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Fantasy Football in the 1980’s
I started playing fantasy football in 1987. I started 23 years ago when I was 10 years old. The world has changed a lot since then.
It all started when my father had the opportunity to join the royal family. Two teams had yet to reorganize and there should be a distribution schedule for their players. My dad, my older brother Ben and I went to his office to get the team on the phone with the new owner. That year’s players were already drafted so I remember the grand prize was Vinny Testaverde. Other notable QBs were Warren Moon and Randall Cunningham. I know I was scared because the shows seemed so high. We flipped a coin on a phone that seemed to require a lot of confidence from a 10 year old. We lost the coin and scored 2nd and 3rd. Testaverde went first and eventually we got Moon and Cunningham. It worked out well for us and I have always been in favor of Cunningham because of the initial contact.
After that, all three of us were very busy. So much so that we created another league for the same season so that everyone can manage their own team. It was a league that was renewed every year. Ben, my father and I each had our own team. I have never felt responsible for controlling my fantasy community. The first meeting was held at our home. My dad tipped us $10 or $20. I don’t remember how much but it seemed like a lot at the time. All the other players were adults except for one young man who brought his two sons; the elder who had his own group and the younger shared with his father. It is clear that my father had a lot of faith in me.
To prepare for the draft my father bought Cliff Charpentier’s Fantasy Football Digest 1987. It was a complete 200+ page book. It had a solid color on the front and no shiny pictures. This book was amazing to me. There was a lot to learn. It was spread by position and in different scoring methods. We were playing a basic scoring system. Who gave up 4 points for TDs thrown, 6 points for rushing and receiving TDs, 3 points for field goals and 1 point for extras. It was like that. No points were awarded for yards. It seems cruel now but this is how we play and we love it. The book was written in a layout with tiers. Starting with “Best” and going down from there. I remember thinking that it was more like a book than a reference book. I had one weapon and I learned it the hard way. I remember doing countless fictions on my own. We didn’t know where to apply until the night of the recruitment which made planning very difficult.
Draft night was always a lot of fun for me. The first few years were held at our home and then moved to the owner’s conference room which seemed more formal. The arrangement position was determined by Ace cards up to 9. The play was amazing. There was wood for cigarettes and it was the first time I saw alcohol in my house. It was a new world for me. It was amazing what a ten-year-old boy could do.
Sunday had a new joy for them. Watching the game was torture, we had 1 maybe 2 games in the afternoon and of course we didn’t have a DVR. So you were at risk of a pen on top of the screen and less game time to see how you were doing. The half-time replay was the next big announcement. I remember asking the announcers “How did he get that third TD?” This would go on at noon with a 3:00 game and then we had to wait a few agonizing hours until NFL Primetime started back in 1987. I remember a lot of one of my fantasy players running through the window and hearing Chris. Berman screams “Rumbling stumbling TOUCHDOWN!!!!” The ride was amazing. In some ways I miss those days. It is today’s information that expectations are not met as they were in the past.
Ben and my father took the position of Commissioner. This was a lot of work. He learned how to use a spreadsheet on our green Apple IIC window. The lineups were called on our phone on Saturday night or Sunday morning with the last call coming in the afternoon. I remember that these calls were very annoying to my sister who could not understand the importance of it. The official results had to wait for the box office entries in the Monday morning paper. Suddenly I was very happy with the newspaper and I was glad that we brought it in the morning. I was one of those high school kids who went to the library and ran the newspaper section. I pour on the boxes to prepare my descent and add.
After Monday night’s game the results will be entered into a spreadsheet and printed. We will send them to the rest of the league the next day. It’s a testament to how fun fantasy football is that even what seems like a cynical way to receive and distribute data we happily go through to play. You had to be very dedicated then to have a bond that endured because of the shear work required.
I have nothing but fond memories of playing fantasy football in the 80’s and early 90’s. I am glad that it has reached a wider audience and has reached the popularity it has today. There is a small part of me though that misses waiting for the break and hoping to hear Chris Berman scream as loud as he can, “The Nigerian nightmare comes to an end”.
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