MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. --
A few decades ago, three sports fans from Oakland, Calif., put together what would become one of the most popular interactive fan games around the world -- fantasy football.
Today, the game is more popular than ever, with players from every age, class, sex and race participating in leagues and testing their skills as team owners and coaches.
The game has also moved into the ranks of the Marine Corps as individual Marines, work sections and even unit teams battle it out on the proverbial gridiron.
But what is the draw of this interactive, yet unpredictable game?
What has Marines getting together on Sundays and Monday nights watching a combination of teams?
“(Fantasy football) makes it more than a normal football game because you have more riding on it,” said Sgt. John Gonzalez, Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 13 quality assurance Marine.
Fantasy football gets people involved in the game, in the teams and players, added Gonzalez, a native of Cuervo, Texas.
It definitely keeps Sundays interesting, because players are looking up stats and following the teams more closely, added Lance Cpl. Andrew Barrett, Headquarters and Headquarters and Squadron Traffic Management Office passport agent.
“It also builds camaraderie because your guys watch the games together,” added the seven-year fantasy football veteran.
The involvement Gonzalez and Barrett referred to deal with the structure of the game.
In fantasy football, participants enroll in a league, often through various sports Web sites, and “draft” a team of real football players from various teams, usually NFL or collegiate level.
The players are a combination of offensive scorers (i.e. running backs or receivers) and in some instances a defensive representative.
Points are awarded to teams based on players’ performances each week, most commonly from touchdowns and yards gained, according to www.fantasyfootball.com.
Barrett said if new players want to have a good team, they should concentrate on a good running back and solid quarterback.
“For QBs, always choose a former Gator,” said Barrett, who is native of Tampa, Fla., and fan of the University of Florida football team.
The Web site also stated leagues can have anywhere from four to 32 teams, with an average of about ten per league.
“We have a couple of leagues the whole unit gets in on,” said Pfc. Gregory Fryman, Marine Forces Pacific administration clerk out of Marine Corps Base Camp Smith, Hawaii.
The more people who play, the more fun it becomes, said Fryman.
Fyman said he has even played with Marines from other bases, indicating just how far the football game has spread.
However, the best part of the game is playing with a bunch of friends, calling each other up on game day and just talking smack to each other, said Gonzalez.
Despite fantasy football’s growing popularity, there are still some Marines who are hesitant to get involved.
“I get the game, I understand it and I know people who play it,” said Cpl. Nicholas Massoth, MALS-13 consolidated automated support system technician.
But some people take it too far and make it an obsession. They spend all their time watching the games and looking up statistics and that’s what ruins the game, said Massoth, a native of Olympia, Wash.
The consensus among the Marines interviewed, as with any game, was that it should be about having fun.
Fantasy football is a way for fans to get together, have some fun and learn more about the game, said Gonzalez.
Different Web sites offer different levels of leagues where participants can control more aspects of the game, said Gonzalez.
Some of the variations among the leagues include controlling salary caps for teams, drafting new teams each week and even signing players for multiple years.
“If you want a challenge, there is one out there waiting,” said Gonzalez.
The game of fantasy football is becoming more and more realistic as fans attempt to walk a mile in the shoes of a team owner.