The NFL regular season kicks off tonight as the Washington Redskins play the Super Bowl champion New York Giants. Millions of Fantasy Football leagues also kick off Thursday. For those that don’t know what Fantasy Football is, in a nutshell, a group of friends get together, and by using the rosters of each NFL team, draft players at certain positions that they think will score the most points for the season. each week, the fantasy coaches submit a starting lineup and plays another coach. High score wins the game.
Sounds simple right? Well, actually, it was. I say was for many years back, around 1975, my brother George and I dreamed up our own type of fantasy football. No, our lineups weren’t online, (The Internet wasn’t around yet) nor did we have complete team lineups with stats from weeks and years past, nor backup or practice squad players. Hell, at the time, we only had access to two games on Sunday.
A Sunday ritual was George and me watching NFL football all day. He was a Browns fan, (I didn’t hold that against him) and I of course a Viking fan. We were both very competitive brothers. We made wagers on many things, especially football. Parlay pick four and pick ten teams were played weekly. But we found something a little different. A little more personal. Something we could have bragging rights about.
We would not just bet on the game being played, but on the players individual performances and how many points each would score. The GPFL (George & Pat) Football League was formed.
We quickly came up with some easy rules to avoid any stats wars anomalies. The rules were as follows:
* A coin toss before each game determined who got to pick first.
* 8 positions would be selected.
* You had to pick one, and only one Quarterback, one Kicker, one Tight End, two running backs, two wide receivers, and one defense.
* A $2.50 wager per game was the fee to play. No mercy.
* A TD pass equaled 6 points.
* A TD run equaled 6 points.
* An interception, blocked kick or punt, or fumble return for a TD equaled 6 points.
* A safety equaled 2 points.
* A field goal equaled 3 points.
* An extra point equaled 1 point.
* This stands for all players. Example, if a running back throws a TD pass he is awarded 6 points. If your QB throws a TD pass to your receiver, you will 12 points, 6 points for the pass, and 6 points for the reception.
* After both games are played, (The 1pm and 4pm game) the coach with the highest combined score was declared the winner.
* In case of a tie, the coin flip at the beginning of the day determines the winner.
George and I would play weekly keeping a running win / loss record as well as stats for each game. Everything would be recorded in a spiral notebook pad.
As the weeks turned into years, George and I became very good at our game. We understood each other tendencies, who we would likely pick, stay away from, but most of all, we became Mel Kiper like experts. Not just for our own teams, but for every player in the NFL. We knew the best receivers on each team, what running back came in for goal line plays, what defense was the best, how quarterbacks reacted to other teams defenses, and how a team played in bad weather.
We weren’t in it for the money. Remember, we were very competitive. If I won that week, I would always send my brother a letter. Inside the letter would be a picture cut out from the newspaper or magazine of one or more of his team members with either an arm or leg missing and I would add a funny caption or two. I loved to gloat and rub it in. And so did George. He would put signs in the front yard displaying his victory. Other times, he would have his friends call me on the phone claiming to be players on his team. They would say, “Truly the night of the Cardinals.” (The Cardinals was the name of his team) At the most unsuspecting time, there would be a note hanging in the closet, taped to my steering wheel, in a cupboard door. You never knew where or when he would pull his prank.
As technology caught up in the 1980′s, we added a third and then a fourth game to our mix. ESPN was our third game and Monday Night Football became our fourth game. Strategy became more intense, scores became higher, and the rivalry more intense. The rules remained the same however.
The 1990′s saw real change to our league and the rules. We added more coaches, 10 of us in total, and we drafted like the NFL did. We had 15 rounds and after week one, we were able to add three more players to our roster. That would be determined by league record. Worst record picks first. If they deferred, second worse selected, and so on. The players we drafted before the season began were ours for keeps. The next year we would start with those same players making the draft an actual rookie draft and other players cut or waived from our coaches. The USA Today paper became our bible. Whatever the stats said we went with. If there was a typo, it was to bad, the bible was the final say. (Born again Christians must love fantasy football )
The Internet changed things once again. We noticed that many of our rules were the same rules as AOL’s fantasy football and Yahoo and CBS sports line. Everything was automated. Scores would magically populate and wins and losses would tally each week. (Electronically they keep the baseball score – Sonny & Cher – The Beat Goes On) Even the gloating became electronic. We would now email our victory smack talk with the push of a few buttons.
My brother George passed away November 20th, 1997. I haven’t played our game since. My heart just isn’t in it. However, several times over the course of the last 10 years when the New York Yankee’s (George’s favorite baseball team) or his high school football team, (The Mooney Cardinals) won the World Series or State football Championship, I would stick a yard sign with the newspaper headlines of his teams success on his grave to remind me of the fun we had and that I still miss the hell out of him.
Truly, the night of the Cardinals.
R.I.P. Big George
LURKING ON THE GRASSY KNOLL