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Fantasy football 'fad' finds fame with Miami students


By Joe Gieringer
On January 14, 2013

Given Miami University students' low attendance at football games, one might think that the pigskin sport gets no love around campus. But nothing could be further from the truth, as NFL and college jerseys abound in Oxford on gameday, and the imaginary gridiron is always hot in fantasy football leagues.

With the advent of the Internet, fantasy football has become an American pastime of its own, though the game came from humble origins as a gambling fad in Oakland during the 1963 season. Whether it's a high school football player that recruits the players he looks up to or the crazy cat lady across the street, millions of people from different backgrounds now check their fantasy rosters instead of paying attention at work or school.

There are multiple variations of fantasy football, and leagues can range from just a few players to dozens of competitors. Each league has different team makeups, determined by how many players at each position are required to field a team.

On Miami's campus, hundreds of students compete in dozens of fantasy football leagues that range from just the fraternity house to including people from all over the league. Some are casual players that join for the social value and bragging rights that a winning team can yield, while others put hundreds of dollars on the line, trusting the analysts that told them who to pick up that morning.

I myself was in a head-to-head fraternity league, one in which each participant's team would play another participant each week for the full 17 weeks of the NFL season. I'm a fairly avid sports fan, and have played in friendly fantasy leagues since high school. I "won" the live draft by selecting the team with the highest potential point output. However, I quickly found out that I was among the casual group participating in this league, as I limped to an abysmal 1-5 start, getting beat badly by sophomore Josh Udelhofen in that span. After switching my strategy to checking daily and rotating wide receivers on a week-to-week basis, I finished the last eight weeks 7-1 to steal the fourth and final playoff spot. In the first round of the playoffs, I fell once more to Udelhofen, who went on to win it all. According to Udelhofen, a Chicago native, knowledge of his favorite teams was sufficient enough to field a winning product.

"I really don't do any research," Udelhofen said. "A lot of it is I just look at their team, and see, even if they're one of the best wide receivers in the league, how good is their quarterback? I also know how well Bears players play in their systems, being from Chicago." Udelhofen also acknowledged luck as a factor, as poor performances from my running backs and wide receivers, coupled with 20-plus point performances from his wide receivers Andre Johnson and James Jones helped him best me in the week 15 playoff game.

"I had one of the highest scoring teams, but I think I just got lucky, because my opponents had the fewest points. I think a lot of it was by chance, not really by skill," Udelhofen said.

On the other side of the coin, sophomore Jim Bennett takes a much different approach to his fantasy football experience. Bennett played in a high-stakes league this past year, one in which roster changes would cost five dollars, and losses even more. In order to make money, you had to put a consistent, winning product on the fantasy field, and that took dedication.

"You definitely have to work the waiver wire to have a chance at winning," Bennett said. "Most of the teams that win in these leagues will only have two or three players that they originally drafted ... In whatever class I had on Tuesday mornings, I would read blogs and ESPN who was worth picking up, especially because in that league it would cost money to make roster changes."

Even though his teachers might not be happy to hear that, Bennett's wallet was, as it was one hundred dollars fuller when he claimed second place at the end of the season. As for his strategy, Bennett acknowledges information over intuition as an essential lesson to learn in fantasy football.

"Ah, personal intuition can really help you sometimes, but it can really hurt you," Bennett said. Intuition is more just luck, and I think the reading and researching can really help you." .

Though a third place finish is nothing to complain about, I, along with other fantasy owners that came up short of the championship, will ponder advice and lessons learned from those such as Udelhofen and Bennett as we look forward to next year's fantasy football season. Or until fantasy hockey starts next week.

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