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Fantasy-football season looming

David L'Heureux Special to the Daily
Special to the Daily
ALL |

It’s that time of year again football fans.

The leaves are changing, the mercury is plummeting and winter looms around the corner like a Monday workday after an autumn Sunday.

That’s right, there’s less than a week left to get organized, study-up, call your friends or log-on before the 2003 fantasy-football season passes leaves you in the dust

History of the game

Fantasy first gained prominence in the late-80s as an offshoot of rotisserie-league baseball. Since then, the game has morphed into a multi-million-dollar industry and an annual rite of fall. It’s as important to many as the NFL season itself.

Fantasy leagues are no longer just the stomping grounds of football geeks and get-a-lifers nationwide. With leagues all over the country and annual participation reaching into the millions, the game has truly taken on an identity of its own.

Eagle River Fantasy Football League

Six years ago, Susan Tulk, the current team owner of the Stars and Bars team and co-commissioner of her league, got a group of friends together and formed the Eagle River Fantasy Football League (ERFFL). She participates in fantasy for a number of reasons.

“First of all it’s a great way to keep in touch with friends,” Tulk said. “Every year, regardless of what we are all doing, we get together and catch up, see how everyone is doing, have a couple of beers and hold a draft. Also, if you have done your homework and have a good draft, you enjoy the season more and have a better chance at winning your league.”

Dave McDougall, who owns the Beantown Bombers in the same league as Tulk, had some additional reasons for playing fantasy.

“It makes the season a lot more interesting,” says McDougall, who is actually in two leagues in the valley. “If the Sunday night game is one you wouldn’t normally care about, like the Ravens and the Bengals, but you have fantasy players going in that game, it’s an incentive to watch. Plus, if you win your league, you get the whole next six months to talk trash to fellow league owners about how awesome your team was last year.”

“This year, our draft was amazing, everyone really had it together,” Tulk said. “We all used to be kind of clueless on the process when we began. Now everyone is prepared and the draft is kind of par for the course. We went with Edgarrin James from Indianapolis in the first round. We are hoping he returns to his form of a couple of years ago when he was one of the best players in the league.”

Other first round picks from the ERFFL were Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb, Broncos running back Clinton Portis and perennial-fantasy stud, Marshall Faulk, who, due to recent injury problems, slid all the way to the end of the first round.

Time’s running out

There are two ways to get involved in a fantasy league.

The first is to get eight to twelve fellow football lovers together, pick a night when everyone is free, and hold a draft.

The second is to log on to any number of Web sites, http://www.cbssportsline.com, http://www.espn.com or http://www.usatoday.com to name a few, and enter an online league, in which you compete against people from all over the country.

In each case, you draft the team of your choice, selecting quarterbacks, receivers, running backs and defenses from the NFL. After you’ve selected your team, you decide on your starting lineup according to the guidelines of the league you have joined.

If Ricky Williams, from the Dolphins, is one of your starting running backs, and he scores a touchdown, you receive six points. Additional points for yardage and receptions are awarded according to the scoring format for your league.

If you need some help

A sign of how prevalent fantasy football has become is the wealth of information and league choices there are available on the Internet. There are hundreds of sites that will help you rank players based on their fantasy value, injury potential and performance in training camp.

A few of the best out there are the Draft Sharks at http://www.draftsharks.com and the Fantasy Guru at http://www.fantasyguru.com. These guys get beyond in depth in their analysis of virtually every player in the NFL, even the ones of whom you’ve never heard.

If you’ve never been in a fantasy league, the information on these sites will literally walk you through the entire drafting process and probably land you with one of the best teams in your league when it’s all said and done.

If you don’t want to pay for one of the aforementioned services, almost every sport’s Web site worth its salt will have at least the basics that you’ll need to know to get a solid team together.

If you haven’t gotten involved in this game that’s taking the nation by storm, you should. The reasons are numerous and the benefits and rewards are, too. Being a fantasy team owner will redefine how you watch football and help make every season a memorable one.

So, grab a six pack of soda or beer, get together with some friends and join in what millions of others are talking about every Monday in offices nationwide, fantasy football.

David L’Heureux is a freelance writer based in Vail.


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