25 Years of Fantasy Football, Then and Now

By Jim Heath
Denver Broncos Mascot Miles
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Before talks of the new fantasy football season, if you will indulge me I’d like to give you a nostalgic glimpse in to what the game once was. Some of you will fondly remember these days as I do. Others will understand–after reading–how good we have it in the fantasy football world today.

I will draft my 25th annual fantasy football team this season. Actually, I am sure I have drafted hundreds of teams in those 25 years, but this season marks the 25th time I will prepare for fantasy drafts. How times have changed in those 25 years.

There was a time when you truly had to KNOW football to play fantasy football. There were no real time online media tweets, posts, tags about free agency, the NFL draft or team transactions. We never heard of mock fantasy drafts and certainly never had access to player rankings that were updated daily. Back then, when the Super Bowl ended, the season ended. There was no NFL Network, no online anything, simply occasional blurbs in the transaction section of the local newspapers.

When your fantasy draft day came, you did not have league members with laptops or iPads. As a matter of fact, the first several years there were no magazines with “cheat sheets.” If you were lucky, you came to the draft equipped with magazines that would talk about teams in the NFL with projections for division standings, playoff contenders and predictions for the Super Bowl. These magazines had player stats, but never were those stats used to create a ranked list of players for fantasy football.

There was no live scoring of games back then. We’d rely on the Monday and Tuesday morning newspapers, using the box scores of the sports section to tally final scores. To compound the situation, I lived over seas for the first four years of my Fantasy Football years. Monday and Tuesday mornings were spent with a copy of “The Army Times”, a cup of nasty black coffee, THE official league book (generally an old college ruled note pad), a pencil and sharpener. PPR was not something we did back then, it would require far too much number crunching. We gave some bonus points for QBs over 300 yards and RB/WRs that eclipsed the century mark, but nothing like today’s PPR leagues.

It was a different time.

There was real strategy back then. You couldn’t buy books or read online blogs about the importance of a workhorse RB or why drafting a QB/WR tandem could be beneficial. You couldn’t walk up to the draft table with a list of players ranked in order of projections based on past performances, unless you created one of your own.  The strategy you used was genuinely your own, and the order in which you picked players was based solely on your own research.

Times have most certainly changed. Today, my great grandmother could play the game with some success as long as she had a reputable cheat sheet and pen to mark off players as they are taken off the draft board. Sure, there is still some strategy involved to become a championship caliber team. You have to know when to take a QB, when to get your team’s RB, and you need to do enough research in advance to know whom this year’s sleepers and busts will be.  But, for the most part, you can show up on draft day with little preparation and still find success. You certainly don’t have to work as hard or put as much preparation in to the draft in today’s leagues.

I do have to admit, there are significant advantages to modern day Fantasy Football trends. I don’t know how I lived before live scoring, I am a member of a number of leagues that allow me to pick a new team each week, and yes I am a fan of PPR leagues. The entertainment values of today’s leagues are far superior.

But, I certainly miss those times. The good ‘ole days of fantasy football gave those of us old guard players (that have permanent news ink stains on our fingers from Monday and Tuesday morning stat gathering) a true appreciation for the game.

Today, I use the same tools you do in preparation for each draft. However, I still use that old college ruled notepad and worn down pencil to write down my secrets, strategies and sleeper picks. I guess some old habits just never die.


Jim Heath is a Fantasy Football writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @jim_heath, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google

You May Also Like