Fun, But Is It Really A 'Fantasy?'

FAYETTEVILLE - Can't recall the coach's name, or even which team he led, but cannot forget the quote, which was included on a calendar full of such things many years back.

After his team had overcome a huge second-half deficit for a stunning win, the coach was asked if he "ever imagined such a thing in his wildest dreams."

The coach smirked and scratched his chin (at least that's how we picture it): "Son, my wildest dreams have nothing to do with football!"

Pretty much the thought here on Fantasy Football.

Football is fun to watch, fun to play (at least when you're too old for tackle) and darned intriguing. The sidelines and locker rooms are chockfull of mini-dramas.

But football usually does not jump to mind when talking fantasies, unless, perhaps, you play for the Steelers and have no need to gobble Viagra.

Since it's hard to get much into the spiraling Arkansas football matchup against Ole Miss this Saturday or basketball at this point of the exhibition season, this seems a good time to toss out some Fantasy Football thoughts, especially since lots of questions have come this way about it.

These days, Fantasy Football may just be America's favorite pastime. There are Web sites, full-time jobs, columnists, magazines and all sorts of things devoted to it. Sports Illustrated had a recent, lengthy spread on the phenomenon and, surprisingly, lots of current and ex-athletes are into it, too.

Until two years ago, it seemed more like Dork Football, a silly game for computer nerds to play from afar.

As the saying goes, though, "Don't knock it till you try it."

We did and we're hooked.

Here's how it works in our league, which includes such teams as Chloe's Revenge, Clockwise Ferrets and The Cannibals. Apparently, this set-up is pretty standard.

First, money is pooled, used to pay off the winner(s) come playoff time.

There are 10 teams in most leagues and a draft is held to determine them. Numbers are drawn and players are selected in order, then reverse order, etc., until rosters are filled.

You can draft as many at each position as you like, but you must field: One quarterback, two running backs, two wide receivers/tight ends, a kicker and a defense each week.

Some leagues throw in rules requiring one tight end.

Each week, the team owner selects his starter at each spot to go against another league member. You must remain versatile, allowing for byes, injuries, the opponent your player is playing that week, etc.

Players may be dropped and added, but how depends on your league rules. Some have salary caps and real hands-on commissioners to contend with. Others allow available players (those not on other league rosters) to be snatched up by the person with the fastest mouse.

Different Web sites are offered to run leagues, some free, some not-so-much. These sites keep track of scoring for all matchups as well as standings, available players, etc. Without that, it would be too much work.

Scoring is fairly simple to keep up with. Anyone on your roster involved in a touchdown (quarterback, receiver, running back, defense, even kicker if that should happen) nets you 6 points.

Yardage also is scored. For receivers/running backs, at least in our league, a point is awarded for every 20 yards earned. For quarterback passing, a point is earned for every 50 yards.

A fumble or interception by any of your players gets you a 2-point deduction.

Kickers net a point for each PAT and at least three points for field goals. Longer field goals are awarded with more points.

Defensive scoring is dependent on sacks, turnovers garnered, shutouts, etc., as well as interceptions or fumbles returned for touchdowns.

The regular season of leagues must end well in advance of the NFL playoffs to ensure all active players are available. Generally, the playoffs consist of four or six teams which are seeded before facing each other in a sudden death format.

The playoff champ gets the bulk of the reward and the runner-up usually gets a nice chunk of change, too.

Each week, we jot down our lineups, then stare at games we normally wouldn't watch, keeping track not only of our players, but those of our opponents.

Have to say it's been a blast, and it's a great way to get caught back up on the NFL, which had turned lots of us off with all this free agency and dull parity.

Still wouldn't call it a fantasy, though.

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