automatic draft process, check out your new team.

There is the opposite end of the spectrum, found at fantasyheadquarters.com, where you can painstakingly do your research after every selection. In this league, the misnamed “Immediate Draft” league, each owner has up to 12 hours to make the selection, at which time the selection is emailed to each of the other owners to peruse. The draft process, owners are warned, will take from five to nine days to complete.

No matter what kind of a league or leagues you choose to join, here’s a word of warning: The other owners in the league will take it seriously. Do your homework.

An example of owners not doing their homework comes from a small-money baseball league in which I am currently involved.

It seems after the first week of play, several of the owners (myself included) who had done this sort of thing before had made numerous changes to our pitching staffs on a daily basis, not only activating pitchers on the day they pitched, but grabbing eligible free agents on the days they were scheduled to pitch.

Several of the “newcomers” objected to this approach, and there was a massive email argument, an argument that was settled by the league commissioner in a very terse note: “Read the freaking rules before you join the league,” the commissioner said.

So, fantasy footballers, enjoy the upcoming season.

But once you decide on joining a league, review potential draft lists and carefully check out the league rules. Make sure you are in a league that fits you. Lord knows, there are plenty of them out there.


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