The Night That Changed Football Forever

Every year, 40 million Americans (and even entire offices) play fantasy football, “drafting” players from across the NFL for their virtual teams and competing for money and bragging rights. Maybe you have a virtual team in the locker room as you’re reading this! But where did the concept of fantasy football start?

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, the gridiron trend began in a New York City hotel room in 1962 — a night that changed football forever. There, a group of friends led by Oakland Raiders part-owner Bill Winkenbach created the first fantasy football league. They dubbed it the Greater Oakland Professional Pigskin Prognosticators League — or GOPPPL for short. Apart from the point values assigned to different accomplishments on the field, their original model wasn’t very far off from the fantasy football of today.

“The league members would ‘draft’ actual National Football League (NFL) and American Football League … players to their fantasy franchises, and on the basis of the actual performance of those players in games, the members would accrue points and compete against each other,” the encyclopedia reports.

Early fantasy football leagues were complicated undertakings. In the days before the internet, members had to agree to reference the box scores in a particular newspaper’s sports pages and “draft” their teams in the same room on long phone calls, or even via snail mail.

CBS Sports began offering online fantasy football leagues in 1997, and today it’s even easier to play. The sport is built right into the NFL website (Fantasy.NFL.com), and you can join a free league or start a league of your own with a click! Whether you’re a former player or a superfan who wants to play coach for a day, fantasy is a great way to stake a personal claim in the sport and connect with friends while you do it.

Check out the article “How to Play Fantasy Football: A Beginner’s Guide” on NFL.com to learn the basics. It’s updated annually, so make sure you hunt down the 2021 version! When you start, don’t forget to salute Winkenbach, the official “Father of Fantasy Sports.”