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Touchdown: Fantasy Football

...lets fans act like big-shot NFL studs

 by Gabriel Trujillo
 published on Thursday, September 1, 2005

<em>Photo illustration</em>You may have left feet on the playing field, but in fantasy football land you can become the number one player./issues/arts/693621
Deanna Dent / STATE PRESS MAGAZINE
Photo illustrationYou may have left feet on the playing field, but in fantasy football land you can become the number one player.
 

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This season, wide receiver Anquan Boldin won't just play for the Arizona Cardinals. He might not know it, but he's been drafted for the Brown Wall Street team in the Clubhouse Crew Fantasy Football League. What about All-Pro Kansas City running back Priest Holmes? He'll suit up for the Apt. 130 Monkey Wrench.

With the kick-off of the 2005 NFL season only two weeks away, fantasy football leagues around the country are filling their rosters. For the uninitiated, the idea is to create a lineup of NFL players who acquire points by scoring touchdowns and amassing yardage. In some leagues, teams play each other each week, while others choose a winner with total points at the end of the season.

The biggest part of fantasy football is drafting the players. Whether you're a yearly subscriber to the NFL Network or don't know the difference between Tom Brady and Peter Brady, there is a league for everyone. Tom is the three-time Super Bowl champion and Peter is the middle brother of the famous TV family, the Brady Bunch, by the way.

Erik Hernandez, 19, is an industrial design junior at ASU and has played fantasy football for three years.

"I have always been into tracking stats and fantasy football just seems like a game that benefits from knowing typically useless football statistics," says Hernandez. "The draft is always a great time to trash-talk and spoil the plans of other people in the league."

Unlike the NFL, you won't see thousands of screaming fans crammed into Madison Square Garden during fantasy football drafts. Instead, you'll see a group of friends huddled around a table amidst a sea of rosters, cheat sheets and empty bags of potato chips.

NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue won't stroll across the stage, clutching an envelope to announce each pick. Instead, each owner shouts out his or her picks, followed by moans, chuckles and expletives.

Before the draft begins, Hernandez says it's very important to do your homework.

"To prepare for the draft I read online articles about players in training camp and pre-season, check out previous season statistics, and keep an eye on battles for starting positions," says Hernandez.

Web sites like ESPN.com offer plenty of help for fantasy owners setting up their strategy.

"I cheat," says 20-year-old English sophomore Mike Nevarez. "I really don't know much about football, statistically speaking, so I print out 'cheat sheets' and depth charts [rosters]."

Finance sophomore Surya Srinarayana chooses players by drafting from his favorite team: the Arizona Cardinals, who haven't had a winning season since 1997. Srinarayana says he thinks this year will be different.

"Fantasy football is about individual stats, and actual NFL games are about wins," says Srinarayana.

Hernandez and Srinarayana are just two of many people joining fantasy football leagues and dreaming of creating the ultimate team.

In 2004, an estimated 10 million people played fantasy football and turned it into a $100 million industry, according to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association.

"I think fantasy football is gaining interest because most football fans are closet stat trackers," says Hernandez. "It's also a good way to get groups together to watch games and have some friendly competition."

Even though most sites require you to pay to play, sites like ESPN.com and Yahoo.com let you play for free. And Nevarez says that's fine with him.

"It's all about bragging rights," says Nevarez. "When you are the underdog because sportscasters have [bad] projected a season for your players, there is no better feeling than to stuff it in your friends' faces when your iffy picks have a blowout season."

Reach the reporter at gabriel.trujillo@asu.edu.



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