How To Teach A 3 Year Old To Play Football Fantasy Football in the 1980’s

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Fantasy Football in the 1980’s

I started playing Fantasy Football in 1987, I started 23 years ago when I was 10. The landscape has changed dramatically since then.

It all started when my father had the opportunity to join a dynasty league. Two teams did not renew and there was going to be a draft to share their players. My dad, older brother Ben and I went to his office to do the project on the phone with the other new owner. The rookies for that year had already been drafted so I remember that the big prize was Vinny Testaverde. Other QBs of note were Warren Moon and Randall Cunningham. I know I felt nervous because the stakes seemed so high. We did a coin toss on the phone that seemed to require an incredible level of trust through the eyes of a 10-year-old. We lost the coin flip and wrote 2 and 3. Testaverde went first and we finished 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 another league for that same season so we could each manage our own team. It was a league that reformed every year. Well, my dad and I had our own team. I have never felt so much responsibility having control of my own fantasy team. The first project was done in our house. My father has in front of our purchase of $ 10 or $ 20. I do not remember how much but it seemed to me a lot at the time. The other players were all adults except for one man who brought his two children; the oldest of whom had his own team and the youngest shared with his father. Clearly, my father had a lot of faith in me.

To prepare for the draft, my dad bought Cliff Charpentier’s Fantasy Football Digest 1987. It was a 200+ page book. It had a solid color for the front and no flashy photos. This book was incredible for me. There was so much to learn. It was arranged by position and in the different scoring methods. We were playing the basic scoring method. That awarded 4 points for TDs thrown, 6 points for rushing and receiving TDs, 3 points for field goals and 1 point for extra points. That was it. No points were awarded for the yards. It seems barbaric now but that’s how we played and we loved it. The book was arranged by position with rankings that had levels. Starting with the “Best of the best” and going down from there. I remember thinking that this was like a textbook and not to be questioned. I had a resource and studied it hard. I remember doing countless mock drafts on my own. We didn’t determine draft position until draft night which made preparation infinitely more difficult.

Draft night was always incredibly exciting for me. The first two years were conducted in our home and then moved to another owner’s business conference room that looked extremely official. The position of the draft was determined by the cards Ace through 9. The drama was incredible. There were pretzel sticks to be 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 the preteen kid could handle.

Sundays had a new excitement for them. Watching the games was torture, we had 1 maybe two games at noon and of course we didn’t DVR. Then you were at the whim of the ticker at the top of the screen and the very rare game break to gauge how you were doing. The halftime recaps were a whirlwind of information to follow. I can remember asking the announcers “How did they score the third TD?” This will be for the games of Noon and 3:00 and then we had to wait the agonizing couple hours until NFL Primetime which also launched in 1987. I have many memories of one of my fantasy players running through the screen and hear Chris. Berman yelled “Rumbling stumbling TOUCHDOWN!!!!” The high was amazing. In some ways I miss those days. With today’s instant information that anticipation is never able to build like then.

Ben and my father took over the duties of commissioner. This was a ton of work. They learn to use a spreadsheet on our Apple IIC green screen. Lineups were called to our home phone Saturday night or Sunday morning with last minute calls coming in just before noon. I remember these calls being very annoying for my sister who could not understand their level of importance. The official results have to wait for the box results in the newspaper on Monday morning. Suddenly I was very excited about the newspaper and so happy that we had the morning delivery. I was one of the only kids in elementary school who would go to the library and venture into the newspaper section. I poured over the box matches to plan my drop and add.

After Monday night’s game, the results will be entered into the spreadsheet and printed. We will mail them to the rest of the league the next day. It’s a testament to how fun fantasy football is that even with what now seems like such a crude way of receiving and distributing data that we had fun playing. Of course, you should be more dedicated then to have a league that will last because of the necessary work shear.

I have nothing but fond memories of playing fantasy football in the 80s and early 90s. I’m glad it became more accessible to the masses and reached the popularity it is today. There’s a part of me that still misses waiting through commercial breaks hoping to hear Chris Berman scream as only he can, “The Nigerian Nightmare bulldozes his way to the end zone.”

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