The history of fantasy sports Mark Cayanan

Who started fantasy sports?

Wilfred "Bill" Winkenbach devised fantasy golf in the latter part of the 1950s, in which each player selected a team of professional golfers and the person with the lowest combined total of stokes at the end of the tournament would win. Golf is a simple fantasy game to administer and keep tabs on, since participants are concerned only with the scores of their team members without anything else to complicate it.

Wilfred Winkenbach

What is Rotisserie League Baseball

Rotisserie Baseball was invented in the early 1980's by a group of guys who love Major League Baseball. Their goal was to find a way, through the use of player statistics, to emulate Major League Baseball. They also wanted to prove that their vast knowledge about major league baseball players and their capabilities was well beyond that of their peers. Thousands of Rotisserie players nationwide have been trying to prove just that fact every year. Sometimes they do. When they don't, they look to next year just like all other 27 major league teams do. Form Your League - First, organize a group of people that want to play. Then, choose a commissioner and give each owner a copy of the rules. We recommend that you use the full constitution of either the "Original Rotisserie Baseball League" or the "American Dreams Rotisserie League." The ORBL's constitution is available in a book called Rotisserie League Baseball, and the ADRL's is in a book called How To Win At Rotisserie Baseball. Both books are revised each year and available in paperback at your local bookstore. Each book offers not only constitutions but also tips on playing the game to win. Roster Size and Player Pool - The standard roster size is 23 players, consisting of nine pitchers, two catchers, one first baseman, one third baseman, one cornerman (first or third), one second baseman, one shortstop, one middleman (second or short), one designated hitter (AL) or one utility player (NL) and five outfielders. You may also decide to carry a reserve squad or farm team. You may, however, choose a different size roster. Whatever you decide, use a criteria of 20 games at a position (or whatever position the player played the most if he didn't play 20 games at any one position) to determine position eligibility. Most leagues use a player pool of either the National League or the American League, but feel free to pick a combination of both or even all players in the Major Leagues. Draft or Auction - A draft or an auction are the two ways for your league to select teams. A draft is the simpler and less time-consuming of the two. It consists of determining the draft order by some random method (i.e. draw straws or cards). You then select players for your team when it is your turn. A draft can be snaked so that it is more equitable. For example, the team choosing last in the first round selects first in the second round. An auction is a much longer process, but is also the more common method. In an auction, each team is allotted a certain amount of money to buy their team. Each owner in turn selects a player, and an open auction on that player ensues. The highest bidder buys that player for their team. Scoring System - The most commonly used statistical categories are Home Runs, Runs Batted In, Stolen Bases, Batting Average, Wins, Saves, Earned Run Average, and Hits Plus Walks per Inning Ratio. If you are starting a league, we suggest using these basic eight statistical categories. Each players statistics are tabulated and totaled in each category for every player on your team. Your teams combined statistics are then compared to all other teams in your league. For example, in a twelve team league, the team with the most home runs is given twelve points, the team with the second most home runs eleven points, third receives ten points, and so on with the last place team getting one point. Every category is ranked in the same manner, and then these point totals from the individual categories are added together to determine the winning team. The Season - During the season each owner runs his team according to how he sees fit, as long as it is within the bounds of the constitution. Players may be traded, waived, claimed, reserved or activated at each transactional period. Transactional periods are usually every week, but can be every day or every other week, whatever your league decides to use.

What part have sports journalists played in the growth of fantasy sports?

Fifteen-year-old Ian Stone is at the second floor of the Traffic Bar and Restaurant in New York City. As Stone sits down, he is surrounded by people all at least 15 years his senior. He’s nervous to begin because, between him and his brother, $250 is on the line. However, Stone tries his best to shake off the reality of the unfamiliar situation, looks back to his computer screen and makes his next selection. He’s becoming more confident with every pick, and the distractions fade away. In the end, Stone has an impressive fantasy football draft, and four months later he would win his league and its $1,800 prize.

“[The draft] was like nothing I’ve ever seen before,” Stone, now a junior at Ithaca College, said. “It helped me pay for my freshman year of college.”

Fantasy sports can be any sports competition in which the participants construct an imaginary team composed of real-life athletes. The scoring in the games is based on the statistics generated through the players’ actual performance. Typically, fantasy leagues are either “points leagues,” where a player’s performance accumulates a certain number of points each week based on the scoring format, or rotisserie leagues, in which the fantasy teams in a league are ranked based on separate statistical categories. According to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, the oldest and largest trade group representing the industry, the most popular fantasy sport is fantasy football.

In addition to this being his third year at the college, it is Stone’s second year writing for fantasy sports websites like Fantasy Buzzer Inc. and Advanced Sports Logic. Stone is one of many aspiring journalists hoping to enter the fantasy sports industry, which Paul Charchian, president of the FSTA, said has risen in popularity each year for over a decade due to the rapid advancement of Internet technology.

While fantasy sports did not successfully reach a large audience until the late 1990s, Charchian said the expansion of the Internet was the biggest factor in the eventual growth of the industry. With online leagues, not only are fantasy scores automatically recorded from the games, the Web also allows people to interact and find other fantasy players, who are often complete strangers, online.

“You had some place that could run your league for you,” Charchian said. “Before [the Internet], you had to know other players. You had to know nine other people who wanted to play, and now you don’t have to.”

Charchian said he believes entering the industry as a journalist has never been more realistic because of the accessibility to information the Internet provides and the plethora of fantasy sports content websites.

Stone continues to practice his craft during the fantasy football season, which typically spans from August to December. To differentiate himself from other writers who offer advice and analysis on which players to target for a fantasy team, he looks at pre-draft rankings on several websites before making his own rankings for players based on team depth charts.

Additionally, he said he looks at non-statistical factors, such as whether a quarterback plays their home games in a dome, since it is easier to move the ball in the second half of the season without the potentially hazardous winter weather. When two players have similar attributes, he looks at team schedules to determine who has the best matchups at the end of the season, which coincides with a typical fantasy football league’s playoff format.

For both websites, he works under editor John Adams and said both sites help him gain valuable experience working in media.

“It helped me get my internship with [entertainment studio] Broadway Video this summer, and that’s just the beginning,” Stone said. “I could see it propelling me forward as I look to advance within the field and in my career.”

As the co-founder of, a subscription-based website dedicated to fantasy football analysis and advice, Lenny Pappano said his company distinguishes itself by focusing solely on fantasy football through a select group of full-time writers. In contrast, other fantasy sites, such as and Yahoo Sports, may change their focus depending on which sports are in season.

“We just do football, and that’s all we’ve ever done,” Pappano said. “We don’t do any crowdsourcing. Our opinions are the four or five writers that do this full time, and that’s how we shape our opinion.”

One of Pappano’s writers is Matt Schauf ’02, who has seen fantasy football transform from a hobby and extension of his sports fandom to a primary source of income.

During his first job after graduation as a page designer and copy editor for The Daily Star in Oneonta, New York, Schauf began writing a fantasy football column for the newspaper on the side because he was most familiar with the industry, having played in online leagues since the beginning of college, whereas his co-workers had little to no experience playing in leagues. He said even after connecting with other writers in the industry through the Fantasy Sports Writers Association message boards, it took about five years for fantasy sports writing to become a full-time job for him when he was hired as a writer for in 2005.

Mead Loop, associate professor in the college’s Department of Journalism, specializes in fantasy sports journalism research and its increasing trends. While the Internet has been important to the growth of fantasy sports, Loop said it has continued to have success because the industry has financially sustained itself.

“The growth of the industry … is because it has been able to monetize itself,” Loop said. “That’s where the real success is.”

Though over half of about 41 million Americans who play fantasy sports participate for free, Charchian said, the other half spend an average of $67 in entry fees per year which, while inexpensive on an individual basis, allows companies that generate content to sustain themselves.

Schauf said he believes part of the reason fantasy sports are becoming so popular is because of the potential to win money in leagues that require a registration fee, giving it similar traits to gambling.

“It shares that same appetite that would make people want to bet on sports,” he said. “Everybody thinks that they know a lot about the sports that they love, so they love having ways to try to prove that.”

However, while some forms of gambling possess a strong element of chance, Loop said success in fantasy sports requires expertise for the respective sports.

“I look at it differently because I think it takes skill to win at fantasy sports, and I think the journalists providing content are using data as well as good writing to try to produce insightful articles,” Loop said. “I think it’s more a skill set than pulling the lever on the nickel-slot machine, which is pure chance.”

Given its steady increase of participation over the past decade, Loop added that he doesn’t believe fantasy sports have reached a saturation point, and that its ceiling will continue to grow.

“What you have is a much more mature journalism industry now,” he said. “This industry has grown up, and the journalists doing this full time have adopted most of the norms of journalists who are in sports or news.”

As Stone continues to find new ways to evaluate players, he said he will continue to play and write about fantasy football, so long as it feels like a pastime, rather than a form of employment.

“In my mind, if it begins to become a job and it doesn’t feel like I’m really enjoying myself anymore, then I won’t do it,” Stone said. “I love it. It’s a great quote, I can’t remember who it’s by, but, ‘If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.’ That’s the point I’m at with my life right now, and I would like to keep that going.”

The Revenue for fantasy sports has increased due to the growing industry

When did fantasy football begin to emerge in the market?

In Oakland in 1962, Winkenbach formed the first reported fantasy football league, called the Greater Oakland Professional Pigskin Prognosticators League (GOPPPL), with eight teams.

The modern day logo for fantasy football

How much is fantasy sports worth today?

Fantasy sports is worth an estimated $70 billion and continues to grow each year.

What are the issues with fantasy sports?

But as daily fantasy sports has grown in popularity, so too have questions about whether the contests are even legal. Industry leaders DraftKings and FanDuel say that their products are games of skill that break no laws, but across the country, there’s little consensus on the issue.

The uncertainty has led to a patchwork system in which fans can still play the games in most places, but the answer to whether the games are legal varies from state to state.

As of May 31, 2016, playing daily fantasy sports for money was considered illegal in 12 states. In New York and Texas, for example, state attorneys general said the games broke their gambling laws, while in Nevada, regulators said that without a gambling license, the sites couldn’t operate there.

In at least 20 other states, regulators and lawmakers were either reviewing the legality issue, or working on legislation to clarify the law. Many of these bills, with support from the industry, would allow daily fantasy sports to continue, albeit with new oversight. In the rest of the country, the sites have either been declared legal, or there was no pending legislation.

Why do some groups want to ban fantasy sports sites?

In New York, DraftKings and FanDuel went to court in November, after Democratic Attorney General Eric Schneiderman moved to shut them down. At a State Supreme Court hearing, lawyers for the two companies argued their activities were not gambling and were permitted under a 2006 federal law that had exempted fantasy sports from a ban on processing online financial wagering. But lawyers in Schneiderman’s office maintained that the games were based on luck — not skill — and were prohibited as gambling.

How has the Internet expanded the popularity of fantasy sports?

It has allowed people to play with others from across the globe and communicate with more and more people. The internet has also made fantasy sports easier to join leagues and keep up with players. Before the Internet, people had to manually keep track of the scoring system and player updates. They also needed to find friends to create a league with. The internet allows people to join leagues without having to know anyone else and it also makes it easier to track games and how well they're doing. The internet has expanded the amounts that people can win in monetary terms because there are more people involved and the market is larger.

What is FSTA? What interest do they represent?

The Fantasy Sports Trade Association (FSTA) is a Chicago, Illinois-based trade group representing the fantasy sports industry, listing over 300 member companies on its web site as of June 2015. Members range from small startups to large media corporations. The FTSA is interested in growing the fantasy sports industry and protecting it from legality issues.

What problems have occurred with the fast growth of fantasy sports?

Some problems that have occurred with the growth of fantasy sports is whether or not it should be considered gambling or not. It has cause problems in states that ban gambling because it causes controversy of whether it should be allowed in the state. Another problem is when fantasy sports operators do not pay a licensing fee which is against certain laws in some areas. There is also an issue because large operators take up most of the business so it is harder for smaller operators to enter the market.

How would you explain the enthusiasm for fantasy sports?

People are enthusiastic about winning money and bragging rights. Most leagues involve people from work or a group of friends who try to compete with each other for bragging rights. Also, it gives people more reason to watch and enjoy sports. People are obsessed with the feeling of winning and fantasy sports can provide that feeling. Money is also involved so people feel like they have a chance at winning a sum of money so they are enthusiastic about it. Fantasy sports also allows people to support their favorite players and sports teams.

What is the ethical dilemma presented by online fantasy sports sites that require payment to participate?

The ethical dilemma involved is whether a person should invest their money into fantasy sports or if they should use that money for more important things such as bills or family needs.

How has the media been impacted by fantasy sports?

The media is involved with the growth of fantasy sports. The media advertises players for sports and it also provides analysis of games and players. The media is a good source for fantasy players to use in order to check the status of games and players. The media advertises sites like and invites people to join them and play fantasy sports.

How have athletes and teams been impacted by fantasy sports?

Athletes and teams are impacted by fantasy sports in terms of value and popularity. If a team or athlete performs well, then their value and popularity will increase because more players will want to put that team or athlete on their fantasy team. For example, Tom Brady is a popular player in fantasy football because he performs well every week and fantasy players value him a lot and place him onto their team in order to give them the best possible chance to win. Athletes and teams do begin to get treated like slaves due to fantasy sports because if they perform bad, then they will get scorned by fantasy players and treated less than a human.

Tom Brady

What future trends do you see for the industry?

I believe that the industry will continue to grow as long as it is not considered gambling. Once it is ruled as gambling, then I think the market will decrease greatly because not as many people will be able to participate and people will feel more ethically inclined to not get involved with something that is explicitly considered as gambling.

Who is the core target market for fantasy sports? Who typically plays/participates?

The target market ranges from males between the ages of 18-40 that are interested in sports. Typically, males that watch sports and between the ages of 18-40 participate in fantasy sports.

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Mark Cayanan


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