The Introduction and Growth of Fantasy Football

Men in fantasy football leagues spend countless hours every year thinking about their team. Roster moves, trades and opponents are some of the issues that will be pondered.

However, it is doubtful that many guys give thought to the origins of fantasy football. Who created it or when probably does not cross too many minds on a fall Sunday afternoon. Despite this, understanding history and development does give a greater appreciation of the hobby.

The following paragraphs briefly tell the story of fantasy football from its earliest days until now.

First League Created
In 1962 Wilfred “Bill” Winkenbach laid the foundation for modern day fantasy football. Winkenbach was a limited partner of the Oakland Raiders, then of the American Football League (AFL). While on a team road trip, he and a few others created the Greater Oakland Professional Pigskin Procrastinators League (GOPPPL).

The purpose of this was encouraging closer football coverage from those with most interest in the game. GOPPPL membership was limited to pro football journalists, AFL administrators and those buying or selling ten Raider season tickets. The inaugural season was launched in 1963 with eight teams and a draft at Winkenbach’s home.

Draft order was randomly determined and reversed at the eighth pick, known today as snake style. 20 roster spots were filled and included both offensive and defensive players. Winkenbach served as commissioner and the league also had a secretary.

Owners of the GOPPPL were awarded monetarily for each player feat, as opposed to the point system used today. Two examples of this were 25 cents per field goal and $5 when defensive players scored touchdowns. The qualification requirement for this was that each player submit his roster by Friday to the secretary.

Public Participation
GOPPPL member and King’s X pub owner Andy Mousalimas introduced the game to his patrons in 1969. King’s X went on to host the very first public fantasy football league. As time went on, Mousalims watched the game’s popularity grow in his establishment.

The inaugural season at the bar consisted of only one division. By 1972 five divisions were actively playing the game there. In 1974 over 200 participants took part in fantasy football, including a division for women.

Mousalims other major contribution was introducing the point system for player achievements, in place of money. He first established the concept of awarding points for a touchdown. Such point scoring is the foundation of most modern day league competition.

Slow Growth
The fantasy football concept eventually spread outside the King’s X doors and across the nation. However, this did not come about very quickly. Most football fans were not interested in the extra hassle it required.

This was due to the burden involved with finding and compiling information. Draft research and season scoring data was extremely limited, usually only found in newspapers. Once it was discovered, everything had to be recorded by hand and stored on paper.

The invention of personal computers alleviated some inconveniences and established more interest. By 1989 1 million people in the U.S. were playing fantasy football. Around that same time, The Fantasy Football Index and Fantasy Pro Forecast magazine were first published.

Internet Explosion
Communication was revolutionized in the 1990s as Internet usage boomed over the World Wide Web. This created a user friendly way for information to travel very quickly. Soon NFL scores, stats and injury reports were available on demand.

Eventually league-hosting sites appeared and immediately gained popularity. Yahoo and ESPN were among the first to establish such a service. The 1990s saw fantasy participation grow by the millions.

Interest and activity continue to rise into the 21st century. New formats of playing are constantly introduced and worldwide leagues with extremely high dollar prizes have arisen. The Fantasy Sports Trade Association estimates that over 27 million people are now playing fantasy football.