Fantasy Football Season

Students form fantasy football league together, strengthen friendships

Sydney Wolf, Sports Editor

Over 80 million men and women who are currently participating in a fantasy football league have one person to thank, Bill Winkenbach. Then part owner of the Oakland Raiders, Willenbach invented the system, now online, in 1962, with a gathering in a New York City hotel with a group of friends.  

Today, the game continues to strengthen friendships across the globe including one league specifically composed of students from LT. A group of 12 boys came together for a draft on Aug. 27 to form virtual rosters of real NFL players to manage each week. However, while most drafts occur at home, usually through Zoom or Facetime, these boys sought out to do it differently. Dressed in their best suits and ties, Commissioner Ryan Johnson ‘23, and his friends sat down to begin their “formal” draft for the 2022 season. 

“It isn’t the wins or losses that define us as fantasy football team owners,” Johnson said. “But more importantly our ability to adapt to struggle and adversity.”

This is his seventh year playing fantasy football and the 12th league he has been a part of. However, it is Johnson’s first year being the Commissioner of a league, as well as the first year any of the boys have been in a league where the Commissioner gave an in-person speech. Every league has a Commissioner; the person who creates the league, invites participants and organizes the rules and format of the draft and for the season.

“It means a lot playing a role like this,” Johnson said. “These gentlemen were relying on me to come out with strong enthusiasm to get them ready and ensure fairness and competitive etiquette within the league throughout the season.”

As the season progresses, the competitiveness increases. Early season first place occupants, Jaxon Novotny ‘23 and Emett Gutierrez ‘23, have been sharing the 4-1 record. Novotny has his own way of holding up this impressive record, though. 

“My team name is ‘Boom Factor’ for a reason,” Novotny said. “The boom factor is a tactic I used on draft day where I found players who haven’t had a really good season yet, but had the clear potential to improve. Boom, unexpected.” 

The draft wasn’t the end of the boys’ meet-ups, though. Every Sunday at noon they get together at the Buffalo Wild Wings in Willowbrook to watch their players for about four hours and consume mounds of chicken wings, Jayson Fronk ‘23 said. Fronk has been progressing through the season in a more unique way. He and league member Andy McCann ‘23 are co-managing a team this year, something no one else in the league is doing. 

“With Andy by my side, it makes everything easier,” Fronk said. “Drafting together, trading each week, and discussing the best possible way to win. Teamwork and communication skills are needed in order to come out of this season on top.”

A shared challenge throughout the start of their season this year was injuries, according to McCann, affecting almost the whole league. McCann and Fronk losing their RB2, Elijah Mitchell (a running back ranked 11-20 in the league), the first week and second week their RB1, Alvin Kamara (a running back ranked 1-10), had nothing but negative effects on their team. They lost every game they didn’t have their top running back, but they eventually got him back week three. Novotny also lost his RB1, Javonte Williams, for the rest of the season due to a torn ACL.

“Each week is a fight,” McCann said. “And even with injuries, we’ve made due with the players we drafted. Still, we’re all hoping to get our players back and have a successful season.”

These same highs and lows of the beloved game have been shared with the millions of other fantasy team owners around the world, though they may not have had the same effect that this certain league has had on its participants. Strengthening teams is not the only goal of fantasy football, but strengthening friendships, according to Johnson.

“We were there on that night not only to draft the fantasy football teams,” Johnson said. “But to share a moment as friends and brothers. It was a night that showed true courage, knowledge, and expertise. May the winners win and the losers lose.”