Fantasy Football: The Best At-Work Distraction

It’s that time of the year again. Where the casual football fan transforms into the second coming of Vince Lombardi. Countless hours of research and analysis are later outplayed by the sheer luck of the auto pick strategy. For someone that enjoys Fantasy Football simply because of office interaction and company moral, it’s amazing what kind of impact it’s had on our society. Who would’ve thought a Detroit Lions vs Jacksonville Jaguars game could command so attention from a Seattle Seahawks fan? Well, I need six more points from Todd Heap to lockdown my 8th seed of the playoffs. Duh.

Modern fantasy football can be traced back to the late Wilfred “Bill the Gill” Winkenbach, an Oakland area businessman and a limited partner in the Oakland Raiders. In a New York hotel room during a 1962 Raiders eastern cross-country trip, Winkenbach, along with Raiders Public Relations man Bill Tunnel and Tribune reporter Scotty Stirling, developed a system of organization and a rulebook, which would eventually be the basis of modern fantasy football.

The inaugural league was called the GOPPPL (Greater Oakland Professional Pigskin Prognosticators League), and the first draft took place in the rumpus room of Winkenbach’s home in Oakland, California in August 1963. The league consisted of eight members, made up of administrative affiliates of the AFL, pro football journalists, or someone who had purchased or sold 10 season tickets for the Raiders’ 1963 season.

For years, the popularity of fantasy football grew slowly. In 1997, CBS launched the beta version of the first publicly available free fantasy football website. The game immediately became widely popular. Within three years, all major sports media websites launched competing fantasy football hosting websites. The NFL released their own official game in 2010, NFL.com Fantasy Football, further driving industry growth. Fantasy football is now the single most important marketing tool for the NFL.

More than 27 million people in the United States are actively participating in fantasy sports, with approximately 14 million of those monitoring, picking up, trading, and gossiping online about their match-up on Sunday, according to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, the largest and oldest trade group representing the fantasy sports industry.

For as much good as it creates, business owners fear the impact it has on productivity. Research conducted by outplacement consultants Challenger, Gray, and Christmas claims employees will spend an average of 50 minutes a week playing fantasy football. And with the season stretching from September through December, Challenger estimates businesses stand to lose $1.1 billion per week and more than $18.7 billion over the NFL season. Be sure to have the “Boss Button” activated on the desktop, so you don’t have to feel the wrath of the bosshole…and good luck to all of the cousins, you’re going to need it this year.

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