Many people are talking about it, making Facebook statuses about it and tweeting about it. So, what is it? Fantasy football.
It seems like everyone who loves professional football has his or her own fantasy football team. There are other fantasy sports teams, such as America’s pastime for baseball, but fantasy football has become increasingly popular and even overtaken fantasy baseball. In 2009, the Fantasy Sports Trade Association estimated that about 18 million people played fantasy football.
Many fantasy football participants may not even realize that its birth dates back to 1962. The first fantasy football league that was organized took place in Manhattan, when three men from Oakland California were in town watching the American Football League.
Wilfred “Bill” Winkenbach, who had financial stake in the Oakland Raiders, created fantasy games involving golf and baseball in the ’50s and then came up with the idea for football. Winkenbach, Scotty Stirling, an Oakland Tribune sportswriter, and Bill Tunnell, who did public relations for the Raiders, developed a game in what is now the Milfred Plaza hotel in New York City. They were in New York while the Raiders were playing East Coast teams.
When the San Francisco Chronicle asked Stirling about fantasy football in 2004, he gave all the credit to Winkenbach for coming up with the idea.
The notion was that sports fans could draft players from professional teams onto their fantasy rosters, playing weekly games against others in the league that rewarded the team with the best record.
The first fantasy football league ever was named the Greater Oakland Pigskin Prognosticators League (GOPPL). It had eight teams total that were put together by the founders and friends of the Raiders and the Oakland Tribune.
The rules that were used during the first year of GOPPL are extremely similar to those used in today’s fantasy football. Back then, you would draft players who had the highest tendency to score touchdowns and gain yards. The big difference between then and now is that there was less research then. Now that we have the internet we can basically find whatever we are looking for, including information on football teams and players.
None of the founders ever received money for their cutting-edge invention. Winkenbach passed in 1993, and was said to have played fantasy football until near the end of his life. Winkenbach and his friends Stirling and Tunnell never even thought their creation would become a phenomenon that people look forward to every football season.
“I had no idea it would explode into the kind of mania that exists today,” Stirling told the Fantasy Football Index in 1994.
It was these men who made this up for fun, and whom we owe it to for making football season that much more interesting and exciting.