The Fantasy Football League, 1992-2000

The FFL (1992-2000)---Established by Jason Zieger, founded along with members Chris Bransfield, Adam Fleming, Ben Fleming, Tyler Fleming, Nick Surowiecki, Lukas Welburn, Eamonn Wisneski and Jeff Zieger. With a life expectancy of 9 years now, the FFL really has been a significant part of our lives in the last decade, from Woodrow Wilson Middle School all the way up to our college years. And here is how it began:

The Origin

by Jason Zieger, FFL Commissioner

Pre-1992 --------- PFL The FFL, of course, was not completely original in and of itself. It, too, owes much to the triumphs and frequent failures of its antecedents. Its true roots trace back to the PFL, better known as the Paper Football League to the few who are still familiar with it. Paper football, of course, was a simple lunchroom game which involved using your manual dexterity to push a small folded paper triangle "football" across the lunch table in several hits or "downs", without causing it to fall off the edge. There were many variations on the simple game, but some of the most fun was kicking extra points with the air-ready paper triangle. Many variations existed on the game, many of which were employed in the PFL. What was great about the game is that it was a wonderful timewaster and could be played everywhere. The PFL was my first attempt at gathering together peers for some sort of pseudo-sport competition. Paper football wasn't a fantasy game persay, but it contained many of the elements that would characterize the later leagues that I would form. For instance, although not based upon keeping track of sports statistics, the Paper Football League made loose "attempts" at mimicking the real National Football League. The PFL actually had all 28 current NFL teams, although of the 28 kids I was able to round up to play in the PFL, I'd have to say that about 6 or 7 actually participated with any frequency. The organizing factor is was the big step--each player was expected to actually "play" a full 16 game season that mirrored the real NFL schedule for that year. As it turned out, the hype over the season was rather lukewarm. Players were for the most part disinterested and forfeited many games. Basically, it was too epic a league plan. And, organized paper football just didn't sit well with those used to it being a casual game of the lunch period. Eamonn Wisneski, later a charter member of the FFL, was one of the more enthusiastic owners, and controlled the New England Patriots. Wisneski fashioned many of his own "custom-made professional" paper footballs, each uniquely designed. And, in the conclusion of the PFL's trial season, the Paper Bowl was won by Richard Harmon's Miami Dolphins over my own New York Giants. Those with good memories will remember that as part of that first championship Harmon received a trophy that consisted of a foil-embossed paper football glued to a painted tin can. The PFL sort of came and left with a wisper, but it is significant in the FFL's history because it taught me valuable lessons in league organization--keeping things simple, and keeping owners interested; two principles which I continue to strive towards today as FFL Commissioner.

The Weston League---Spring came that year, and 1992 offered a new proposition to me; the creation of a fantasy baseball league. Of course, I had heard of rotisserie baseball leagues in the past, mostly through a story in Zander Hollander's THE COMPLETE HANBOOK OF BASEBALL. However, I still wasn't completely familiar with how such a league might function for real. Still, baseball being my favorite sport, I was eager to try out my general manager skills in a fictional baseball league, And, so were the other occupants of our 7th grade lunch table. And so it was! The Weston League was formed, named after Mr. Weston, our gregarious and pitifully easy math teacher, also an avid fan of fantasy baseball. The teams all had Middletown locations in their names, yet were claimed to play, oddly enough, in professional baseball stadiums. The teams and owners from that fateful first season: The Westfield Wackers (Chris Bransfield), Westlake Flames (Richard Harmon), Meriden Mashers (Nick Surowiecki), Durham Mad Dogs (Lukas Welburn), Berlin Thunder (Eamonn Wisneski) and Olympus Z-Men (Jason Zieger). A modest six team league. The draft took place over the course of a week at lunch. It was highly disorganized, the result of inexperience coupled with confusion. Certainly, the art of the auction draft had yet to be perfected, and wouldn't be until the later formation of the AAL. Many will remember Richard Harmon's seemingly incredulous $47 bid for a then-struggling Jeff Bagwell. The scoring structure for the league was also confusing, really to the point of crippling a lot of league interest. Scoring was done by hand, and it involved a complex formula which tabulated the usual fantasy baseball categories (AVG., HR, RBI, SB, ERA, W, SO, SV....) but also included benign categories like losses, walks allowed, hits, and runs. Adding to the frenzy were two midseason expansion teams, the Main St. Metalheads (Justin Billings) and Fenwood Flemmers (Tyler Fleming). About midway through July, the league began to strain and soon collapsed under its own weight. Several lessons had been learned---the Weston League had been too complex, too disorganized...still, a lot of fun was had in that preempted 1992 season. In the future, I may just add a webpage for the sake of Weston's nostalgic feel and historical importance. My own Z-Men, along with the Mad Dogs, were feverishly competing for the league championship in Mid-July. Still, the difficulty in keeping up with the stats had become so great that it was no longer worth the trouble any more. The Weston League came crashing down, but in its wake came the foundations for a new league. Simpler, easier to follow and understand, with a more entertaining edge to it. This was the Fantasy Football League, and nobody would have known then that it would survuve into the next millenium.

1992--THE FFL TAKES OFF ----------------------- Fueled by optimism, the Summer of 1992 saw the birth of a new brand of fantasy league---better organized, easier to follow, and far more exciting due to its weekly head to head competition format. This was the FFL, Middletown's new fantasy football league on the block. The FFL really took root when I found Fantasy Football '92, a magazine with Rodney Hampton upon the cover. It caught my eye at the local newsstand and I knew right away that I had stumbled upon a worthy idea as a successor to the ill-fated Weston League. This magazine, still considered the Bible of drafting strategy within our league, held inside the key ideas of which our league founded itself. In the course of a week, 8 teams had signed on for the draft that mid-July. They were the New York Z-Force (Jason Zieger), the Miami Miracles (Jeff Zieger), the Colorado Rockies (Tyler Fleming), the Middletown Twins (Adam and Ben Fleming), the Chicago Black Sox (Lukas Welburn), the Montana Blazers (Nick Surowiecki), the New England Winners (Chris Bransfield) and the Boston Thunder (Eamonn Wisneski). That very first FFL draft of mid-July 1992 took place at my house, in the infamous basement at which successive drafts would all transpire. Of the eight team owners, only Montana Blazers owner Nick Surowiecki was unable to attend. This original draft neccesitated a random order of selection, accomplished by the roll of a die by each owner. With the draft order set, the first round commenced:

1992---FIRST ROUND OF THE INAUGURAL DRAFT 1.) Boston Thunder---Barry Sanders, RB 2.) Chicago Black Sox---Jerry Rice, WR 3.) New England Winners---Mark Rypien, QB 4.) Montana Blazers---Andre Reed, WR 5.) Miami Miracles---Thurman Thomas, RB 6.) New York Z-Force---Emmitt Smith, RB 7.) Colorado Rockies---Warren Moon, QB 8.) Middletown Twins---Jim Kelly, QB

With the end of the draft, the new fantasy league began, and embarked upon a journey in fantasy sports that has continued through to the close of the decade.

Below are a list of links that give an overview of each season in the FFL.

FFL Online: League History

The Origins of the FFL:
1992: The Year in Review:
1993: The Year in Review:
1994: The Year in Review:
1995: The Year in Review:
1996: The Year in Review:
1997: The Year in Review:
1998: The Year in Review: