I started playing fantasy football in 2004. I took a year off in 2005 and have played each season since 2006. I remember the old school fantasy football preview magazines that Athlon printed back in the 1990s because I accidentally bought a "rotisserie" football preview mag one year instead of the simple NFL preview mag that I had wanted. I was totally confused by the idea of fantasy football and wondered who in their right mind would keep track of all those stats. Since my conversion into full-fledged fantasy football junkie, I have asked around for an explanation of what it was like before there was Yahoo! Fantasy Football and NFL.com leagues with video and real time stat updates.Listening to the state of fantasy football in those early days always sounded like an urban legend. It was as if an old sailor was smoking his pipe and telling me stories of shipwrecks, pirates, and sea monsters: you knew it was bad, but you wondered how much the story was being exaggerated. Well, after reading the following article at BarstoolSports.com, I am convinced that those old men weren't lying. Read the following article and be grateful for the technological advancements made in our lifetime.
Editor’s Note – Since everybody loved Manzo’s last NHL 94 article here is another one that’s been sitting in the pipeline waiting for slow news morning like today.
Fantasy Football Then Vs. Now
Fantasy football in the late 90’s was like the Old West — run by outlaws and bandits, off-line leagues were dominated by a swashbuckling commissioner and his cohorts who would pillage the rosters of the weak and absent-minded while manipulating the stats of the strong and conscientious.
Rules? Forget em’. They were changed on the fly.
Stats? Good luck calculating them, because for years their source remained a secret.
Commissioner? Like I said, his dictatorial powers would make Stalin blush.
But as the new millennium came and went, things changed. The Internet was now fully operational, and not STRICTLY used for porn. And with that key technological advancement, fantasy football went from a taboo sub-culture on par with snuff films and sword collecting, to an Electronic National Pastime used primarily to supplement the gambling habits of males 18-49.
So today I’m going to compare fantasy football from the off-line, Wild West days of the late 90’s, to the online 21st century game it has become today.
“Lineups” – Yikes, we used to have to CALL IN our lineups on land-line telephones each and every Sunday by 1:00, both to the commissioner and the person we were up against. This caused confusion because inevitably people would answer the phone that weren’t in the league, nor gave a shit about football. You’d be leaving messages with dude’s moms and girlfriends — “Yeah, Amy? Tell Steve and I’m starting Ricky Dudley this week instead of Irv Smith. Thanks.” The poor girl would be taking notes for some scrub she’s never met in her life, but that’s what we did. I always imagined the conversation when Steve got home… “Any messages for me?” “Yeah, your father’s in the hospital, your sister’s getting married, and some guy named ‘Pete’ is starting Ricky Dudley instead of Irv Smith.” “Thanks!”
Now, you simply don’t have this problem anymore. Lineups are a piece of cake and provide 1/10000th of the headache they once did.
“The Draft” – There’s probably 2-3 owners who’ve been our league for 8 years now that I wouldn’t recognize if they clothes-lined me running down the bread aisle at Johnny Foodmaster. Drafts back then were LIVE and “in da face!” So you could literally laugh directly in someone’s mug for 3 straight hours after they drafted Wayne Chrebet in the 2nd round rather than mock them in some virtual online chat box. Poster boards would make an appearance too, as did “Rotisserie” football magazines printed 5 months before draft day. “Um, he’s not on the team anymore…” or, “That guy’s in jail now” were common phrases over-heard at the draft.
But everyone made a point to show up. There was none of this over-the-phone or virtual draft shit. People traveled from as far away as South Boston to attend a live draft on Comm Ave. Granted, now we have all of the stats, player rankings and injury updates at the click of a finger, but I still prefer the old school live draft.
“Stats” – As unbelievable as this sounds, we used to keep “real time” stats on Sundays by watching the bottom line “ticker” for updates and tallying everything as best we could on pen and paper. This sounds prehistoric but trust me, we had nothing else to do. Plus, it was certainly faster than my roommates’ dial-up connection whose laptop modem was held together by a psychology textbook and a bottle of Fantastik. Now, those weren’t the “official” stats. Oh no. Our commissioner did those. He claims he used the box scores from the “USA Today” Monday paper but that’s never been confirmed. We just took his word the Excel spreadsheet we got in the mail on Tuesday was correct.
The other problem was that every week, it seemed, some fluky play happened that we didn’t have a rule for. I remember Adam Vinateri running in an extra point because the other team left the field after a touchdown with no time left. Now was that 2 for Vinateri, or Pats’ special teams?? Nobody in America knew. We were just kind of “winging it”. Now, everything is pretty much accounted for on CBS Sportsline or ESPN.com, so you rarely run into these problems. Occasionally you’ll get the “mystery sack” but that’s about it. (“Mystery sack” = Team Sack credited by the league the day after the game.)
“Waiver Wire Pickups” – Most leagues nowadays run all their add/drops through a waiver wire process on whereby the team with the worst record gets first dibs on a player, 2nd worst team gets 2nd dibs, etc., etc. It’s fairly straight forward.
Well our waiver wire back in ‘98 was a first-come first-serve telephone free-for-all. It was like those bridal sales at Filene’s Basement when all the girls and their sisters stampede the store. For some reason we agreed to use the time on Comcast’s “Preview Channel” as the official clock. So as soon as it hit 8:00 on Tuesday, the entire league would be calling the commissioner’s apartment (also my apartment) all at the same time with their pickups for the week. We were running a telethon in the kitchen. We had dudes calling from pay phones leaving urgent, Jack Bauer-type messages like “Bob adds Bubby Brister. BOB ADDS BUBBY BRISTER!” It was bedlam every Tuesday night.
Now, the peaceful process of the early morning online waiver wire is much more relaxing. You rank your players the night before, hope somebody ahead of you fucks up then click a button. Be careful not to select Tony Brown instead of Troy Brown like I did earlier this year. That’s one downside of making add-drops when you’re drunk.
CBS’ blurb on Seattle WR TONY Brown: “…He has no value in fantasy football.” Thanks.
So by my count it’s 3-1 in favor of Now over Then. I think that’s about right. Let’s be honest, looking back it was fucking terrible. I can’t even believe half this shit. Sure it was loads more fun, but who cares? For $100 a year, I’d rather it be fair than fun. Cashing a check – now that’s fun.