Fantasy football is an interactive competition in which users compete against each other as general managers of virtual teams built from real players. The players that an individual is able to manage are professional American football players in the National Football League. The different actions people are able to make are drafting, trading, adding or dropping players, and changing rosters. Due to the growth of the Internet, Fantasy football has vastly increased in popularity, particularly because Fantasy football providers such as ESPN, Yahoo, CBS, and the NFL itself are able to keep track of statistics entirely online, eliminating the need to check box scores and newspapers regularly to keep track of players. Most leagues have a single week championship in Week 16 of the NFL season.
The rules for what eventually became fantasy football were developed starting in 1962 at New York City's Milford Plaza Hotel by a limited partner in the Oakland Raiders named Wilfred "Bill" Winkenbach together with Bill Tunnell, former Raiders public relations manager, and Scotty Stirling, a former reporter.
The inaugural league was called the GOPPPL (Greater Oakland Professional Pigskin Prognosticators League), and the first draft took place in the rumpus room of Winkenbach's home in Oakland, CA in August 1963. The league consisted of eight members, made up of administrative affiliates of the AFL, pro football journalists, or someone who had purchased or sold 10 season tickets for the Raiders’ 1963 season. Each roster consisted of the following in the GOPPPL: two quarterbacks, four halfbacks, two fullbacks, four offensive ends, two kick/punt returners, two field goal kickers, two defensive backs/linebackers and two defensive linemen. The current GOPPPL roster now includes: two quarterbacks, four halfbacks, six wide receivers/tight ends, two kickers, two defensive backs, one return team, and a bonus pick for any position. As of 2012, the GOPPPL will celebrate its 50th season and still maintains its TD-only scoring heritage.
In 1969, Andy Mousalimas, an original creator of GOPPPL and participant in the inaugural draft, brought the game to his sports bar, the King's X in Oakland, CA, where he added another couple leagues. When the patrons of other Oakland and San Francisco bars visited for trivia contests they soon learned of the game and passed the word about it. Due to the time consuming nature of the game's scoring it was difficult to pick up and spread slowly across the country.
One of the oldest continuously running known fantasy football leagues is the G'national Football League (GFL), founded in the Summer of 1979 in Lakeland, Florida by Wayne Wesley. The idea was inspired by a March 1979 Sports Illustrated score card column detailing clever team names of "fantasy teams" (including the Pomona Fighting Pimentos), but the GFL included completely re-written rules. Before switching to internet scoring in 1997, the team owners were required to send in weekly line-ups via postcard to both the commissioner and opponents. At the beginning, newsletters were typed on a manual Remington portable typewriter each Tuesday and mailed to team owners. The only scores that were counted were those reported by the designated newspaper, determined at the beginning of the season (usually the Lakeland Ledger or Tampa Tribune). The original scoring system included only actual points scored by a 7-man offensive team - no yardage, no special teams, no defense. The league still has two original owners, including the founder and Eddie Winoker, who has been hosting banquets and drafts since 1988. The league boasts several multi-generational team owners and several international team owners over its rich 34-season history. TV interview with the founders here.
Another early fantasy football league is "The league formerly known as Maria’s". This league was founded in Spokane, Washington on September 2, 1981, at the now defunct Maria’s pizza parlor. Originally, Maria’s Fantasy Football League had eight franchises drafting from a single player pool. Today, the league boasts twenty-four franchises divided into two conferences each drafting from a separate player pool. The playoff system mirrors the NFL playoffs with weekly live auction redrafts as the player pool diminishes culminating in a Super Bowl between the two conference champions. Like other pre-information age leagues, Maria’s was founded as a TD only league to simplify manual scoring. Since, the rules have been modified by adding "bonus points" for milestone yardage achievements – but otherwise Maria’s franchise owners have opted to maintain the spirit of Maria’s TD-only history.
One of the oldest continuous Dynasty IDP leagues known is the NFFL USALeague based in Bennington, VT. The league is a performance based league, where yards gained result in more points than touchdowns. July 1991 the league host it's first live in person draft where over 35 offensive and defensive players are drafted. The league utilizes a cut system at the end of each year,a free agent auction and a rookie draft each year. The NFFL USA league is what is called a "deep" league, rosters are large and the keeper group at the end of the year is much larger than most dynasty leagues. The NFFL USA League is the oldest known league to require teams to start 11 individual defensive players.
Currently the league has a roster of 68 players during the active season and cuts down to 39 players after the Championship game. The draft each year consist of the players cut from the prévious year and the new rookies. The leagues inaugural season of scoring included; QB, 2 RB, 2 WR, TE, K and 3 IDP players any position. The league has an annual league meeting prior to the draft to award the Championship rotating trophy, to discuss rule changes and to elect the commissioner for the upcoming season.
Example of Franchise Names in Fantasy Football - Current Teams in the oldest IDP, Dynasty League: Wills Bears / Azuma Zoom / The Highlanders / Stonewalls Brigade / Trail of Tears / The Bee's / The Shaftsburians / Cold Dirtbags / Periman Panthers / Coondog Days
For years, the popularity of Fantasy football grew slowly. In 1997, CBS launched the beta version of the first publicly available free fantasy football website. The game immediately became widely popular. Within three years, all major sports media websites launched competing fantasy football hosting websites. The NFL released their own official game in 2010, NFL.com Fantasy Football, further driving industry growth. Fantasy football is now the single most important marketing tool for the NFL. Today it is estimated over 19 million people compete in public and private leagues online nationally.
In 2009, Fantasy Football was christened mainstream with a fantasy football based sitcom, The League. The League was created by the husband-and-wife team of Jeff Schaffer (Curb Your Enthusiasm,Seinfeld) and Jackie Marcus Schaffer (Disturbia, EuroTrip) who serve as executive producers and directors. The series is produced by FX Productions.