How local fantasy football leagues tackle the season
Sunday mornings for some means going to church, sleeping in, or prepping for the week. But for a select few, it means football all day. On this particular dry and windy Sunday morning in October, some members of Barely Leaguel, a Fullerton-based fantasy football league, gather at an apartment for a day full of football excitement.
Four-time champion and last season’s winner, Jonathan Ramirez, carries a vanilla latte and a 5-pound bag of Trollie gummy worms as he opens the door. He is a digital marketer and general manager for Dick Slashers and the commissioner for Barely Leaguel. Christopher Dato, a partner marketer and GM of Datonation, is already sitting on the couch, modeling his league shirt reminiscent of a pink neon stripper sign. A few minutes later Scott Stone, an ex-marine and GM of Don’t Care Anymore walks in with Doritos and jalapeno Kettle chips wearing his Steelers gear. He’s off to a bumpy start this season, hence his current team name. By 10 a.m. Milton Fuentes, a mold technician and GM of Way2Gisexy, had just finished working a 9-hour graveyard shift when he skated in with a 12-pack of White Claws.
“Does anyone want a claw right now?” Fuentes asks.
Everyone unanimously declines.
“Amateurs,” Fuentes says.
Dato chuckles and Ramirez rebutts with, “Bro, we’re 30,” and makes everyone laugh.
It’s the seventh week of season eight for Barely Leaguel and instead of watching one game, the league watches Redzone. Redzone rotates through all seven morning and afternoon games, displaying only teams that are close to scoring. Games were easily watched with a single screen. The players of Barely League track their team scores through the fantasy sport app: Sleeper. They all watch football on the big screen and watch their scores update in real time.
“I guess another thing I really like about fantasy football is that I enjoy watching every game now instead of just the Steelers. I like being able to watch different players earn points,” said Stone, GM for Don’t Care Anymore.
The ESPN documentary “30 for 30: Silly Little Game” pinpoints fantasy sports back to the 1980s to a group of baseball fanatics who formed a club called, “Rotisserie League Baseball,” which was named after La Rotisserie Francaise, a French restaurant where the group often met for lunch. Little did this league know that they would springboard a booming, billion-dollar industry that would change sports forever.
Dan Okrent, who was part of this group and a writer from New York, is credited with the idea of allowing ordinary baseball nerds to compete with one another by enabling them to be ‘general managers’ or GMs of these imaginary teams they drafted through an auction system. He also came up with a scoring system based on the player’s individual performance that would give team totals.
Back at Ramirez’s apartment, there is a firm but polite knock on the door. Joey Szilagyi is an employment law attorney and a fantasy basketball stud, playing his second season with Barely Leaguel trying to prove his fantasy skills are transferable to football. He is managing Team PJStickles, who placed 11 out of 12 last year but is off to a better start this year. Szilagyi showed up just in time to order pizza.
After ordering pizza, the dynamic in the room changed a little because the games were a little slow, meaning not many points were scored. Fuentes was playing against Ramirez. “Damn,” is all Ramirez uttered after Fuentes’ quarterback, Joe Burrows, kept moving the yard sticks up the field.
A fantasy week begins with Thursday Night Football and ends with Monday Night Football. Only one game is played on Thursday and Monday. The majority of the games are held on Sunday and start between the times of 10 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.
There is another knock at the door around 11:30 a.m. It is James Gilbert, a videographer, producer, editor and GM for, Fuck Tens Roll Fatties. He walks in and is quite stoic considering one of his best players, Nick Chubb, is out with a calf injury.
At this point in the gathering, even though some players were losing, the enthusiasm level was still high. These guys were just enjoying one another’s company talking, drinking and smoking.
“Hey Chris, remember when you lost that bet and you had to wear that romper at the Ram’s game that either covered your nipples or your balls,” recalls Ramirez, as he rips a bong. Half time was just ending so the timing couldn’t have been better. The pizza was delivered and then devoured within minutes from the munchies they had.
Like any fantasy sport, Fantasy Football allows participants to draft an imaginary team before the real season starts and tally points based on the athlete’s weekly performance. There are different types of leagues which dictate how players are drafted. This league came to fruition by best friends Jonathan Ramirez and Chris Dato when they left another league from Pomona. and started something of their own. Starting this new league would be their third time ever playing fantasy football.
“The first couple years were rough because we had to almost motivate people to play. It’s hard to be enthused when you’re losing so we had to come up with a punishment for last place. People lose for different reasons but it always feels like it comes down to luck. Players can get injured at any moment, ruining anyone’s season,” said Ramirez.
Everyone who is in the league competes for the first palace trophy and a whole year of bragging rights. From lawyers to IT geniuses, their ages range from 24-31 years old. Last place is punished by having to dress up as a juggalo, which is a follower of the Insane Clown Posse whose face is painted like a clown, and go to a public event such as dinner or the football game.
Last year, new guy Fil Dan, known as NGD, who isn’t new but has been called that for four years, had to dress like the clown. “I’m NGD until I take the ship home” was his response when asked if he is bothered by the name. He is a manager for Just The Tip and he is currently in third place with a 4-2 record. His matchup is with Rydawg, a fantasy football intellectual who has two Barely Leaguel titles. He watches most college football where he finds his prospects to draft for fantasy. He is also Ramirez’s nemesis; he has the second most titles won in the league.
“I just want Rydawg to lose,” Ramirez says.
They have had players come and go but the core group has always stayed. The whole league is made up of brothers such as Skimask and Jonathan Ramirez, Chris and Nick Dato, then Scott Stone, Milton Fuentes, Joey Szilagyi, James Gilbert, Rydawg, Austin Eychaner and NGD.
They grew from an eight-man to a 12-man league in about four years. Barely Leaguel began to find its groove by finding out what rules work best for them such as having a smaller bench so GM’s don’t horde too many players. The infamous Veto Squad lets it be known that they will interfere by vetoing a trade when there is an obvious collusion. Collusion is when two or more conspire to cheat others by doing shady trades. At the very least, the group gets together twice a year for a drafting order competition and a dinner or event to congratulate the winners and losers. This group of friends can be described as the epitome of true commitment to fantasy football.
Their season starts by having a small reunion prior to the start of the real football season. During this, members of the league compete in a unique, always evolving competition to decide the draft order. Their past competitions include a kayak race, mini golfing, paintballing, a Super-Smash Bros tournament, and even bowling. Members also vote on rules to change or add. For the past seven years, Barely Leaguel has been a redraft league. However just this year they voted to change their league to a keeper league, which added another variant to their drafting strategies.
It was only 1 p.m. when the first round of yawns started to trickle in like a domino effect. It was now time for afternoon games but there was a noticeable drop of energy in the room. Not because of low spirits but because people were tired of all the pizza, sugar, seltzers and smoking. By half time of the next round of games Szilagyi, Dato, and Stone had filtered out leaving only Skimask, Gilbert and the host, Ramirez. Gilbert accepted his defeat against Skimask, which put Gilbert in last place in the competition. It didn’t take long for the guys to call it a day. After the football week ended there were six victors: Skimask, Ramirez, Eychaner, New Guy Dan, Stone, and Ryan.