Football taking over baseball as the national pastime in the United States can be directly attributed to gambling and fantasy.
Seriously, is there any reason to watch a game your favorite team is not playing in unless you have a couple of C-Notes on it? I thought not.
But where did fantasy football come from? What unheralded genius is responsible for making every Sunday afternoon from September to January a national holiday?
His name is Wilfred Winkenbach.
Winkenbach, an Oakland area businessman and limited partner in the Oakland Raiders, along with Raiders Public Relations manager Bill Tunnel and reporter Scotty Starling developed the rules that eventually became modern fantasy football in the Milford Plaza Hotel during a 1962 team trip to New York City.
When he returned to Oakland, Winkenbach organized the inaugural eight-team league called the GOPPPL (Greater Oakland Professional Pigskin Procrastinators League), which consisted of those who were either an administrative affiliate of the AFL, a pro football journalist or someone who had purchased or sold 10 season tickets for the Raiders’ 1963 season.
Why just those people? Well, as it says in the original rules, the purpose of the league was “to bring together some of Oakland’s finest Saturday morning gridiron forecasters to pit their respective brains (and cash) against each other” in the hope that it would lead to “closer coverage of daily happenings in professional football.”
In the first ever fantasy draft, teams were able to draft 20 players: four offensive ends, four halfbacks, two fullbacks, two quarterbacks, two kick/punt returners, two field goal kickers, two defensive backs/linebackers and two defensive linemen.
And who was the first ever No. 1 pick? George Blanda, who was picked as a quarterback for one team and place kicker for another, because in the 60s, players often had multiple positions.
One of the main differences between fantasy football then and now is the payoffs. Today you have to win the entire league to win cash; back then money was awarded after every score.
The GOPPL original payoff method went like this:
*50 cents for a rushing touchdown by any player
*25 cents for any player receiving a pass for a touchdown
*25 cents for any player throwing a touchdown pass
*Double the above for any score from more than 75 yards out
*25 cents for each field goal
*$2.50 for a kickoff or punt return for a touchdown
*$2.50 for a touchdown by a defensive back or linebacker on a pass interception
*$5.00 for a touchdown by a defensive lineman
Five bucks back then could have probably bought you a car, so that is a pretty good hall for a defensive touchdown.
Something this great couldn't stay among only eight people forever, and Oakland restaurateur, Andy Mousalimas, made sure of that when he brought the idea public through his Kings X Sports Bar in 1969. He is also responsible for the current practice of performance scoring, which rewards points to players who score touchdowns and gain yards.
Today, Kings X is still a bastion of fantasy football maintaining six different real divisions, including the Queens division'a division especially reserved for female patrons.
Of course with the advent of the internet, fantasy football has blossomed into a million-dollar industry reaching 30 million online players (including 6.5 million women) in the U.S. It's amazing how little people have to do today, isn't it?