By Rocco Scarcello
The first reported fantasy football league, dubbed “Greater Oakland Professional Pigskin Prognosticators League (GOPPPL)”, kicked off in 1963 (quarterback/placekicker George Blanda was the number one draft pick). 53 years later, fantasy football is practically a sport in it’s own right, with an estimated 75 million players, according to a New York Post article from Sept. 2015. This trend has infiltrated the nation, and the students of Missouri Valley College are no exception.
Fantasy football players usually play in leagues of 8-14 players (with players ironically referred to as “teams”). So naturally, a fraternity would would be the perfect breeding ground for a league of pigskin prognosticators. Thus, the “Tau Kappa Epsilon Federation” was formed.
“It’s a great opportunity for a bunch of friends to get together and watch football and compete against each other so that we can have bragging rights and trash talk,” member Ryan Hancock (The Big Gronkowski) said.
The standard league is made up of eight members of Tau Kappa Epsilon (referred to as TKE’s), and definitely leans on the competitive side. Heading into Week 8 – the league’s “rivalry week” – six of the eight teams had a 3-4 record or better. This means that it could have been an important week for several teams pursuing the league’s vaunted trophy: a traveling green jacket, similar to the traditional green jacket given to the winner of The Masters in golf.
One interesting match-up from this past week featured Louis Belamour (IDontMatchOnTinder) facing off against league commissioner Danny Romero (2 Gurley’s 1 Cup).
Romero was excited to face off against Belamour. “Lou is the returning TKE with the most knowledge of fantasy football,” Romero said, “so when rivalry week came, I made sure I was playing him.”
The league’s prior champion, Abraham Nieto, doesn’t attend MVC anymore and thus the throne is open, and their Week 8 appeared to be a potential foreshadowing of the championship match-up (“We are expected to meet in the finals,” Belamour said). But, this match-up would be exciting and important even if it wasn’t rivalry week.
“It’s fair to say that we have the most knowledge about football and take fantasy football more seriously than anyone else in the league.”
Belamour believes this rivalry didn’t happen by accident. “Honestly, everyone made us rivals because we are the most successful players from the recent years,” Belamour said.
Romero feels similarly to Belamour.
“I know my stuff,” Romero said with a laugh.
Romero, too, loves “the competitive environment,” and also said, “It gives me a reason to watch games besides my team’s,” a reference to the Denver Broncos, his favorite NFL squad. He, like many others in the league, are still very much in the race for the coveted green jacket.
“We want that green jacket,” Romero said, with a poignant laugh perhaps directed at last season’s misfortunes: he went 11-1 in the regular season, losing only his final game to eventual-champion Nieto. Then, after the bye week typically reserved for the top seeds in the playoffs, he lost to Nieto again – a truly crushing way to end an 11-0 start.
“I’m coming for it this year,” Romero said.
Romero and Hancock rounded out the top two in the standings before Week 8, sitting at 6-1 and 5-2, respectively, but with Belamour close behind with a 4-3 record and tied for third in the standings, at least one of the top 3 were going to have to take a loss, meaning there will be some shuffling.
Belamour defines fantasy football as “a game that tests a person’s true knowledge of the NFL,” citing that the competitiveness of the game is one of the biggest draws for him. Luckily for Belamour (who, when asked to describe the league in five words or less, said, “I need more competition!”), Romero was more than up to the challenge.
Although projections had neither Romero or Belamour breaking 100 points, both teams outscored projections. The shootout resulted in Romero winning the heated match-up, 115.90-100.22
After the loss, Belamour felt as if he could have walked away the victor.
“If I had inserted another player, I would have won,” he said.
He also wasn’t concerned with the playoff implications after the loss, because he’s likely to get in without winning Week 8. “I’m not too worried about standings now,” Belamour said.
Romero, however, felt differently.
“This win kept me in first over (Hancock, who also won in Week 8).”
He also isn’t buying Belamour’s excuse.
“(Week 8) proves who the better fantasy player is,” Romero said.
When asked to describe the league in five words or less, Hancock chose the same words that a plethora of fantasy footballers would use to describe their own leagues: “A giant roller coaster of emotion”. If you’re interested in the excitement of fantasy sports, it’s not too late: you can join a random fantasy league through ESPN or many other providers for just about any sport and during a large part of the season; you can try your luck with daily fantasy sports, a favorite among of-age gamblers; or, you can be like the guys of TKE and can create your own league, put a tremendous amount of intrinsic value and pride in an item such as a jacket, put in countless hours of number-crunching, trade-proposing, and waiver-wiring, and compete for a chance at immortality. Even if your league’s Super Bowl takes place in Week 14 and you spend it in your fraternity’s chapter room (a far cry from the location of the NFL’s Super Bowl, NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas), for millions of people – including many members of MVC’s own community, such as Hancock, Belamour, and Romero – it is every bit as important.