Fantasy football puts average fan in charge

Brent Purvis, left, and Donny Gochanour keep track of their Fantasy Football players’ statistics as they watch the closing minutes of Monday Night Football this week. - Matt Johnson
Brent Purvis, left, and Donny Gochanour keep track of their Fantasy Football players’ statistics as they watch the closing minutes of Monday Night Football this week.
— image credit: Matt Johnson

While football fans in St. Louis, Baltimore and New York will spend this season dreaming about a Super Bowl championship for their teams, armchair athletes in other, less talented football markets can only make wishes about their gridiron dream teams.

But why waste time on idle dreaming when the biggest stars in the NFL can provide excitement right now during this season? This thought occurred to Brent Purvis about eight years ago when he was in college.

Going to school in Idaho, a state without a pro team, and languishing in the shadow of a state that has never won a Super Bowl, Washington, Purvis — who is now a music teacher at South Whidbey High School — gathered a few of his football-loving friends together a couple of years ago to start a Fantasy Football league, the Southend Official Football Association, or SOFA.

A conceptual cross between the fantasy game Dungeons and Dragons and making predictions in the NCAA tournament, Fantasy Football gives the average football fan a chance to “own” a dream NFL franchise made up of only star talent.

How does this sound — Kurt Warner at quarterback, Emmitt Smith at running back, and Jerry Rice at wide receiver. Then, throw in the Indianapolis Colts defense. Now that’s a team.

Fantasy football players can have all this, if they do well in the preseason draft. Purvis, who is the commissioner of his ongoing college fantasy league and the SOFA league, presides over two each year. Though he and other team owners — like his college buddy Nick Rizzo and school colleagues Andy Davis and John Patton — surround themselves with statistics and pre-season editions of Sports Illustrated, there is really only one secret to winning in Fantasy Football:

“You draft players who score touchdowns,” Purvis said.

To win at this game, Fantasy Football owners must pick players who can amass the greatest number of points on any given Sunday. Points come from actual touchdowns and field goals scored. Runningbacks and wide receivers who accumulate 100 yards in a game also give fantasy players points equivalent to touchdowns. A 300-yard passing game by a quarterback is worth yet another touchdown in Purvis’ league.

Sometimes, scores for individual games can soar into the 70s, if a team owner’s players are good enough.

Fantasy Football is a nationwide phenomenon, as is the growing number of other fantasy sports, such as Fantasy Baseball and Fantasy Golf. Leagues can be local or they can stretch across the country. Purvis’ 10-team college league maintains its statistics on the Internet at Other leagues are much bigger.

Greg Rayon of Clinton, who “owns” a fantasy team with football partner Kim McGinnis, participates in a a 14-team league that is part of a national, 412,000-team super league. Currently in 2,250th place in the bigger pool, Rayon said his team is doing rather well even though this is his first year playing.

Unlike in Purvis’ leagues, where players are chosen based upon an established draft order, Rayon’s started in September with a draft limited by a mythical $50 million payroll. With players like running back Marshall Falk on his team, Rayon said he is paying more attention to Sunday football games than he used to, and to the stats on the league’s nationwide Web site. It takes up a lot of hours during the fall and winter, but he said the payoff at season’s end — if he is a winner — is worth it.”

“It’s just beatin’ your buddies,” he said.

This Monday was a critical point for the SOFA league. Divided into the Futon and Barcalounger divisions, team owners were on the edges of their couches as the Tennessee Titans played the Baltimore Ravens in a game that came down to the final play. As the clock wound down toward zero, Purvis received calls from owners who wanted to make roster changes.

The game marked the end of Week 10 of the season, the last week in which team owners could trade away injured or non-performing players. In all, league owners made eight roster changes that night, not including Purvis’ move to dump his Baltimore Colts defense and New Orleans Saints running back Duce McCallister.

On his own couch with league member Donny Gochanour, Purvis kept an eye on the game and an ear to the telephone. At the same time, Gochanour agonized over some of his roster choices.

He said jokingly the only reason he was allowed into the league was because of the facilities he could bring to it.

“I have a basement big enough to hold the draft,” he said.

The Fantasy Football season runs several weeks shorter than the actual NFL season because in order for the fantasy to work, all the real teams must still be playing. The leagues hold their playoffs and championships during the last weeks of the regular season.

A win is not guaranteed by a good draft or by having a huge amount of statistical knowledge at your fingertips. Purvis said he has won a championship only once. In his experience, it is the new players who do the best.

Some leagues do have a small pot of money that goes to game or championship winners. But in the Fouton and Barcalounger divisions, the payoff is the joy of the game.

“All of a sudden, watching football on Sundays is fun,” Purvis said.

Playoffs for the SOFA league begin in three weeks.

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