The Game That Changed Football
Millions of people play fantasy football every year throughout the world. People compete against their friends and co-workers, just hoping they can win their league and prove their dominance. But many don’t know how fantasy came to be. Who invented it, and how has it changed? That’s what you’re going to find out!
Wilfred Winkenbach is credited with the invention of fantasy football. Who was he, though? Well, Winkenbach was a businessman from Oakland, California. Growing up in Oakland, he, of course, loved his Raiders. He even owned a stake in his team. He played fantasy football for most of his life, which eventually came to an end in 1993 when he, unfortunately, passed away. He still and always will have a lasting impression on fantasy football.
The Invention Of Fantasy Football
It all started in a hotel room in downtown Manhattan. Three men were in the room. Scotty Stirling, who was an Oakland Tribune Sports Writer. Then there was Bill Tunnel, who was a Raider public relations staffer. But the most important was Wilfred Winkenbach. Winkenbach previously, in the 1950s, invented the very first fantasy sport, which was fantasy golf. And after another underwhelming season from his Oakland Raiders, he and his friends wanted to spice things up. Winkenbach mentioned his invention of fantasy golf, and an idea popped up. What if we transferred fantasy golf into a different sport. Into fantasy football.
The First Fantasy Football League (GOPPPL)
Winkenbach took the idea back to the Bay Area in intentions of making this idea come to life. In 1963 Winkenbach started a league which consisted of pro football journalists, employees of the AFL, and Raiders season ticket holders. Once he had enough people to start the league, they named the league the “Greater Oakland Professional Pigskin Prognostics League” or GOPPPL for short. For six years, no normal person could play. You needed to be involved with the game of football.
First Fantasy Football Draft
When imagining where the very first fantasy football draft was, you probably wouldn’t think that it was held in the basement of Winkenbach’s house. It was tough, and it took about 3 hours to get through the 20 rounds. The very first pick in the draft, which means in any fantasy football draft, was the QB/K, George Blanda, who was picked by Scotty Stirling and Wilfred Winkenbach. Jim Brown, the halfback, was picked second by a man named Ross. George Blanda did well, but Jim Brown turned out to be the season MVP and was a massive part of why Ross won the very first fantasy football season while Stirling and Winkenbach came in second.
GOPPPL Modern Day
After over 50 years, the league is still going. Now it mainly consists of children of previous GOPPPL members. Instead of being held in a basement, it is now held in an annual draft dinner at a fancy venue. They’re ten teams and 20 co-owners. There’s money involved, but at the end of the day, it’s just another fun league that some friends play as a hobby.
First Released To The Public
As mentioned, for six years, fantasy football was exclusive for only a certain group of people. That was until 1969 when the public was first exposed to the game. Andy Mousalimas, one of the founding members of the GOPPPL, introduced the game to people at his sports bar called Kings X. A few leagues were started at the sports bar, and word spread out through the Bay Area. Mousalimas was eventually kicked out the GOPPPL by Winkenbach, which didn’t matter since he had his own leagues. At first, there was a lot of hype around fantasy football, but many people quit since, without technology, it was hard to keep track of scores. But many people still kept it alive throughout the years.
In the next 20 years, fantasy football went from a few people playing in a small sports bar too over 1 million throughout the United States. Scoring rules changed, so you would get points for a lot more stats than just touchdowns. New people started playing, and new leagues were created. That’s a lot of people within two decades, but when the internet came around, fantasy football took a jump no one could ever imagine.
Internet’s Boost And Effects
Fantasy football took a huge leap in the 1990s. Pre-internet, you would need to find stats from newspapers than calculate the stats with a scoring system, but when the internet offered online tools to help run leagues, fantasy football had a huge leap in players. Then, when CBS.com made its first version of the game in 1997, fantasy football became a billion-dollar industry. It seemed like every football fan was playing against their friends and co-workers week to week trying to set up a better lineup than the other. By 2006, more than 18 million people played! The internet made sports widely available because of how easily it connects people.
Over 60 million play current day! Some major factors for that result are because of NFL Sunday Ticket, the number of commercials and advertising of fantasy football platforms, and of course, social media like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. Companies like Google, YouTube, EA, and advertisers like Gillette and Coca-Cola also hopped on the trend. Instead of pencil and paper, we use our phones to trade, sign, and change our starting lineups, which made the game faster. When someone gets hurt, released, traded, etc. multiple media outlets will release the news almost immediately, and when you get the news first, you have the advantage. Fantasy football has become a major part of the NFL’s revenue and one of the biggest hobbies for people across not just the United States but throughout the world.
Martinez-Esquibel, Nick. “The History of Fantasy Football.” Retrieved on 10/28/19 from thefantasyfootballers.com.
Hruby, Patrick. “The Real Founding Fathers of Fantasy.” Retrieved on 10/30/19 from sportsonearth.com.
Vomhof Jr., John. “Tech Talk: How Fantasy Football Scored Big as Internet Grew.” Retrieved on 11/4/19 from coparate.bestbuy.com.
Klayman, Ben. “Technology Spurs Growth Of Fantasy Sports.” Retrieved on 11/5/19 from reuters.com.