CeePrompt! Computer Connection

Originally published 10-14-02

Fantasy Football Fever

Football fever is a sure sign that the fall season is upon us as armchair quarterbacks settle in with their favorite teams each weekend. A certain group of Stocktonians, however, is keenly watching all the players from every team as members of the Stockton Fantasy Football League. 

Wilfred "Bill" Winkenbach, a one-time limited partner with the Oakland Raiders, is credited with inventing fantasy football in 1962 in hopes of making a lagging season a bit more interesting. Since then thousands of wannabe owners have created their own faux franchises throughout the country. These aspiring team owners draft actual NFL players at the beginning of the season, but scoring is based on statistics accumulated each week, rather than on actual team scoring. 

Each league determines their scoring parameters and assigns a system of points credited to players, based on performance. For offensive players, points are assigned for number of carries, yardage gained, catches, touchdowns and field goals, for example. Defensive teams receive points for interceptions, sacks, fumble recoveries, yardage allowed, and kickoff or punt returns. The league can designate any combination of player statistics as point-worthy. The fantasy team with the most accumulated points at the end of the season wins.  

Because fantasy football scores are based solely on player stats, calculating the weekly standings was a labor of love prior to modern Internet technology. "It would take us days, poring over the Monday and Tuesday morning newspapers, to extract these statistics," according to Stockton Fantasy Football Commissioner Lammert Van Laar III, who's been playing fantasy football along with wife Paula for about 10 years. Even with the benefit of Excel, the raw data still needed to be researched and entered by hand.

 The Internet has made this bookkeeping drudgery a thing of the past by offering websites dedicated to serving the fantasy football faithful. CBS SportsLine.com is the site used by the Stockton league to track the stats and provide useful information for its twelve league teams. For $129 fee, SportsLine sets up the league online, giving Commissioner Van Laar full access to create the individual franchises.  Owners have exclusive rights to manage their team via the website, choosing who to play, who to reserve and who to drop. League statistics are available for all to study, since the fantasy teams actually play against each other.

 Each week, owners go online and select their players for the upcoming Sunday and Monday night games. Changes to the lineup can be made up to one hour before game time. CBS Sportsline.com provides live scoring, as well as play-by-play action online during the games. Player statistics are automatically updated by the underlying database and scripting software running the website and points are awarded to the fantasy teams accordingly.  

Throughout the 17-week season, SportsLine communicates daily with team owners, advising them of the latest news, such as injuries or performance evaluations to assist in making weekly lineup decisions. Owners can elect to receive this information by e-mail or read it online. 

Each league has a unique name and anyone can join the online fun. Van Laar was just the first to register the name "Stockton Fantasy Football League." In addition to fantasy football, CBS offers fantasy hockey, golf and auto racing. Sportsline will even manage your weekly office football pool online. Other websites offering fantasy league management include CNN Sports Illustrated, ESPN and Fox Sports

y, Cee Prompt! She is a co-author of computer textbooks and can be reached by e-mail at cschuler@uop.edu or cschuler@ceeprompt.com or by mail c/o The Record, P.O. Box 900, Stockton, CA 95201. She is on the Internet at: http://www.ceeprompt.com. Click here for past archived columns.  


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