One of the many types of Fantasy Sports. It is tremendously popular in the U.S. where the game involves American Football. There are magazines, web sites, tv programs, etc. all dedicated to this pastime. Often times the game involves money, sometimes large sums of money.

The basic concept is that a league is formed. The each member (called an owner) of the league is a team and each owner drafts and manages their team. The team is comprised of people playing in the sport. Some leagues are built from the NFL others from College Football and there are probably CFL fantasy leagues as well.

Each week one team in the league is pitted against another team in the league. A team is awarded points based on how the players of their team does in the real life sport. Some leagues are touchdown only where points are only awarded when a member of a team scores a touch down. Some are performance leagues where points are awarded for various other stats such as yardage or sacks.

Another difference between leagues are dynasty vs. re-draft. In a dynasty league you keep your players from year to year drafting only new players or free agents each year. In a re-draft league the teams are reformed each year with the entire teams being drafted before the start of the season.

Since there are many possible ways to gain points in a fantasy league the rules of the game for each league must be written up before the draft. To maintain order, keep records, make rulings a commissioner is elected or picked. But still many times for changes to be made or important rulings a vote of the Owners is required.

It can be a rather fun game. I love football and this is the first time I've played fantasy football in years. It has gotten me to pay much more attention to the game as a whole. It reminds me of when I was a kid and collected football cards. It also helps that I'm leading my league at 6-1 as of this writing.

Ah, fall. The leaves are turning to shades of red and brown, the yellow schoolbus is once again a common occurance, and it's football season. Hooah. What was once a guilty (and addicting) pleasure between small groups of friends has now become an industry. Hundreds of fantasy leagues pop up every year, each trying to get you to join them. The game can be played for fun, but now it's more about trying to win your league, win that cash prize, and revel in the glory of your team. Websites such as FanBall and The Huddle offer stats, articles, advice, and matchup info, so that you have the upper hand in conquering your league.

But how do you get in on the action, you may ask?

First, you start in about late July/early August. go to anyplace with a magazine rack worth its' salt. Buy a fantasy football mag, it doesn't really matter which. In the preseason, they're all the same, basically having things like team forecasts, schedules, player rankings, stats from last year, etc. But you aren't interested in the articles (well, you are, but not yet), you're interested in finding a league. Flip through the magazine, and read all the league advertising that you find interesting. There are generally two kinds of leagues: salary cap leagues (broken up into head-to-head and total points, and draft leagues. Each league will offer different prize amounts, different packages, different intangibles, and so on. Find a league that you're comfortable with, that fits your style and your wallet. Me and my dad shelled out $100 a year for our old league, but this allowed us unlimited trades and other things, including injured lists. Here's a basic rundown of each:

The Salary Cap League

  • The Cap: Instead of a draft, each player has a point value, or salary. It doesn't matter whether it's in points or dollars, what matters is that you're limited toa certain amount of points to spend. Since you have to fill your roster (a fixed number for each position), one must be creative. Sure, we all want to have nothing but the big names on our team, but can we afford it? This is where creativity comes in, and finding a nice small-cap player means that you may be able to afford that second star running back after all.
  • The Game: While a draft league assures that nobody has the same player, the same cannot be said for salary cap leagues, which allow anyone to have any player they want. In a head-to-head game, you may find that yours and your opponent's rosters are pretty similar, save for three or four players. Those three or four players can make or break your team.
  • The Prep: Fortunately, if you're in a salary cap league, most leagues allow you to completely revamp your team from week to week, or merely sub a player or two in. If your team is strong, you will want to keep it. If you sense a change in the wind, you can always start from square one and try going in a new direction. (Warning: If you've bought a team package that doesn't offer unlimited trades, you will have to pay for each trade you make. This can get expensive. Pay now, or pay later?)
  • The Upkeep: Injuries and bye weeks are easy to circumvent, just swap out the useless player for a new one.
  • The Draft League

  • The Draft: Unlike a salary cap where you can always change your team from week to week, the draft will literally make or break your team. Always walk into a draft with your draft list, preferably sectioned off by position, with a final list of overall preference. Mounting it all on a poster is a good idea, so players who are chosen can be easily crossed out. Don't take too long to decide, but be prudent. Always be prepared to trade picks, and open yourself to the possibility of grabbing trade bait (i.e. a player that you don't need, but can always trade to someone who does). Drafts generally progress in the order of importance: with most leagues, it's the RB and QB positions, followed by WR, K, TE, and DE (the last three being jumbled up, slightly). If you wish to have some fun, choose a kicker in a relatively early round (3rd or 4th, perhaps). This will cause a run on kickers, and you'll be glad you got your stud leg while he was still around.
  • The Game: This is more truer to the real NFL, as no two people will ever have the same player. This limits you, but at the same time emphasizes the importance of trades, the free agent market, and the draft. Draft leagues are more about communication than anything, because it facilitates interaction between the managers.
  • The Prep: By the end of the draft, you should have your starting roster, plus a few bench players. Each league will have different rules about free agency and trades, so your prep shouldn't be that much. As long as your draft went reasonably well and you are in a good position to trade, there's always hope.
  • The Upkeep: More than Salary Cap, for sure. Injuries, especially when you need that player most, can be devestating. You will lose sleep over whether or not to accept this trade or that. It will happen, but always remember that in the end, it's just a game.

So which is better? There are hardcore Salary Cappers who love the challenge of number crunching, and hardcore Drafters who claim that draft leagues are the true form of the game. I myself have participated in both, and favor... well, both of them.

Now that you've figured out what kind of league you're in, you must figure out what type of league it is. There are only two options yet again, Head-to-Head and Total Points.

Total Points
This is... well, pretty much exactly what it says it is. You aren't playing against anything but your total score, and the scores of those in your league. You're playing for maximum pointage, and every little score counts. This is found in salary cap leagues, and pretty much never seen in a draft league (though if you've taken part in a total points draft league, drop me a /msg). This game usually results in drastic week-to-week changes, because you will be trying to get as many points as possible, and different games offer different scenarios.

This fantasy football type pits your team against another team in your league, once a week. The question, of course, is whose team will score the most points. In a salary cap league, two teams with similar rosters will have games decided by as little as a kicker, a defense/special teams unit, and MAYBE a running back. In a draft league, this takes on greater meaning. You will know well in advance who you play. Sure, you may need Randy Moss now, but how will you feel when Kurt Warner is looking at you from the other side of the field in Week 16 with that playoff berth at stake?

Both options offer their ups and downs, and generally both are enjoyable to play. Friendly rivalries are often started in Head-to-Head, and can add a new twist to your local league.

Once you've gotten signed up with your league, you will need to know certain things, such as when rosters are due (which often depends on when the earliest game is that week), what your starting lineup requires, whether or not you have a bench, free agency rules, trade rules, etc. After that, it's all up to you.

Of course, whether or not you actually win playing fantasy football is immaterial. Playing and having a wide variety of players allows you to become a better fan, as a whole. Sure, it doesn't mean you can't watch your hometown team play every weekend, but you will buy the most expensive package DirecTV has to offer, as well as around five or six TVs, so that you can keep track of all of your players. I once strained a muscle in my index finger from refreshing CBS Sportsline too many times on one sunday. No shit.

In conclusion, fantasy football is a great way to spend the football season. You may win, you may lose, but you'll have fun doing it, especially when your almighty PEN15 crushes Oakland Sucks in your league's championship game.

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