Locals become ‘football owners’

Fantasy football gets fans in the action
By: Sara Seyydin Journal Staff Writer
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Having millions of dollars is no longer necessary to own an NFL football team. Fans who want to get in on the action of embarking on the quest for a Super Bowl Championship can join a fantasy football league. Local fantasy league commissioners and owners say the simulated experience is every bit as enthralling and a whole lot cheaper, than the real thing. Dan James, who won $100,000 in ESPN’s Streak for the Cash, is currently in 15 fantasy football leagues. The theme-song of ESPN constantly echoes through his home in Auburn. This week his days are jam-packed with virtual draft after virtual draft. Just like a real owner, fantasy footballers, make their bids for different players and create a team. In fantasy, teams are comprised of real NFL players from various teams. Owners compete to have their player picks out-score and out-stat one another. This year James became commissioner of his own league through James said most of his fantasy football leagues aren’t for cash, but rather for the challenge. “It’s something to do and I enjoy football,” James said. “Then you come together with your friends and you get bragging rights.” This year, James’ neighbor Carol Grambow decided to join his league. James taught her how to go through a draft at her home Wednesday. He recommends people try a mock draft before they participate in the real thing. With many free leagues and draft times, James said people can put a little bit of time in, or the long-hours he keeps, depending on how involved they want to be. It is also a chance to play a game while staying up on sports. Grambow, a San Francisco 49ers fan, said she likes having an excuse to watch more football games. “ESPN is the first thing we turn on in the morning and the last thing we see before we go to bed,” Grambow said. “It opens you up to other teams. You find that you can watch other games. It adds a little more than what you get by just following one team.” One league James belongs to is run by Fred Hill. In Hill’s league things are mostly done the old-fashioned way, without computers. The pot will be $750 this season. “We’ve had this league for 19 years. We have a draft night. Everybody shows up. We have a big feast before,” Hill said. “Each owner brings over their own cheat sheet.” Hill, who owns Gold Country Party Rentals, said he spends about an hour a day keeping up with fantasy football. The most he has won in one year is $1,000. After draft night, the league communicates mostly through e-mail. Before computers were popular, Hill said they would communicate through snail mail “You go head-to-head with each other each week, mainly in touchdowns, some of your yardage and a little on defense,” Hill said. “The NFL Sunday Ticket makes it a lot more fun. Some of the guys will spend four hours a day. I spend about 10 hours a week. I work from home.” The NFL Sunday Ticket is a television sports package that broadcasts out-of-market Sunday games. Before the TV package was offered, Hill said he could only watch the few games aired on local affiliates and check statistics for the other games in the newspaper. In the past 15 years Hills said everyone has enjoyed the league so much that they haven’t left. While there is no room in his league for new members, he recommends people try finding one online or starting their own with friends and family. Before doing that though, Hill has one word of caution. “I would tell people who haven’t tried it yet, ‘It’s addicting,” Hill said. “If you don’t want to be hooked, don’t start.” Reach Sara Seyydin at