News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Sports Columns

June 28, 2013

Hughes, News & Views: Lure of big payoffs fuels columnist's fantasy football addiction

TERRE HAUTE — Gather around, my friends. I think I may need an intervention.

After winning the championship game of our Tribune-Star newsroom free fantasy football league in 2003 — the first time I ever participated in the popular hobby — I became hooked on dominating as many leagues as possible.

I always considered myself a competitive person and fantasy football seemed harmless enough, so I figured “Why not?” And I could always stop playing if I wanted, right?

Plus, my interest was mainly in the NFL. I never felt compelled to enter fantasy NBA leagues and my only fantasy baseball league is a free one with Terre Haute friends and acquaintances, although I still try to win.

Back to my early years, I decided to try out several pay-to-play online fantasy football leagues in 2004. I managed to win a few — thanks in large part to Peyton Manning’s 49 touchdown passes for the Indianapolis Colts — and received some nice prize checks in the mail as a reward for my accomplishments.

Over the years, except for the time I had cancer and the time I was mad at the NFL for allowing Michael Vick to return so soon after serving his prison term, I’ve spent summers researching real-life NFL players I may want to draft in my leagues and even drafting fantasy teams way before the start of training camps.

After a disastrous 2011, in which I targeted too many Colts for a season that Manning was forced to miss with a neck injury (losing considerable coin in the process), I regained my championship form in 2012. Two of my better prize checks were for $12,000 from one company and roughly $9,400 from another.

Feeling more confident than ever heading into the 2013 season, I have entered or plan to enter teams in the Fantasy Football Players Championship (FFPC), National Fantasy Football Championship (NFFC), Footballguys Players Championship (FPC), Fantasy Football World Championships (FFWC), Masters Fantasy Football Leagues, Stanima Football Open Championship and Antsports, not to mention our annual live-draft league at the Roly Poly Sandwiches shop in downtown Terre Haute.

Entry fees for these contests range from $50 to $1,775. More expensive leagues do exist, but I’ve been smart enough to avoid those — so far.

Depending on how certain health issues turn out for my family this summer, I hope to go to Las Vegas for the third straight year to compete in the high-stakes FFPC Main Event against the best fantasy football players in the world. Last year, I profited about $1,000 off that team alone. The year before, however, my four-figure entry fee went down the toilet.

In the FFPC Main Event, if you win your 12-person league title during the fantasy playoffs (weeks 12 and 13), you get $4,000 with the possibility of added bonus money depending on your regular-season performance (weeks 1-11). There also are lesser prizes for finishing second and third in your league. Then all of the league champions and other qualifiers battle in the championship round (weeks 14-17) for the overall grand prize of $250,000 and a custom trophy.

Winning a six-figure prize is my ultimate goal, although I hate to think of the tax repercussions.

Despite the appeal of a possible huge return on my “investment,” my fun, little hobby seems to be bordering on addiction this year.

I’ve entered several online leagues already — risking injuries to key players when you select fantasy teams before training camps start in late July — plus I’ve found myself checking websites specializing in player updates more than in past Junes. (As you might guess, Aaron Hernandez has been a frequent topic of late. Fortunately, I have him on zero teams.)

So the process of drafting fantasy teams and managing them through the season is enjoyable and all that — kind of like playing chess with unpredictable human pieces — but I think I may be overdoing it at times. My Lisa has joked (at least I think she’s joking) that when the NFL season starts in September, she doesn’t get her husband back until February.

I guess the main reason I’m so enthused about the upcoming season is I expect my two favorite real-life teams — the Colts and Denver Broncos — to be among the league’s best. So I will enjoy watching them battle for their division championships as well as hoping their players help my fantasy teams earn prize money for yours truly.

That’s the idea anyway.

Seriously, let’s hope I don’t get carried away and lose my shirt on a hobby. Then again, I might be extra fun to be around if I’m $250,000 richer (minus taxes) this winter.

I I I

n Gutish in action again — Terre Haute North High School pole-vaulter Rachel Gutish, who will be a senior in the fall, again competes in the women’s endurocross as part of the Global X Games in Munich on Saturday.

ABC’s X Games telecast will run from 1 to 2:30 p.m. that day, so Gutish thinks her race should air during that time span. WAWV is Terre Haute’s ABC affiliate.

Gutish, 17, already competed in 2013 Global X Games stops in Foz do Iguacu, Brazil, and Barcelona, where she placed fifth (April 18) and seventh (May 18) respectively.

David Hughes can be reached after 4 p.m. by phone at 1-800-783-8742, Option 4, or at 812-231-4224; by email at david.hughes@tribstar.com; or by fax at 812-231-4321.

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