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Fantasy Football in the 1980’s
I started playing Fantasy Football in 1987. I started playing 23 years ago when I was 10 years old. The landscape has changed dramatically since then.
It all started when my dad had the opportunity to join the dynasty league. The two teams did not renew and there should have been a draft to separate their players. My dad, older brother Ben and I went to his office to do a draft over the phone with the other new owner. The rookies for that year had already been selected, so I remember that the big prize was Vinny Testaverde. Other notable QBs included Warren Moon and Randall Cunningham. I know I was nervous because the stakes seemed so high. We flipped a coin over the phone which seemed to require an incredible level of trust through the eyes of a ten year old boy. We lost the coin toss and drew 2nd and 3rd place. Testaverde was first and we ended up getting both Moon and Cunningham. It worked out well for us and I’ve always had an affinity for Cunningham because of that early connection with him.
After that draft, the three of us were totally hooked. So much so that we organized a second league for that same season so that each of us could lead our own team. It was a league that changed every year. Ben, my dad and I each had our own team. I’ve never felt so much responsibility to be in control of my own fantasy team. The first draft was held here. My dad bet 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 guy who brought his two sons; the older one had his own team, and the younger one shared with his dad. Obviously, my dad had a lot of faith in me.
To prepare for the draft, my dad bought Fantasy Football Digest by Cliff Charpentier in 1987. It was a 200+ page book. It had a monochrome front and no flashy images. I found this book amazing. There was so much to learn. It was arranged by position and different scoring methods. We played the basic scoring method. He awarded 4 points for TDs thrown, 6 points for running and receiving TDs, 3 points for field goals and 1 point for extra points. That was it. No points were awarded for yards. It seems barbaric now, but this is how we played and we loved it. The book was arranged by position with a ranking that had levels. Starting with the “Best of the Best” and going down from there. I remember thinking this was like a textbook and didn’t need to be questioned. I had one source and studied it diligently. I remember making countless mock drafts myself. We did not determine the position of the draft until the night of the draft, which made preparation very difficult.
A draughty night has always been incredibly exciting to me. The first few years were spent in our house and then moved to the second owner’s business conference room which felt extremely official. Draft position was determined by dealing cards from Ace to 9. The drama was incredible. There were pretzel sticks that were eaten like cigars and this would be the first time I saw beer in my house. It was a whole new world for me. It was as much fun as a pre-teen could handle.
Sundays had a whole new excitement for them. Watching the games was torture, we got 1 maybe two games at noon and of course we didn’t have a DVR. So you were left to the whim of the ticker at the top of the screen and the very rare pause of the game to gauge how you were doing. The halftime recaps were a whirlwind of information to follow. I remember begging the announcers “How did they score the third TD?” This would happen for both noon and 3:00 games and then we had to wait an agonizing few hours until NFL Primetime also started in 1987. I have so many memories of one of my fantasy players running across the screen and hearing Chris Berman yell ” Rumbling stumble TOUCHDOWN!!!!” The high was incredible. I kind of miss those days. With today’s current information that anticipation can never be built up like it was back then.
Ben and my dad took over as trustees. This was a ton of work. They learned to use a spreadsheet on our green screen Apple IIC. Lineups were called to our home phone on Saturday night or Sunday morning, with last-minute calls coming in shortly before noon. I remember that these calls were very annoying to my sister who could not understand their level of importance. The official results had to wait for the boxed results in Monday’s morning papers. I was suddenly extremely excited about the paper and glad we got the morning delivery. I was one of the few kids in elementary school who went to the library and dared to look at the newspaper section. I would pour over the frame the points to plan my drop and passes.
After the Monday night game, the scores would be entered into a spreadsheet and printed. We would send them to the rest of the league the next day. It’s a testament to how much fun fantasy football is even with what now seems like such a crude way of receiving and distributing data that we enjoyed playing it. You must have been more dedicated than that to have a league that lasted because of hard work.
I have nothing but fond memories of playing fantasy football in the 80’s and early 90’s. I am glad that it has become more accessible to the masses and that it has reached the popularity it is today. There’s a small part of me that’s missing waiting for commercial breaks hoping to hear Chris Berman scream as only he can, “Nigeria’s nightmare is bulldozing its way to the end zone.”
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#Fantasy #Football #1980s