Saturday, July 2, 2016

The oldest fantasy league ever?

Think you've been playing fantasy football a long time?

Have you ever drafted Joe Namath? Or O.J. Simpson? Or Ahmad Rashad? 

Ever hung on the edge of your seat while Jan Stenerud kicked an extra point?

Yeah, I didn't think so. (Well, I did, in the Longest Game Ever Played; but I was rooting for my Dolphins that Christmas night to beat the Chiefs in triple overtime. Thank you, Garo!)

My obsession started in 1993, with nine other mostly newbie buds in Fairfax, VA. Everything was manual then, and we had to calculate our scores ourselves (from the box scores in the newspaper), then compare to the tally our competitor had, then report it to the commish.

We've come a long way over the last 23 years.

But recently I met a guy named Lee Kirbach, who is about to celebrate his 40th anniversary as a fantasy football enthusiast. Lee is convinced he's playing in the longest continuously running league in the world. And based on the evidence he's provided I'm inclined to believe him.

In the Summer of 1976, Lee was sent an invitation to join “Coach the Pros,” an early version of fantasy football. The packet included a draft kit, scoring rules and an invoice for $25 per team -- pretty hefty stakes for a bunch of high school students. So he and his friends went the DIY route and scored the league by hand.  

Four decades later, Lee, his classmate Chuck Farman, Chuck’s brother Mike, along with college friends Peter Barrett and Dave Cranston, are still playing CTP -- and lay claim to being the oldest continuously run fantasy football league in the U.S. (and, therefore, the entire known universe).

Lee recounted some of the ways the game we love has evolved over the years. He recalled how Mike revolutionized their league by bringing a Street & Smith's magazine to their fifth draft (circa 1980). Not coincidentally, Mike won going away that year.

Not unlike today, those publications were written in June; but there was no easy way to get updates, and certainly no Internet. In 1983, Peter proudly drafted Joe Delaney -- only to learn that he had tragically drowned two months earlier. (It does seem that that could have been avoided by reading a newspaper once in a while! But many of us can relate to unknowingly drafting a player with a season-ending injury, or one facing a multi-game suspension.)

Lee scored by hand for the league’s first 28 years, translating the box scores from his hometown newspaper (deemed the official statistics). There were no instant results...competitors had to wait until Monday, or later, if Lee had a busy day at work.

CTP’s scoring has also evolved; but not entirely. Since the league was created before “standardized" scoring, its rules are quite different. For example, points are only awarded for a scoring play -- so a 1-yard TD run (1/2 point) is worth more than a 50-yard non-TD run (0 points). 

Lee and his mates still make a concerted effort to get together for the draft -- in places like Las Vegas, San Francisco and Malibu. Their goal for their 50th is to hold it live in the ESPN Studios in Bristol. Although it’s a decade away, he's confident the league will still be going strong, as there has been remarkably little turnover over the years. Lee and Chuck have drafted teams every year, Mike and Peter for 30+ years, and Dave is the "new guy" at 20 years. CTP has made them and their families lifelong friends, as well as true pioneers in fantasy sports. 

Pretty impressive stuff indeed. Unless someone can prove otherwise, I think these guys take the crown for longest continuously running fantasy football league in existence.

Happy 40th, gents.

1 comment:

  1. 2017 will be The Mega Football Leagues 32 season.

    ReplyDelete